Climate Emergency is a Health Emergency

The Climate Emergency threatens our lives and the lives of all future generations, and failure to act at pace and scale means “missing a rapidly closing window to secure a liveable future”. (1) The climate emergency is therefore also a health emergency. (2)

The health sector accounts for almost 5% of global carbon emissions, (3) and the provision of care to the critically ill is resource intensive. As a representative of all those professionals working in critical care, as well as patients, relatives and loved ones, we recognise our responsibility to minimise the environmental impact of our work in order to save both our planet and patients. For this reason, the Intensive Care Society joins a growing number of medical (4) and other organisations in declaring a Climate and Ecological Emergency. (5)

As a Society, we advocate for the best interests of intensive care staff and patients, and it is clear that planetary health is a key pillar of population health. We want to ensure we represent the values of our members and the patients they care for, which is why we’ve made environmental sustainability a critical enabler for the successful delivery of our new strategy.

Sandy Mather

Chief Executive, Intensive Care Society

Environmental sustainability must be a core consideration of how we deliver care, not an afterthought. Embedding environmental governance within each critical care unit is paramount in line with the NHS’s commitment to reach net zero by 2045, and we aim to enable just that.

Eleanor Damm

ICM Trainee and Sustainability Working Group Co-Chair, Intensive Care Society


This declaration is linked to action:

  • In 2021 we developed an Immediate Climate Strategy
  • We also began divesting from fossil fuels and environmentally harmful products, and transform our investments into a sustainable and climate friendly portfolio
  • We launched our Sustainability Working Group to deliver action, made up of our multi-professional community across the UK, to help us tackle projects important to our members.
  • We’ve put environmental sustainability at the heart of our new 2023-27 Strategy, committing to reducing our carbon footprint by 50% by 2030.
  • We have begun calculating our carbon footprint, so we can continue to work to reduce it.
  • We’ve ensured all catering for our events is plant-based or includes only non ruminant meat, utilises locally sourced ingredients, and is low-waste, to keep the environmental cost as low as possible.
  • We no longer use single use plastic containers.
  • We’ve joined the UK Heath Alliance on Climate Change (UKHACC).
  • We’ve hosted Sustainability sessions at our annual State of the Art Congress in 2022 and have another session planned in 2023.
  • We adapted our one day in person education series into virtual events, so speakers and delegates can attend without the need for them to travel.
  • We’ve produced eight educational webinars for our members to help illustrate the scale of the emergency and what they can do personally, professionally and politically to help combat it.
  • We’ve endorsed, alongside the British Association of Critical Care Nurses, the Centre for Sustainable Healthcare’s Critical Care Susnet and established regular sustainability Sharing Hours.
  • We’ve commenced a review of the waste and pollution generated by caring for patients in ICU to identify how this can be reduced or better dealt with on a systematic level.

What we’ll be doing in 2023:

  • We’ll be embedding sustainability into version 3 of the Guidelines for the Provision of Intensive Care Services (GPICS) which is due for publication in 2024.
  • We’ll be undertaking a scope 1 and 2 Carbon Footprint to assess our carbon hotspots and determine how we can reduce them.
  • We’re working on expanding our educational tools for the multi-professional ICU team, to help them embed environmental sustainability into their units and practice.
  • We are working with our events team and all contractors to reduce the environmental impact of our State of the Art Congress wherever possible.
  • We’ll be publishing a report on our divestment process, so organisations like ours can follow our lead.
  • We’ll be helping to educate ICU staff about when disposable gloves are necessary and when they can be avoided without causing any harm to staff or patients.
  • We’ll continue to work with our fellow UKHACC members to amplify the voices of health care professionals across the country.
  • We’ll be working with Greener NHS to help the health service achieve its goal of Net Zero by 2045.

These are matters of life and death. The time to act is now, and the Intensive Care Society is committed to doing so.

You can find out more about our Sustainability work and how you can help us build an environmentally sustainable intensive care at


  1. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Climate change: a threat to human wellbeing and health of the planet. Taking action now can secure our future. 2022. press-release/ (accessed Nov 8, 2022).
  2. Watts, N., Amann, M., Arnell, N., Ayeb-Karlsson, S., Beagley, J., Belesova, K., Boykoff, M., Byass, P., Cai, W., Campbell-Lendrum, D. and Capstick, S., 2020. The 2020 report of The Lancet Countdown on health and climate change: responding to converging crises
  3. Karliner, J., Slotterback, S., Boyd, R., Ashby, B., Steele, K., 2019. Health care’s climate footprint: how the health sector contributes to the global climate crisis and opportunities for action. 
  4. Health Declares Climate and Ecological Emergency. 2023. (accessed Mar 31, 2023)
  5. Climate emergency Declaration. 2023. (accessed Mar 31, 2023)