U.K.’s Health System Aims to Be World’s First with Net-Zero Emissions


(Bloomberg) — The U.K.’s National Health Service has set a target to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045, making it the world’s first health service to set such an ambitious climate goal.



chart, line chart: Feeling Green


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The organization is also committing to zeroing out its direct emissions before 2040 by investing in electric ambulances and building greener hospitals. The 2045 deadline, which includes emissions from across its supply chain, is five years ahead of the U.K. government’s goal set last year, the first to be recorded as law by a wealthy nation. 

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“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,” said Simon Stevens, chief executive of the NHS, in a statement last week. “We need to play our part in tackling them at source.”

The activities of the NHS and patients using its services currently produce around 25 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year, more than Croatia’s annual emissions. That accounts for 7% of the U.K.’s total.

The plan includes a commitment to build 40 net-zero hospitals, incentivize staff to cycle to work, and develop the world’s first electric-hydrogen hybrid double-crewed ambulances. It also plans to roll out on-site renewable energy generation, LED lighting and improve energy efficiency in its buildings.

As part of achieving its overall goal, the NHS will pressure its suppliers to reduce their own emissions. Around 500 of them will be included in an “engagement programme” beginning next year, which will require them to establish plans to reduce greenhouse gases emitted in their supply chains, known as Scope 3 emissions. Medicines sourced by the NHS account for a fifth of its total emissions, with the largest portion coming from inhalers and anesthetic gases.



a person riding a bicycle in front of a sign: GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - MAY 06: A woman cycles past a sign of support for the NHS during the coronavirus lockdown on May 6, 2020 in Glasgow, Scotland. The country continues quarantine measures intended to curb the spread of Covid-19, but the infection rate is falling, and government officials are discussing the terms under which it would ease the lockdown. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)


© Photographer: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images Europe
GLASGOW, SCOTLAND – MAY 06: A woman cycles past a sign of support for the NHS during the coronavirus lockdown on May 6, 2020 in Glasgow, Scotland. The country continues quarantine measures intended to curb the spread of Covid-19, but the infection rate is falling, and government officials are discussing the terms under which it would ease the lockdown. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Where emissions can’t be reduced at their source, the NHS says it will explore options to offset its greenhouse impact through sequestering carbon in forests and employing carbon capture technology.

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