AIM: The aim of this study was to explore nurses’ perceptions of climate and environmental issues and examine how nurses perceive their role in contributing to the process of sustainable development. BACKGROUND: Climate change and its implications for human health represent an increasingly important issue for the healthcare sector. According to the International Council of Nurses Code of Ethics, nurses have a responsibility to be involved and support climate change mitigation and adaptation to protect human health. DESIGN: This is a descriptive, explorative qualitative study. METHODS: Nurses (n = 18) were recruited from hospitals, primary care and emergency medical services; eight participated in semi-structured, in-depth individual interviews and 10 participated in two focus groups. Data were collected from April-October 2013 in Sweden; interviews were transcribed verbatim and analysed using content analysis. RESULTS: Two main themes were identified from the interviews: (i) an incongruence between climate and environmental issues and nurses’ daily work; and (ii) public health work is regarded as a health co-benefit of climate change mitigation. While being green is not the primary task in a lifesaving, hectic and economically challenging context, nurses’ perceived their profession as entailing responsibility, opportunities and a sense of individual commitment to influence the environment in a positive direction. CONCLUSIONS: This study argues there is a need for increased awareness of issues and methods that are crucial for the healthcare sector to respond to climate change. Efforts to develop interventions should explore how nurses should be able to contribute to the healthcare sector’s preparedness for and contributions to sustainable development.