Sustainability and Net Zero

Climate change poses the most significant long-term threat to our health, not to mention our planet. The Greener NHS programme will work with staff, hospitals and our partners. We will build on the great work being done by trusts, sharing ideas on how to reduce the impact on public health and the environment, save money and reach net carbon zero.

Home > Sustainability and Net Zero

Delivering a ‘Net Zero’ National Health Service

The Challenge

It is no exaggeration to say that the climate emergency is a health emergency.

As a health system we are having to respond now, and will increasingly in the future, to more heatwaves, more flooding, more vector carrying diseases and more pandemics.

The NHS contributes to about 5% of the UK’s carbon emissions.

Between 5% and 7% of all road traffic is NHS orientated and around 7% of the UK’s healthcare estate is located in flood plains or is at risk from sea inundation in the next 30-50 years.

The Solution

We recognise the need to tackle our health and care sector’s impact on the climate head-on.

The decarbonisation challenge ahead of us is enormous and it will take all of us in the health system to engage with this agenda.

To achieve zero emissions in the timescales, we need to change our models of care, our estate, fleet and operations, our supply chain and, ultimately, how we provide treatments and care to patients.

We also need to be prepared to adapt to the changes that climate change will inevitably bring and the effect it will have on our healthcare system.

Delivering a ‘Net Zero’ NHS report

In October 2020, the NHS vowed to become the world’s first carbon net zero national health system, which means it will change the way it operates so that its total greenhouse gas emissions would be equal to or less than the emissions it removes from the environment.

Read the Delivering a ‘Net Zero’ National Health Service report.

Our Priorities

The ambitions laid out in the Delivering a ‘Net Zero’ National Health Service report sees the NHS commit to:

• Achieving net zero emissions for the emissions the NHS controls directly by 2040, with an ambition to reach an 80% reduction by 2028 to 2032.

• Achieving net zero emissions for the emissions the NHS can influence, including the wider supply chain (NHS carbon footprint plus), by 2045, with an ambition to achieve an 80% reduction by 2036 to 2039.


The challenge to decarbonise the NHS is significant as it contributes to about 5% of the UK’s carbon emissions. Between 5% and 7% of all road traffic is NHS orientated. In addition, around 7% of the UK’s healthcare estate is located in flood plains or is at risk from sea inundation in the next 30-50 years. The area is likely to be affected by a sea level rise of between one and three metres by the end of 2100.

This commitment comes amid growing evidence of the health impacts of climate change and air pollution and aims to save thousands of lives and hospitalisations across the country – as air pollution is linked to conditions such as asthma, heart disease, strokes and lung cancer. Academics have linked high-pollution days with hundreds of extra out-of-hospital cardiac arrests and stroke or asthma-related hospital admissions.

To achieve zero emissions in the timescales, we need to change our models of care, our estate, fleet and operations, our supply chain and, ultimately, how we provide treatments and care to patients. We also need to be prepared to adapt to the changes that climate change will inevitably bring and the effect it will have on our healthcare system.

The Sustainability and Net Zero programme was introduced towards the end of the 2020 and has gained real momentum with the establishment of a network of organisation level sustainability leads and the appointments of Chris O’Neill as director and Alexis Percival as climate change lead.

Chris O’Neill
Director

Alexis Percival
Climate change lead

Initial work has been carried out to establish the Partnership’s baseline carbon footprint to understand the scale of the task. Work is under way to develop a climate change vision statement and green plan, which will be underpinned by green plans that are being developed by partner organisations.

The key areas of work that will be looked at in this coming year as part of the net zero and climate change agenda will be:

• Baseline assessments and establishing the HNY Partnership’s carbon footprint
• Working with all health and social care partners to identify a route to net zero
• Green plan assessment
• Anaesthetic gas assessment with a phase-out programme
• Primary care decarbonisation strategy
• Climate change adaptation planning
• Awareness campaigns including the Climate Lunch and Learn sessions

Featured Programmes

To view all of our programmes click here.