On Friday, thousands of adults across the world will take part in the global climate strike to show solidarity with Greta Thunberg and the young students who have been walking out of school for months to raise awareness of the climate emergency. Among them will be many public sector workers, including some NHS staff.

With the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report last year warning that the human race has just 12 years to limit the most devastating impacts of global heating, stark images of the toxic effect of plastic on marine life in David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II and the devastating fires in the Amazon rainforest, the scale of the crisis is all too clear. New research published last week by the Health Care Without Harm (HCWH) campaign (an NGO that works to reduce the environmental footprint of health worldwide) and consultancy firm Arup, calculates that globally, healthcare’s climate footprint accounts for an astonishing 4.4% of the world’s net C02 emissions. If healthcare were a country it would be the fifth largest emitter on the planet.

The report also finds that the NHS produces higher emissions than the global average for healthcare and is responsible for 5.4% of the UK’s total carbon emissions, equivalent to the greenhouse gas emissions of 11 coal-fired power stations. Its emissions are not much lower than those for both aviation, and agriculture, forestry and land use in the UK (each 6.5% according to Committee on Climate Change figures).

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