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10th February 2023

A plan for the future – UCLH’s net zero strategy

In this guest blog, University College London Hospital’s Sustainability Transformation Project Lead, Joe Burton writes about their plan for the future

The world’s battle against climate change can unite the thousands of NHS staff who want to take action to limit it. We have an opportunity to lead by example. 4-5% of UK emissions come from healthcare, a total that will need to be reduced if we are to limit the global temperature rises that threaten our world. If the NHS, as a group of major organisations, can work together and learn from one another to meet or exceed our net zero targets, we can demonstrate that reducing emissions is not an impossible challenge for large and complex systems. 

All too often, it is easy to be disheartened about the state of climate change. If we are to tackle the issue we face, we must first offer hope to our staff that we can challenge the problem in the first place. If we do not, we risk building a sense of hopelessness and inaction. Rather than our staff questioning whether trying to make meaningful change is an impossible task, we must flip this narrative. We need to demonstrate that change is both possible, welcome, and an opportunity all can be involved with. 

This is a hope that University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (UCLH) can build amongst its staff, patients, and the rest of The NHS with its ambitious new net zero strategy ‘Critical Care For Our Climate’. 

Published on Friday 27th January 2023, our strategy is the result of a year’s worth of research, engagement with hundreds of our staff and patients, and careful target setting. We believe that this strategy offers a detailed and operational approach to hitting our net-zero targets; 2031 for our Carbon Footprint and 2040 for our Carbon Footprint Plus. Given the increasing impact of climate change, we are aiming high. 

Based on engagement with our staff, we have themed our strategy around four key priorities: 

We have built actions and ambitions within each of these priorities and designed a robust delivery mechanism, led by UCLH’s sustainability team and with input from clinicians and subject matter experts. This is accompanied by support from the trust’s senior leadership, to ensure that we can deliver on our promises. We have grown our network of sustainability champions, with over 200 staff now part of an ever-expanding group of enthusiastic individuals wanting to make a change. 

Our strategy acts as a starting point, a stepping stone outlining what we need to do and how we plan to do it. However, in many regards, it is simply the start of the journey we must follow. The next 10 years are our make or break years if we are to win the battle against climate change. The NHS has already made some great strides towards reducing its carbon footprint. This hard work and energy needs to continue, and be magnified, across the next decade and beyond. 

If the NHS can get this right, we can be known for both our provision of world-class patient care and our global leadership in the delivery of low-carbon care. Let’s make it happen.

You can read UCLH’s net-zero strategy, and its accompanying short-form version, here: https://www.uclh.nhs.uk/about-us/what-we-do/our-policies-and-statements/sustainability