Association statement on the outcome of COP26
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Association statement on the outcome of COP26

Association statement on the outcome of COP26

Friday 19 November 2021

The Association of Anaesthetists welcomes many aspects of the deals reached at COP26 to tackle climate change.

We particularly welcome the commitments made by countries, including the UK’s four nations, as part of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Health Programme. It marks significant progress as governments from around the world have pledged to include health priorities in their Nationally Determined Contributions and to develop ‘low carbon sustainable health systems’.

The policies announced for the UK’s NHS as part of the programme are also welcomed. We look forward to engaging with the four nations’ governments to deliver on their respective plans, and seek to work with them on detailing specific plans to decarbonise aspects such as anaesthetic practice and the supply chain.

Anaesthetists are working hard to reduce environmentally harmful gas usage such as desflurane and nitrous oxide, but support from governments with detailed plans on how to achieve net zero emissions from clinical practice is crucial.

The pledge to ‘raise the voice of health professionals as advocates for stronger ambition on climate change’ is of particular importance, and more firm commitments on making this a reality are urgently required. The Association of Anaesthetists believes that too often decarbonisation plans for health systems places an emphasis on non-clinical, estates and transport emissions. Whilst important, it has been estimated by the Centre for Sustainable Health that 80% of healthcare emissions can be traced to clinical decisions and processes. Choices in prescription, equipment used, and consultation location – among others – has a profound impact on emissions. Anaesthetists are working hard to reduce environmentally harmful gas usage such as desflurane and nitrous oxide, but support from governments with detailed plans on how to achieve net zero emissions from clinical practice is crucial. We call on them to implement policies to ensure clinicians are at the heart of decarbonisation decision-making. 

It is disappointing that only 14 countries have committed to achieving net zero. We call on more countries, such as Ireland, to follow the NHS’s lead and publish plans to set their ambition towards net zero health systems.

The Association of Anaesthetists is working with the global anaesthetic Common Issues Group (CIG) to coordinate our work globally and share best practice in decarbonising medical practice, particularly in relation to anaesthetic gases. We will continue to advocate on behalf of our members in ensuring health systems play their part and be a force against climate change by pushing for decarbonisation as quickly and safely as possible.

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