Last reviewed 16 November 2021

Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid has announced that all four UK health services have united to commit to net zero carbon emissions and will build climate resilience through the COP26 Health Programme.

The move by all nations has been confirmed alongside 47 other countries, including the United States and Germany, who are pledging landmark commitments to develop climate resilient, sustainable low-carbon health systems.

The Department of Health and Social Care’s (DHSC’s) statement said that currently health systems are substantial sources of greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for around 4.6% of the worldwide total. The DHSC said if these health systems were one country, they would be the fifth largest emitter in the world.

Countries joining the UK COP26 Presidency’s Health Programme will ensure their health systems are resilient and able to withstand environmental shifts to continue to deliver care for patients. And each of the four UK health systems have already started work, “with more ambitious plans already underway to be well ahead of the UK Government’s commitment of the entire country being net zero by 2050”.

The Health Programme is a series of initiatives focusing on health sector leadership on climate change. The programme includes a focus on building climate resilient and sustainable health systems, as well as raising the voices of healthcare professionals who are advocating for stronger, more ambitious climate action.

For the NHS in England, this will include working with stakeholders to establish how best to embed issues like net zero, biodiversity and climate resilience in the NHS Constitution for England, with a formal review in 2022. It will work towards a zero-emission fleet, with the world’s first zero-emission ambulance capable of travelling 300 miles before being charged unveiled at COP26.

All NHS suppliers in England will need to publish a carbon reduction plan, as over £330 million will be invested in climate-smart healthcare and low-carbon hospitals, improving energy efficiency, cutting carbon emissions and tackling climate change.

The UK Government is also investing a further £1.425 billion in funding confirmed for the whole public sector across this Spending Review period.

The commitments are made as part of the UK’s COP26 Presidency alongside healthcare systems across the world and in partnership with the World Health Organisation, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Healthcare Without Harm and others.