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British hospitals to fight global warming by removing meat

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Big deal or not? I'm not a vegetarian but I'm also more than happy eating vegetarian. I opted for a tasty Indian vegetarian restaurant in London last week and it reminded me again how good it can be. The NHS contributes heavily to carbon emissions so if this helps them trim that output, why not? The downside is that this may be a tough transition for older people who grew up eating meat and they may be in hospital more than younger (and more flexible) people. My 70-something year old father in law still says that "chicken is not meat" meaning that it's not a real meal. (The French are definitely carnivores.) It's impressive to see the NHS is making a serious effort on many fronts to improve the healthcare system in the UK. As criticized as it is, it's still ranked well above the US system.

"This is not just about doing things more efficiently, it's about doing things differently, because efficiency is not going to get us to big cuts," said Pencheon. "What will healthcare look like in 2030-2040 in a very low carbon society? It will not look anything like it looks now."

Last year the NHS published what it believes is the biggest public sector analysis of carbon dioxide, the biggest greenhouse gas, which showed the organisation's emissions in 2004 were 18.6m tonnes and rising. This accounts for more than 3% of all emissions in England, and if the NHS was a country it would have been ranked as the 81st biggest polluter in the world that year, between Estonia and Bahrain.

One-fifth of the emissions were from transport, one-fifth from buildings, and the remainder from procurement, including drugs, medical equipment and food.

On Tuesday, Pencheon and the NHS chief executive, David Nicholson, will publish the strategy - Saving Carbon, Improving Health - which will set targets to cut the organisation's carbon footprint, and proposals to meet them. It follows a government pledge last year to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050.

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