Climate change and the NHS

What are the Government’s and NHS England’s Net Zero targets?

Climate change poses a major threat to our health as well as our planet. The environment is changing, that change is accelerating, and this has direct and immediate consequences for our patients, the public and the NHS.

In 2019, the UK government was the first to commit to a ‘Net Zero’ target by 2050, where net zero means that carbon emissions must be eliminated to achieve carbon neutrality.

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In October 2020, the NHS became the world’s first health service to commit to reaching carbon net zero, in response to the profound and growing threat to health posed by climate change and set out a strategy and two clear targets to respond to this challenge:

  • Net zero by 2040 for the emissions the NHS controls directly;
  • Net zero by 2045 for the emissions the NHS has the ability to influence.

In 2021, all Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) and trusts were mandated to develop a green plan. You can read more about our Green Plan here.

The Health and Care Act 2022, further underscores the importance of the NHS’s robust response to climate change, placing new duties on NHS England, and all trusts, foundation trusts, and integrated care boards to contribute towards statutory emissions and environmental targets. The Act requires commissioners and providers of NHS services specifically to address:

  • the UK 2050 net zero emissions target;
  • the environmental targets within the Environment Act 2021, and;
  • to adapt to any current or predicted impacts of climate change identified within
  • the 2008 Climate Change Act.

Find out more information about Sustainability and Net Zero on the NHS England website:

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