Tom Pashby, digital journalist at IEMA, spoke with Jason Light, head of sustainability and energy at University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, about Jason’s work at the Trust and his involvement with the Do Nation cycle from Southampton to Glasgow in October for COP26.

What’s your involvement in IEMA?

I’ve been a member of IEMA for a very long time and have been a member of the Fellow’s network for a few years. I sit on IEMA’s circular economy working group and have also been chair of IEMA’s Solent regional group.

What have you done as a fellow?

In my time as an IEMA Fellow I’ve spoken at IEMA events, spoken at the Energy Managers Conference on behalf of IEMA and a few other things.

I was actually one of the members who successfully encouraged IEMA to declare a climate emergency back in 2019. I had been thinking in 2018 about how it was the 10 year anniversary of the Climate Change Act, and how I wasn’t particularly happy with the progress made on climate action to date. And I was frustrated about the sustainability profession not going enough to recognize and act on the climate emergency. I actually found myself at an event in Westminster and was speaking to an MP about this who then encouraged me to raise the alarm, which I did via IEMA.

What’s your day job?

I’m head of sustainability and energy at Southampton Hospital, which is actually a number of hospitals. The NHS is the largest procurer of materials in the UK, and is responsible for 5-6 per cent of the UK’s carbon footprint. Part of my job is managing a large energy contract and looking at energy efficiency options. The energy contract covers a CHP (combined heat and power generator), which is a turbine fueled by natural gas. I’m putting together a decarbonization plan at the moment for the whole of the hospital community, and specifically looking at options for decarbonizing the heat and cooling systems.

The other half of my job is looking at environment and sustainability programmes, including ecological and biodiversity related aspects. We’re working toward the NHS’s overall net zero by 2040 target.

Why did you sign up for this cycling challenge?

As soon as I heard that COP was going to be in the UK, I wanted to work out how I could have at least some sort of small impact on it. I’d heard about Do Nation years before. It’s a pledge version of donation websites, where you pledge to do something rather than give money.

Cycling to COP is definitely going to be a challenge. I cycle 10 miles each way to work most days, so 450 miles to Glasgow will be a step up. I feel like the 450 mile journey will be quite symbolic because if I can do that, more people should be able to get to work 4 miles down the road as sustainable as possible. It’s a way for me to show how committed I am professionally and personally, by going to this fairly extreme length to support climate action.

What pledges are you hoping to receive from supporters?

I want people to pledge things related to sustainability, be it about social progress and equalities, plastic waste reduction, anything really. I recommend checking out the Do Nation website. You can sign up as an individual or as an organization.

What do you want from COP?

We don’t need more commitments, we need countries to come together and actually get on with delivering the Paris Agreement. We know that while the international community is saying they’re trying to limit global heating to 1.5 C, the NDCs (Nationally Determined Contributions) actually take us to between 2.7 C or 3.5 C of heating. That’s something that needs to be addressed urgently. Hopefully COP being hosted in the UK will accelerate climate action here in the UK, at all levels across organisations, local, regional and national.


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