Health Care Without Harm applauds NHS commitment to zero emissions

Health Care Without Harm applauds England’s National Health Service (NHS) for its bold declaration that it will chart a course to net-zero climate emissions.  

NHS chief Sir Simon Stevens announced on Saturday that it would establish an expert panel “to chart a practical route map this year to enable the NHS to get to ‘net zero’, becoming the world’s first major health service to do so.”  

In making the announcement, Stevens emphasized that “while the NHS is already a world leader in sustainability, as the biggest employer in this country comprising nearly a tenth of the U.K. economy, we're both part of the problem and part of the solution.”  

Globally, health care is responsible for more than 4.4% of net global climate emissions, ironically making it a significant contributor to the climate crisis and its myriad health impacts. The NHS announcement is a potential catalyst that can help transform the health sector around the world to protect public health from climate change.

“This announcement provides a shining example of how a national health system can respond to the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN’s sustainable development agenda,” said Will Clark, Health Care Without Harm Europe’s executive director. “By committing to net-zero and demonstrating that this can be done, the NHS will provide a model for other health systems to emulate, leading the way for the rest of the world to follow.”

The NHS England already participates in Health Care Without Harm’s Health Care Climate Challenge. It is one of more than 200 institutions in 31 countries that have made a collective commitment to reduce their climate footprint by 36 million metric tons a year—the equivalent of emissions from nine coal fired power plants.

“The NHS has just upped the ante for Health Care Climate Challenge participants as well as national and sub-national health systems everywhere,” said Josh Karliner, Health Care Without Harm’s international director of program and strategy. “Their leadership will inspire others to follow a similar path. We look forward to working with the NHS as it embarks on this challenging, necessary, and urgent journey to achieve net-zero emissions.”

“NHS England continues to demonstrate global leadership in advancing health care climate solutions,” said Jessica Wolff, Health Care Without Harm’s U.S. climate and health program director. “By declaring that climate change is a health emergency and setting a goal of carbon net zero for all their emissions, they set an example that all health care systems in the United States and around the world must follow. Health Care Without Harm’s U.S. climate and health program supports hospitals’ climate mitigation and resilience efforts through the Health Care Climate Challenge and the leadership of the 20 health system members of our U.S. Health Care Climate Council, which innovate climate solutions that we can then scale across the sector through Practice Greenhealth.”

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Health Care Without Harm

Health Care Without Harm seeks to transform health care worldwide so the sector reduces its environmental footprint and becomes a leader in the global movement for environmental health and justice.