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Our new campaign: sustainability and climate change

Professor Ramesh Arasaradnam, RCP academic vice president, welcomes the launch of the RCP’s new sustainability and climate change campaign.

I’m proud to say that the RCP has launched a new campaign today, highlighting climate change as the biggest long-term risk to human health and urging the government to prioritise a just transition from fossil fuels, with support for people to reduce energy use. Our new report, RCP view on healthcare sustainability and climate change – published today at the Med23 conference – has been supported by the RCP’s new advisory group on sustainability in healthcare and climate change, which I chair. I’m delighted to see the publication of this report today – it underpins the RCP’s commitment to a new sustainability and climate change priority for the next four years.

Last year, I attended COP26 along with the RCP’s sustainability fellow Dr Toby Hillman. We were both struck by the enormity of the task ahead of us in reducing climate change, and how much more we could be doing within healthcare to edge towards this goal. As health professionals, we are duty-bound to advocate for vulnerable people, and steward resources wisely for the benefit of the populations we serve. In doing so, in both academic and clinical pursuits, we can reduce the contribution of healthcare practices to the climate emergency, and therefore avoid contributing to the impending global health emergency. 

It’s with this in mind that last year, after a consultation with members, the RCP adopted healthcare sustainability and climate change as one of its priorities for 2023–26. Launched today, RCP view on healthcare sustainability and climate change focuses on the role that the UK government and the NHS – including individual clinicians - can play. 

The NHS has taken a significant step of setting itself the aim of becoming the world’s first net zero national health service, but what we’d really like to see is the NHS constitution updated to include the net zero targets and to make it clear that sustainability and climate change should be a key responsibility of all healthcare staff. The link between climate change mitigation and improved health outcomes is abundantly clear, so any initiative we can take to reduce the environmental impact of healthcare delivery within the NHS and improve patient outcomes is an important step in the right direction. 

If any RCP members and fellows would like to share information about their involvement in a climate-related project, or strides forward in sustainability in their area of medicine or trust, please do get in touch via policy@rcp.ac.uk.