The climate emergency is a health emergency. The impacts of a destabilising climate are no longer confined to the global south, with more intense storms and floods, and more frequent heatwaves and wildfires now also affecting high-income countries. Amid a growing risk of infectious disease spread, threats to public health and health equity are rising, increasing the burden on the healthcare sector globally. Moreover, the sector is a major contributor to the climate crisis, producing
4.4 per cent of global net emissions
Around the world, health system leaders are seeking to mitigate the causes of climate instability while building resilience to its destructive impacts. Clinical services, supplies and logistics, as well as buildings and infrastructure, must be redesigned.
In the UK, the NHS has committed to be the first national health system to achieve net-zero emissions.
Action is focused in two key areas: a) direct interventions in estates and facilities; travel and transport; and supply chain and medicines; and
b) enabling actions in new models of care; workforce; networks and leadership; and funding and finance.
At the same time, the Government has launched a major capital investment programme to deliver 48 new hospitals. It’s an opportunity to set new global standards and methodologies for well-designed, sustainable development based on the NHS Net Zero Building Standard4. But even if fully delivered, the New Hospital Programme represents less than a fifth of the NHS
estate, meaning that net-zero targets will fall short without significant interventions in the existing estate.
In the drive to create well-designed, net-zero hospitals while simultaneously improving patient care, what can international health systems learn from each other? Can we co-create a whole-life carbon roadmap to net zero?