UK Government pressed for clarity on national climate adaptation plan to heatwaves

Heat-related deaths could rise to 10,000 every year without concerted actions for climate adaptation.

Earlier this year, the Committee published its report on Heat Resilience and Sustainable Cooling, emphasising that the current housing stock in the UK is ill-equipped to handle excessive heat, with millions of homes facing summertime overheating issues.

According to the report findings, heat-related deaths could rise to 10,000 every year without concerted actions for climate adaptation.

A key recommendation put forth by the Committee was the launch of an ‘ambitious’ national retrofit programme, targeting existing housing stock. However, the Government has stopped short of committing to such a programme on the suggested scale.

Instead, in its response to the report, the Government has pointed to existing initiatives such as the Heat and Buildings Strategy, raising questions about the sufficiency of current efforts.

Moreover, the Committee also called for the extension of standards to cover overheating in new buildings and refurbishments, advocating for a more holistic approach to tackling climate challenges. Yet, the Government’s response remains vague, with plans to assess potential updates through a call for evidence process.

Another of the Committee’s recommendations the importance of urban green spaces in mitigating climate impacts. The Committee welcomed initiatives such as Natural England’s Green Infrastructure Framework (GIF) but urged the Government to mandate its use and introduce statutory protections for green spaces.

However, the Government has deferred responsibility to local authorities, declining to enforce the Committee’s recommendations.

Despite criticism over the level of joint working across Government departments, the Government has touted its new cross-government Climate Resilience Board as a positive step.

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has emphasised that due to significant funding constraints and the absence of a legal obligation for councils to act, the implementation of green infrastructure projects is improbable in practice.

EAC’s chair Philip Dunne MP said: “Extreme heat is already affecting health and livelihoods in the UK.

“While there is much to welcome in this response, there are still serious unanswered questions about how the Government plans to respond to a rapidly warming UK climate. This is frankly a missed opportunity.

“In my letter to the Secretary of State, I press the Government to provide more detailed information on its plans.”

Earlier this year, MPs accused the Government of “failing to act with urgency” on sustainable cooling with heatwaves becoming more intense and frequent, building up potential future risks including deaths and economic losses.

The High Court has mandated a judicial review of the Government’s national climate adaptation plan, in response to a legal challenge asserting that the plan falls short of protecting people, property and infrastructure from the impacts of climate change.

Comments (1)

  1. Richard Phillips says:

    The Government “remaining vague” is no real surprise, career politicians cannot have had, in general, any great grounding in the scientific and technical sciences.
    For both scientists and administrators, it would be beneficial for us to take a look at the French system which requires each to have studied the other to a meaningful extent.
    I am a retired scientist.

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