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Countdown to Net Zero: Climate change and the NHS

Countdown to Net Zero: Climate change and the NHS
By Victoria Vaughan, Editor
28 March 2024


Chapter 1
Climate change and the NHS
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about Climate change and the NHS

Chapter 2
Decarbonising medicines  
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about Decarbonising medicines  

Chapter 3
Increasing the efficiency of NHS estates
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about Increasing the efficiency of NHS estates

Chapter 4
Greening NHS transport
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about Greening NHS transport

Chapter 5
Managing NHS waste sustainably
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about Managing NHS waste sustainably

Chapter 6
Expert views on NHS Net Zero
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about Expert views on NHS Net Zero

As the largest employer in England, with a headcount of 1.7 million people expected to rise to around 2.3 million by 2036/37, the NHS’s Net Zero plan is of huge significance, both in terms of impact and influence.

The NHS contributes to 4% of the England’s carbon emissions and in October 2020 it became the first national health system in the world to commit to net zero carbon emissions, launching its National Programme for a Greener NHS.

The NHS has committed to reach net zero for the emissions it controls by 2040 and for emissions it can influence by 2045.

The Health and Care Act 2022, which established ICBs as statutory bodies, also embedded the net zero target into legislation, making the NHS the first health system to do so.

Delivering a Net Zero National Health Service report is now issued as statutory guidance meaning there is a duty on NHS England, all trusts and ICBs, to contribute towards statutory emissions and environmental targets. The UK is committed to reaching net zero by 2050.

Every ICB is required to meet this duty through their green plans led by the board level net zero or sustainability lead.

Healthcare Leader, the brand for primary care in the health and care system, has produced this report The Countdown to Net Zero: Climate change and the NHS to take an in-depth look at this issue.

In this report, which builds on our roundtable on how ICBs are approaching net zero, we talk to sustainability leads at ICBs and GP practices to look at progress on reaching net zero in the core areas of medicines, estates, transport and waste as well as interviews with key leaders in this space.

Although 2040 and 2045 may seem distant, in terms of the infrastructure required and the behavioural shift needed to reach NHS net zero, it’s going to take this generation of system and local health leaders to make an impact and hit the target.

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