During COP26, more than 50 countries have pledged to cut emissions across their health services, with many committing to achieve net zero carbon dioxide emissions by 2050. The healthcare sector currently accounts for about five percent of global carbon emissions. “If it were a country, it would be the fifth largest emitter,” was a line frequently repeated throughout the conference by people across sectors calling for more countries to sign up to the pledge.

Innovative solutions to delivering more sustainable health systems will be given focused attention at the Clean Med Europe conference, which takes place online after COP26 from 29 November to 3 December. The conference is very much focused on encouraging the healthcare community to get together to share ideas, innovations, challenges and solutions to drive change within their organisations and communities in the development of sustainable healthcare solutions.

The programme covers a wide breath of topics incorporating broad themes around decarbonising national healthcare systems, teaching and training, clinical care, reducing waste, procurement and buildings. The sessions include a mix of both examples of specific projects to broader discussion around challenges and solutions. A draft of the programme can be viewed here.

If the commitments made at COP26 are to have any chance of success, they will need to be backed up by specific details on how they will be delivered, monitored and reported. In October 2020, NHS England set its goal to be the first ‘net zero’ health service in the world, recently reporting successful delivery on the targets it set to deliver during the first year of its GreenerNHS strategy by reducing emissions equivalent to powering 1.1 million homes annually. As more and more countries commit to do the same, there is great opportunity for shared learning and collaboration across the world to deliver models of health care that do not pose a threat to our climate or our health.

The impact of health systems on carbon emissions span many areas of delivery including the way in which care is delivered, transport and travel to and from our hospitals, medicines and supply chains, infrastructure, heating and lighting, and waste. Change will be required across all areas, including in our expectations and adaptability as both health workers and patients in the way we deliver and receive care. The CleanMed Europe conference provides an opportunity for individuals and health leaders to develop their strategies for change and to keep the momentum generated during COP26 going for the longer term.

The UK Health Alliance on Climate Change is pleased to be a supporting partner for this important conference.

Further information: https://cleanmedeurope.org/