NHS commits to becoming ‘carbon net zero’ by 2040

NHS England has committed to achieving carbon neutrality by 2040, with the aim of becoming the world’s first carbon net zero national health system.

In January, following the launch of the Climate Assembly UK, NHS England convened the NHS Net Zero Expert Panel to analyse the evidence on how the health service can contribute to nationwide carbon reduction efforts.

The panel was led by Nick Watts, executive director of The Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change and was made up of public health and climate experts as well as patient and staff representatives.

Based on the findings of their report, the NHS has formally adopted two targets identified as the earliest possible credible dates for the health service to achieve net zero carbon emissions.

This includes commiting to net zero emission under NHS direct control by 2040, with an ambition for an interim 80% reduction by 2028-2032. In addition, the NHS is aiming for net zero emission within its wider supply chain by 2045, and an interim 80% reduction by 2036-2039.

Interventions to achieve carbon net zero includes introducing new ways of delivering care at or closer to home to reduce patient journeys to hospital, and the creation of the NHS fleet – including working towards road-testing a zero-emissions emergency ambulance by 2022.

“2020 has been dominated by COVID-19 and is the most pressing health emergency facing us. But undoubtedly climate change poses the most profound long-term threat to the health of the nation,” said Sir Simon Stevens, NHS chief executive.

“It is not enough for the NHS to treat the problems caused by air pollution and climate change – from asthma to heart attacks and strokes – we need to play our part in tackling them at source.

“The NHS has already made significant progress decarbonising our care, but as the largest employer in Britain, responsible for around 4% of the nation’s carbon emissions, if this country is to succeed in its overarching climate goals the NHS has to be a major part of the solution,” he added.

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