NHS passes carbon target

Savings in energy use in buildings have helped the NHS exceed its first carbon cutting target, according to a new report on its progress. The report from the Sustainable Development Unit for NHS England and Public Health England showed the NHS reduced its carbon emissions by 11% between 2007 and 2015 – surpassing the 10% target set in 2009. The wider sector, which includes public health and social care, has seen a 13% reduction over the same period.

The Sustainable development in health and care report details the factors that have contributed to the reduction. Energy emissions have reduced by 4%, thanks to measures such as the use of combined heat and power (CHP) systems and staff behaviour change programmes. These measures have also saved £25m in the last year.

However the sector needs to go further as forecasts in the report show that this level of action will reach a 30% reduction by 2050, while the Climate Change Act target is 80%. The report identifies additional opportunities for carbon reduction in the future, which can help to get closer to the Climate Change Act target. These include reducing waste by working better with supply chains, finding alternatives for harmful gases used in some medical devices and procedures and helping people to make lifestyle changes that prevent ill health in the first place. The sector’s next milestone is a 34% reduction by 2020.

David Pencheon, director of the Sustainable Development Unit, said, “It’s important to remember the many opportunities to reduce our carbon footprint will also improve the health of people and save money as well. We know regular active travel for example to work improves health, reduces air pollution and other environmental impacts – but we can go further.”

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