AstraZeneca s area vice president for the Middle East and Africa, Pelin Incesu.
Ahram Online: Why is it important for AstraZeneca to be at this year’s COP?
Pelin Incesu: COP27 is a critical forum for AstraZeneca to accelerate public-private collaboration to mitigate the climate crisis. In the presence of heads of state, ministers, and business and third sector leaders from around the world, we are coming together to implement collective action to tackle the climate crisis.
At this year’s conference, we seek to raise awareness on the impact of climate change on health, reaffirm our commitment to sustainability in healthcare, and call for stronger cross-sector partnership to accelerate action on reducing emissions.
Ahram Online: As a pharmaceutical company, why is sustainability important to you?
PI: The interconnection between climate and health is proven and evidenced by data. Climate change is already impacting our health and driving a rise in chronic conditions such as heart disease, stroke, lung cancer, and respiratory diseases.1 The World Health Organisation also estimates that air pollution kills approximately seven million people prematurely every year2 and extreme temperatures kill another five million annually.3 It is critical that we collectively acknowledge climate change as a public health crisis.
As a sector we can and must do more – around 4-5 percent of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions come from the healthcare sector, from raw material production through pharmaceutical manufacturing to hospitals.4 As an industry, we have a collective responsibility to address the climate crisis without delay. We have also seen how Covid-19 has disrupted health systems. We must build more resilient health systems that can also cope with the impacts of climate change.
Ahram Online: What is your track record in sustainability?
PI: Through our many sustainability programmes, we are taking bold action and working in partnership to deliver sustainable, net zero healthcare. This includes our flagship Ambition Zero Carbon programme where we are pursuing ambitious science-based decarbonisation targets to reach net zero by 2045.
We are also committed to planting and maintaining 50 million trees worldwide by the end of 2025 through our global AZ Forest initiative. A powerful example of this in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) region is the recent launch of Ghana Living Lab, in partnership with the Circular Bioeconomy Alliance (CBA). This is a community-led project that will integrate local traditions and new technologies to restore natural forests, woodlots and fruit trees, with the aim of planting 4.5 million trees over the next 10 years.
This is just one of our many initiatives across the MEA region. In the Gulf, at Expo 2020 Dubai earlier this year, AstraZeneca convened policymakers at a climate and health roundtable to better understand the impact of healthcare systems on the environment and discuss a roadmap for how countries and businesses can drive down emissions. We have also partnered with AMREF Health Africa to launch 10 solar power mobile clinics to support hard-to-reach communities in Kenya.
Ahram Online: What initiatives are being unveiled by AstraZeneca in Egypt?
PI: We are announcing several partnerships with the Egyptian government to support sustainable healthcare, including Green Hospitals, Green Energy, and Green Minds initiatives, with multiple authorities in the country.
- Green Hospitals will accelerate the delivery of net zero, patient-centric healthcare through a partnership between AstraZeneca and the Egyptian Healthcare Authority (EHA). The initiative funds a 20-bed state-of-the-art mobile green hospital that can be relocated as needed, with a focus on continuous screening and diagnosis of non-communicable diseases across governorates. AstraZeneca is also working with Egypt’s General Authority for Healthcare Accreditation and Regulation (GAHAR) to support the transition to green facilities in Egypt through raising community awareness about the standards necessary for green hospitals.
- Green Energy will see charging stations for electric vehicles begin to appear at hospitals across Egypt, as well as solar panels for the generation of clean energy. Additionally, AstraZeneca’s new Green Supply Model aims to reduce carbon emissions by 2000 tons of CO2 per annum by transitioning from air to sea freight for fully-finished products.
- Green Minds aims to educate young people on the critical link between the climate and health and instill a sense of urgency that we need to work towards a more sustainable future.
In addition to the above, we are also proud to launch our Accelerating Change Together for Cancer Care in Africa programme which provides a platform for partners to co-create cancer care solutions that close the gaps in the existing patient care pathway, from diagnosis to treatment and beyond.
Ahram Online: What do you hope to see as an outcome from this year’s conference?
PI: We call for stronger cross-sector partnership to accelerate action towards emission reduction targets in line with the Paris Agreement. With the support of the public, private and third sectors in launching action, I truly believe we can come together to tackle the climate crisis to create a more sustainable and equitable future for people, society, and the planet.
- Romanello M, McGushin A, Napoli CD, Drummond P, Hughes N, Jamart L, et al. The 2021 report of the Lancet Countdown on health and climate change: code red for a healthy future. The Lancet [Online]. 2021 Oct 20;0(0). Available at: https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(21)01787-6/fulltext#box1 [Last accessed: 21 February 2022]
- World Health Organisation. How air pollution is destroying our health [Online]. 2021. Available at: https://www.who.int/news-room/spotlight/how-air-pollution-is-destroying-our-health [Last accessed: 20 October 2022]
- Zhao Q, Guo Y, Ye T, Gasparrini A, Tong S, Overcenco A, et al. Global, regional, and national burden of mortality associated with non-optimal ambient temperatures from 2000 to 2019: a three-stage modelling study. The Lancet Planetary Health. [Online]. 2021 Jul;5(7):e415–25. Available at: https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanplh/article/PIIS2542-5196(21)00081-4/fulltext [Last accessed: 20 October 2022]
- Pichler P, Jaccard I, Weisz U, Weisz H. International comparison of health care carbon footprints. IOP Science [Online]. 2019. Available at: https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/ab19e1/meta#erlab19e1s3 [Last accessed: 20 October 2022]