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UK Health Services Make Landmark Pledge to Achieve Net Zero


All four UK health services have united to commit to net zero carbon emissions, Health and Social Care Secretary, Sajid Javid has announced today.

This ambitious move by all nations is happening alongside 47 countries – including the United States and Germany – who are pledging landmark commitments to develop climate resilient, sustainable low-carbon health systems.

Currently, health systems are substantial sources of greenhouse gas emissions – accounting for around 4.6% of the worldwide total – meaning if they were one country, health systems would be the fifth largest emitter.

The impacts of climate change represent the biggest public health challenge of this century, which could be felt around the world through greater water and food insecurity, extreme weather events and increased infectious diseases. These elements all threaten the capacity of health systems to prevent, adapt and respond to increased and new health risks.

For countries joining the UK COP26 Presidency’s Health Programme, they will ensure their health systems are resilient and able to withstand such environmental shifts to continue to deliver care for patients.

Each of the four health systems across the UK have already started work on being greener, with more ambitious plans already underway to be well ahead of the UK government’s commitment of the entire country being net zero by 2050.

Health and Social Care 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.

The UK government is investing over £280 million in decarbonising the NHS estate in England through the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme, with a further £1.425 billion in funding confirmed for the whole public sector across this Spending Review period.

The commitments are made as part of the UK’s COP26 Presidency alongside healthcare systems across the world and in partnership with the World Health Organisation, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Healthcare Without Harm and others.

The Health Programme is a series of initiatives focusing on health sector leadership on climate change, including a focus on building climate resilient and sustainable health systems, as well as raising the voices of healthcare professionals who are advocating for stronger, more ambitious climate action.

For the NHS in Wales, this will mean:

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

Health Minister, Eluned Morgan said:

Heath and social care in Wales has a crucial role in contributing to our collective ambition to reach net zero by 2030. We know how tirelessly our NHS and care staff have worked throughout the pandemic and that further winter pressures lie ahead. However, the climate emergency has not and will not go away and must be responded to with the same urgency that the pandemic has required of our sector.

This challenge has already been embraced across the NHS and in social care in Wales and I have been impressed by the dedication shown by healthcare professions who are driving this agenda forward and developing their own initiatives to help their healthcare settings run more sustainably.