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NHS pledges to have ‘net zero’ climate impact by 2045

Co2 emissions, climate change, net zero

By Caitlin Tilley
9 November 2021

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All four UK health administrations have pledged services will have net zero climate impact by 2045.

Health services from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have joined forces to reduce the 5% of global emissions that health systems account for.

A total of 47 other countries, such as the United States and Germany, are also committing to making low-carbon health systems.

The Government is investing £280m into decarbonising the NHS England estate through the public sector decarbonisation scheme.

For NHS England, it will mean:

  • Working with stakeholders to identify how best to achieve net zero, with a formal review next year.
  • The world’s first zero-emission ambulance, unveiled at COP26, which can travel 300 miles before needing to be charged.
  • A carbon reduction plan published by all NHS suppliers.
  • Over £330m in ‘climate-smart healthcare’ and low-carbon hospitals.
  • A new net zero healthcare building standard to be published before 2030.
  • Publishing the third UK Healthcare Adaption Report, as well as the UKHSA publishing its Single Adverse Weather Plan.

For NHS Scotland, it will mean:

  • An ambition to bring the net zero target to 2040 instead of 2045.
  • All NHS Scotland owned buildings to use renewable heat by 2038.
  • Zero emissions of medical nitrous oxide by 2027.
  • All NHS Scotland small and medium vehicles to be net zero by 2025.
  • Reviewing supply chains.
  • Producing a climate emergency and sustainability strategy.
  • ‘Net zero route maps’ for all 22 Scottish Health Boards by 2023.
  • All new buildings and major refurbishments must be carbon neutral.

For NHS Wales, it will mean:

  • An ambition for the public sector to be net zero by 2030.
  • All lighting across the NHS Wales estate will be LED by 2025. 
  • Reducing emissions as part of all new procurement contracts for major suppliers to NHS Wales.
  • The Welsh Ambulance Service will strive for all new ambulances to be plug-in electric or low-carbon fuel by 2030.
  • Low-carbon heating in all NHS Wales new builds and renewable energy generated on site by 2030.
  • Delivery of the NHS Wales Decarbonisation Strategic Delivery Plan.

For NHS Northern Ireland, it will mean:

  • ‘Developing a sustainable and low carbon health system to help meet NI emission targets.’
  • An assessment of greenhouse gas emissions and ensuing action plan for the health and social care system, in line with the Northern Ireland Executive’s Green Growth strategy.  
  • Encouraging supply chains to reduce carbon emissions in supplying health and social care.   
  • A constant assessment of the health system’s ‘vulnerability to climate change and identifying adaptations required for resilience’.

Health secretary Sajid Javid said: ‘As a health community, we cannot simply sit on the sidelines – we must respond to climate change through urgent action, with global collaboration at its core.  

‘I am delighted that all four UK health services are pledging to become net zero and it is brilliant news that dozens of countries have joined the UK in committing to reduce carbon emissions from their health systems – significantly cutting greenhouse gas output around the world.’

It comes as LMCs voted in June to push the Government to commit to a carbon neutral general practice estate by 2030, through steps such as installing electric car charging points.

Last year, a report found that changes in primary care were needed to help the NHS England reach its carbon net zero target.

This article was initially published on our sister title Pulse.

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