Britain’s National Health Service has pledged to become the world’s first healthcare system to cut carbon emissions to net zero, hoping to achieve that by 2040 with measures from electric ambulances to energy-efficient hospitals.
The sheer scale of the state-run NHS, which employs 1.5 million people and accounts for about seven per cent of Britain’s economy, means the move could put significant pressure on its thousands of suppliers to decarbonise their operations.
The plan includes a string of new targets and commits NHS to reducing emissions under its direct control to net zero by 2040, before bringing its supply chain footprint in line by 2045
“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,” NHS Chief Executive Simon Stevens said in a statement reported by Reuters Newsagency.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organisation (WHO), welcomed the move, saying cutting emissions was vital to health everywhere.
Doctors are increasingly concerned about the health impacts of climate change, from more deadly heat waves to the spread of mosquito-borne diseases.
Reuters reports the NHS’ move reflects growing recognition of the impact that healthcare systems themselves have on the environment.
The NHS plan includes building 40 new “net zero” hospitals, reducing emissions from its suppliers, road-testing the first zero-emissions ambulance by 2022, and using more efficient lighting.
The move aligns with recommendations by an expert group, the NHS Net Zero Expert Panel, which convened in January to analyse evidence on how the health service can help slash UK emissions.
Based on its findings, the NHS has adopted two targets: for emissions under its direct control to reach net zero by 2040, with an interim reduction target of 80 per cent by 2028-32; and for its wider supply chain footprint to reach net zero by 2045, with an 80 per cent reduction target set between 2036 and 2039.
Britain last year became the first major economy to adopt a legally-binding target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050.
It is due to host two weeks of talks to bolster the United Nations sponsored 2015 Paris Agreement next year.
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