Adapting to current and predicted changes to our climate is vital across the economy, including preparing for extremes. There are a range of activities we are taking across government to manage and prepare for the impacts of high temperatures, including in the health and built environment sectors. These include adapting our health systems to protect people against the impacts of overheating, such as ensuring all clinical areas in NHS Trusts have appropriate thermal monitoring.
The Heatwave Plan for England aims to protect public health from heat-related harms and is supported by the Heat-Health Alert Early Warning System. This is run by Public Health England (PHE) in collaboration with the Met Office. These form part of the Heatwave and Summer preparedness programme, led by PHE, which became operational on 1 June 2021. Heat-Health Alerts are cascaded through the health and care system, including National Health Service providers and commissioners, social care and local government.
The Extreme Heat National Severe Weather Warning Service (NSWWS) was also launched on 1 June 2021 to warn the public and emergency responders whenever a severe or prolonged hot weather episode is forecast.
Overheating in buildings has been highlighted as a key risk for the health and productivity of people in the United Kingdom. Through the Future Buildings Standard consultation, the Government, led by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, has proposed a new overheating mitigation requirement to reduce the risk of overheating in new residential buildings. The Future Buildings Standard consultation was launched on 19 January 2021 and closed on 13 April 2021. We plan to regulate later this year.
Defra, its agencies and partners are also preparing for the impacts of climate change on the natural environment, including from high temperatures. For example, Natural England and the RSPB’s updated Adaptation Manual (2020) addresses issues associated with high temperatures for freshwater species and habitats, and the role of riparian trees in keeping rivers cool.