National ambition

Our Vision:

To deliver the world’s first net zero health service and respond to climate change, improving health now and for future generations.

The NHS was founded to provide high-quality care for all, now, and for future generations. Understanding that climate change and human health are inextricably linked, in October 2020, it became the first in the world to commit to delivering a net zero national health system. This means improving healthcare while reducing harmful carbon emissions, and investing in efforts that remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.

With around 4% of the country’s carbon emissions, and over 7% of the economy, the NHS has an essential role to play in meeting the net zero targets set under the Climate Change Act (Delivering a ‘Net Zero’ National Health Service).

Two clear and feasible targets are outlined in the Delivering a ‘Net Zero’ National Health Service report:

  • The NHS Carbon Footprint: for the emissions we control directly, net zero by 2040
  • The NHS Carbon Footprint Plus: for the emissions we can influence, net zero by 2045.

Led by Dr Nick Watts, the NHS’s first Chief Sustainability Officer, the Greener NHS National Programme exists to drive this transformation while delivering against our broader environmental health priorities. Laid out in the NHS Long Term Plan, these extended sustainability commitments range from reducing single-use plastics and water consumption, through to improving air quality.

On 1 July 2022, the NHS in England became the first health system to embed net zero into legislation, through the Health and Care Act 2022. The Delivering a Net Zero National Health Service report is now issued as statutory guidance. Find out what this means for NHS England, trusts and integrated care boards.