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NHS under pressure to go green

As one of the largest resource-hungry public sector institutions in the world, the NHS is being asked to do more to tackle climate change.

Surveys show that 63% of the public and 70% of NHS administration want local NHS bodies to reduce their carbon footprints.

But the NHS will have to make considerable changes to reach emission target reductions of 20% by 2010 and 60% by 2050.

The NHS currently uses 400m of energy each year and emits around one million tonnes of carbon. To reach government targets, it will have to reduce net carbon dioxide emissions by at least 600,000 tonnes by 2050.

Waste is also a considerable problem, with one in every 100 tonnes of domestic waste generated in the UK coming from NHS facilities.

Gill Morgan, chief executive of the NHS confederation said: “As one of the biggest employers in the UK and the biggest public service, our members understand their responsibility to tackle climate change and reduce the NHS’ carbon footprint.

“By addressing some key aspects such as energy use, transport and waste, the NHS can not only have a considerable impact on reducing its carbon footprint but also its costs.”

If 166 acute hospital trusts turn off their computers and screens when they’re not in use, the carbon emissions saved could equal those generated by 26,000 people flying to New York from London, and back again.

Hospitals could also cut emissions by separating domestic and clinical waste, recycling at least 40% of waste, improving building design and cutting energy costs.

Andrew Simms, director of the New Economics Foundation, said: “The NHS wil be working on the front-line as climate change hits the UK.

“Global warming is happening, time is running out, like the rest of us the NHS has to act now, before the climate becomes critical.”