COMMONS

Heatwaves: Adapting to Climate Change inquiry launched

08 February 2018

The Environmental Audit Committee will consider risks to health, wellbeing and productivity associated with heatwaves, review the level of UK resilience to them and assess the Government’s actions to date. The Committee will also be examining public health risks associated with higher temperatures as well as heatwaves.

Risks to health wellbeing and productivity

The Committee Met Office estimates say maximum and minimum UK temperatures have increased by around 1 degree since the 1950s. Globally, all but one of the 16 warmest years on record occurred after 2001.  In the UK, this warming is expected to lead to a rise in the frequency and intensity of summer heatwaves.

Is the UK prepared for higher temperatures?

Mary Creagh MP, Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, said:

“Climate change means the UK faces hotter summers and more heatwaves, and our ageing population will face an increased risk of heat-related illnesses and deaths.

“The Government should be doing all it can to protect citizens from risks associated with higher temperatures.

“Our inquiry will look at whether the UK is prepared for higher temperatures, and what more the Government should be doing to protect people, businesses and digital infrastructure from rising temperatures.”

Risks

The record-high UK temperatures of 38°C in 2003 are projected by the Met Office to be the summer norm by 2040 under a medium emissions scenario.

There are currently around 2,000 heat-related deaths per year in the UK. With rising temperatures and a growing and ageing population, the Committee on Climate Change has said this number is projected to increase by two-thirds by the 2020s. According to the Committee on Climate Change, heatwaves can affect the transport system, the water supply and workplace productivity.

Actions

The last assessment of the Government’s actions by the Committee on Climate Change found that the UK lacks policies for adapting the built environment to rising temperatures, or standards to prevent overheating in new developments (including hospitals and care homes).

The Government’s updated Climate Change Risk Assessment, which identifies the specific risks that climate change poses to the UK, was published in 2017. The Government is due to publish its next National Adaptation Programme, which sets out the actions taken by government, businesses and society to adapt better to climate change, during 2018.

Terms of reference

The Committee invites submissions on some or all of the following topics. Submissions should reach the Committee by 5:00 pm on 14 March 2018.

Assessment of Risks

  • To what extent has the National Adaptation Programme been an effective mechanism to date in respect of heatwaves and the human health risks associated with a warming climate?
  • What gaps were there in the latest Climate Change Risk Assessment when assessing the risks associated with heatwaves and health risks associated with higher temperatures?
  • To what extent has the Adaptation Programme, and most recent Risk Assessment, adequately addressed potential levels of warming significantly above 2 degrees centigrade?

Buildings

  • What measures are the Government taking to minimise overheating in public buildings such as care homes, hospitals, schools and prisons? Are they adequate in the short, medium and long-term?
  • What assessment has been made of the economic impact of higher temperatures on indoor and outdoor workplaces? What impact might this have on economic productivity and health? To what extent is this reflected in economic policy?
  • Are the planning system and building regulations aligned with the goals of the National Adaptation Programme?
  • What short, medium and long-term actions should the Government be taking to ensure the wider build environment is prepared for a warmer climate and more frequent heatwaves?

Cities

  • What impact will the urban heat island effect have on cities? Are the UK’s building and planning policies sufficient to deal with these risks

Digital Infrastructure

  • What assessment has been made of the resilience of the UK's digital infrastructure to heatwaves? To what extent has the Adaptation Programme taken account of this?

Water Management

  • What impact will higher temperatures have on the risk of drought and the water supply?

Deadline for submissions

Written evidence should be submitted through the inquiry page by 5:00 pm on 14th March 2018. The word limit is 3,000 words. Later submissions will be accepted, but may be too late to inform the first oral evidence hearing. Please send written submissions using the form on the heatwaves: Adapting to Climate Change inquiry page.

Diversity

The Committee values diversity and seek to ensure this where possible. We encourage members of underrepresented groups to submit written evidence. We aim to have diverse panels of Select Committee witnesses and ask organisations to bear this in mind if asked to appear.

Further information

Image: CCO

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