Intended for healthcare professionals


The NHS carbon reduction strategy

BMJ 2009; 338 doi: (Published 28 January 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;338:b326
  1. Ian Roberts, professor of epidemiology and public health, position
  1. 1London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London WC1E 7HT
  1. Ian.Roberts{at}

    The battle plan is written, but will the NHS go to war with its emissions?

    Climate change kills at least 150 000 people each year, and the suffering it causes will increase as we continue to pollute the atmosphere.1 The effects of climate change on health will continue to be concentrated in the poorest parts of the world and will mainly affect children.2 The NHS is responsible for 25% of England’s public sector emissions—more than 18 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year. The NHS carbon reduction strategy for England, “Saving Carbon, Improving Health,” was published this week; it sets out how the NHS aims to lead the way to a low carbon world.3

    The strategy builds on a strong evidence base—the groundbreaking NHS carbon footprinting exercise published in 2008.4 However, the strategy quickly runs into its first obstacle. The largest part (60%) of the NHS carbon footprint is from procurement—the manufacture and transport of goods and services purchased by the NHS from other organisations. Pharmaceuticals contribute most to procurement …

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