• Health chiefs in Cornwall declare “climate emergency”
  • STP to create sustainability board to oversee system-wide environment plan
  • Leaders acknowledge target may not be achievable

A sustainability and transformation partnership has agreed an “incredibly challenging” ambition to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2030 ahead of declaring a “climate emergency”.

The Cornwall and Isles of Scilly STP is thought to be the first region in the NHS to target net zero emissions by the end of this decade, and local chiefs have established a sustainability board to create and oversee a plan to deliver the ambition.

They will formally declare a “climate emergency” at an event on 20 March. 

The move comes two months after NHS England announced it will hire a panel of experts to set a “practical, evidence-based and ambitious” date for the NHS to reach net zero carbon dioxide emissions. The regulator has not declared a “climate emergency”.

A small number of individual NHS organisations, such as South Warwickshire Clinical Commissioning Group, have set targets to be carbon neutral by 2030, while the Greater Manchester region plans to achieve net zero by 2038.

The commitment to aim for net zero emissions was agreed by the boards of Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust, Cornwall Partnership Foundation Trust and Kernow CCG within the last fortnight.

Cornwall Council declared a climate emergency last June and has already developed a plan for achieving net zero emissions by 2030.

The STP’s three NHS organisations will spend up to six months developing their plan for meeting the target.

The trio will be helped by the council and the University of Exeter, which will assist in providing a “baseline carbon calculation” for each of the three organisations.

As well as having managers on the system-wide sustainability board, each organisation will also appoint executive, non-executive and clinical leads on climate change.

Risks associated with the need to mitigate climate change will be added to the organisations’ risk registers.

In their proposal, STP chiefs acknowledged meeting the 2030 target for net zero carbon emissions will be “incredibly challenging”.

“It is not yet clear whether it is an achievable goal, and it may prove to be impossible, however, Cornwall and Isles of Scilly health and care leads feel it is an ambition to pursue in good faith and in endeavouring to achieve the goal will take us further than a longer target date to meet this challenge,” their proposal stated.

A spokeswoman for the CCG added: “Climate change is something that’s very important to us. Local people and our staff can all play a big part in reducing the carbon footprint of our services and local facilities.”

Last month, the government appointed Cornish MP George Eustice as its environment secretary.

Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals FT was the first NHS organisation in England to declare a “climate emergency” last June. The trust aims to be carbon neutral by 2040.