Statement on COP
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Statement on COP

Association statement on COP26

Thursday 5 November 2021

The Association of Anaesthetists have written to the President of the COP26 Conference to urge delegates to ensure that the role the health sector both nationally and globally can play in achieving net zero ambitions is fully considered during the negotiations.

The NHS contributes to roughly 5% of the UK’s entire carbon footprint, 25% of which derives from clinical and medical decisions. The Association is successfully working with its 10,000 members to support environmental sustainability initiatives in anaesthetic practice in order to drive down these harmful and not insignificant emissions, without negatively impacting patient safety.

If we work and are supported globally to reduce emissions in this field, The Association believes that clinicians can make a significant contribution to the fight against climate change.

"With our partners, we will continue to share and support good practice already seen across the UK in individual hospitals, but more must be done to speed up the change that we need to see. We must also learn from other countries."

In the letter to COP26 President Alok Sharma, President of the Association of Anaesthetists Dr Mike Nathanson and Chair of the Association’s Environment and Sustainability Committee Dr Mike Kinsella said:

“With our partners, we will continue to share and support good practice already seen across the UK in individual hospitals, but more must be done to speed up the change that we need to see. We must also learn from other countries.”

In reference to the Conference, which is taking place over the next two weeks, they said:

“We believe it is imperative that the role of the health sector is firmly recognised as an important driver for global decarbonisation plans... The Conference is a unique chance to highlight the role of clinicians in decarbonising health services in the UK and across the world. Governments must provide sufficient support...so that net zero ambitions can be achieved.”

The Association has been engaging with politicians and other stakeholders to share what we believe must be done to speed up decarbonisation efforts within the health service. In order to effectively support decarbonisation, Governments must:

  • Give clinicians additional support, be it financial or educational, to reduce the use of environmentally-harmful desflurane and nitrous oxide. We need new operating theatres to be built to zero emission standards, with retrofitting current sites where possible, including installing gas recycling technologies, and to expedite the implementation of policies on defaulting to low-emitting anaesthetic gases as standard, where patient safety is not put at a detriment;
  • Like other countries, ensure that procurement regimes are created to base contract decisions on a mandatory environment and sustainability weighting; and
  • Ensure clinicians are centrally involved in decarbonisation plans at every level.

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