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NHS announces aim to be first net zero national health service

Published October 13, 2020

NHS announces aim to be first net zero national health service

The NHS has announced its ambition to become the world’s first carbon net zero national health system. 

The NHS has formally adopted two targets: for emissions under NHS direct control to be reduced to net zero by 2040, and for emissions from the wider NHS supply chain to reach net zero by 2045.  

For the NHS direct carbon footprint, the aim is to achieve an 80% reduction by 2028-2032. For the supply chain, the organisation intends to reach the 80% reduction target by 2036-2039.  

In January, NHS England convened the NHS Net Zero Expert Panel to analyse how the health service can contribute to UK carbon reduction efforts. Led by Dr Nick Watts, Executive Director of The Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change, the Panel comprised public health and climate experts as well as patient and staff representatives. 

The new targets are set out in the panel’s report. The report shows how the health service has already cut its carbon footprint by 62% compared to the international-standard 1990 baseline and by 26% when indirect factors are included. 

The panel also set out other measures, including: 

  • new ways of delivering care at or closer to home, meaning fewer patient journeys to hospitals 
  • greening the NHS fleet, including road-testing a zero-emissions ambulance by 2022 
  • reducing waste of consumable products and switching to low-carbon alternatives  
  • building new hospitals and buildings in line with net-zero emissions 
  • including energy conservation in staff training and education programmes 
  • all local NHS organisations will name a senior lead to achieve these improvements 

NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens said: “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.”