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COP27: AstraZeneca accelerates progress towards net zero

AstraZeneca is accelerating its progress towards net zero and joined global pharmaceutical companies at the COP27 climate conference global to decarbonise supply chains.

The Cambridge-headquartered company says it is on track to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from its global operations and fleet by 98 per cent by 2026, compared to a 2015 baseline.

It aims to halve the footprint of its entire value chain by 2030 and achieve a 90 per cent reduction by 2045, from a 2019 baseline, which will make it a science-based net zero company.

Pascal Soriot, chief executive officer of AstraZeneca
Pascal Soriot, chief executive officer of AstraZeneca

Under its $1billion Ambition Zero Carbon programme, it switched to 100 per cent renewable energy sources last year, is turning its fleet fully electric and transitioning to next-generation respiratory inhalers with near zero climate impact propellants.

And under its AZ Forest programme, the company aims to plant and maintain 50 million trees by the end of 2025.

Speaking at the COP27, AstraZeneca CEO Sir Pascal Soriot said: “The healthcare sector contributes four or five per cent of global carbon emissions. In fact, in countries like the US, it is up to eight per cent of carbon emissions of the country, so it’s a really big challenge for all of us to tackle and reduce the carbon footprint of the entire healthcare sector.”

At the UN climate change conference in Egypt, Sir Pascal hosted a high-level engagement on climate and health as the champion of the Sustainable Markets Initiative (SMI) Health Systems Task Force, a public-private partnership launched at COP26.

Joined by the Secretary General of the Commonwealth, Rt Hon Baroness Scotland, industry CEOs, government officials and leaders from WHO, UNICEF and NHS England, the discussion centred on efforts the taskforce is making to lower healthcare emissions through collaboration at scale.

Inside The Discovery Centre, AstraZeneca's R&D centre on Cambridge Biomedical Campus. Picture: AstraZeneca
Inside The Discovery Centre, AstraZeneca's R&D centre on Cambridge Biomedical Campus. Picture: AstraZeneca

That includes commitments made by the CEOs of AstraZeneca, GSK, Merck KGaA, Novo Nordisk, Roche, Samsung Biologics and Sanofi prior to the conference to work together on tackling emissions from their supply chains, through its Activate programme, including agreeing a set of common supplier standards, switching to renewable power and jointly evaluate renewable power purchase agreements in China and India in 2023.

They also agreed to work in partnership to decarbonise care pathways, including building an end-to-end care pathway emissions calculation standard, and leverage digital health solutions to decarbonise clinical trials, with a common framework to measure progress.

The task has published three white papers on these areas (which can be read at sustainable-markets.org/health-systems-taskforce-whitepapers/).

The Discovery Centre courtyard. Picture: David Porter
The Discovery Centre courtyard. Picture: David Porter

“Climate change is the greatest global health threat of our time,” said Sir Pascal. “During the pandemic, the healthcare sector stepped up and showed what can be achieved when we work together. Today, we act with the same urgency to tackle the climate crisis, with the collective commitments announced by the Sustainable Markets Initiative Health Systems Task Force setting a benchmark for others to drive action.”

There was also a milestone at COP27 for the Energize programme founded by AstraZeneca with industry and Schneider Electric a year ago to help suppliers access renewable electricity at scale. The first buyers’ cohort for renewable electricity was announced, enabling suppliers to reduce their scope 2 emissions.

Meanwhile, AstraZeneca announced that by 2030 it would “go even further than our science-based targets to become carbon negative for all residual emissions to remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than we emit”.

AstraZeneca’s Discovery Centre
AstraZeneca’s Discovery Centre

The company’s Discovery Centre on Cambridge Biomedical Campus incorporates 174 boreholes that provide natural geothermal energy, four ‘hybrid cooling towers’ and a ground source heat pump that will save enough energy to power 2,500 homes.

It features low-energy ventilation and high levels of insulation to improve its efficiency, while the ‘saw-tooth’ roof design minimises energy use by flooding the interior with natural daylight.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has called climate change the biggest health threat facing humanity. It estimates that air pollution alone causes seven million premature deaths each year.

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