In Depth

Regular heatwaves by 2040 ‘will kill thousands’

The Environmental Audit Committee says the UK's infrastructure isn't equipped for a future of regular high temperatures

MPs have warned that the current heatwave could become the new normal for UK summers by 2040, causing thousands of deaths each year.

The new Heatwaves: adapting to climate change report from the Environmental Audit Committee says that heat-related deaths in the UK will treble by 2050 unless the government develops a cohesive strategy to tackle the effects of climate change in the UK.

Announcing the report, the committee’s chair Mary Creagh MP said that “heatwaves cause premature deaths from cardiac, kidney and respiratory disease. There will be 7,000 heat-related deaths every year in the UK by 2050 if the Government does not take action”.

The committee believes ministers need to “stop playing pass the parcel” with local councils and the NHS and take action to ensure homes, hospitals, care homes, offices, cities, water supplies and transport networks can cope with rising temperatures.

More than 2,000 people died in just 10 days in 2003 when a heatwave took temperatures to a record high for the UK of 38.5C (101.3F).

But Met Office data suggests that could be topped this week and that summer temperatures could regularly hit 38.5C by the 2040s. The committee went on to highlight the unsuitability of many UK homes, schools and office buildings for high temperatures.

Creagh told Sky News: “I think the government has left the country very unprepared for heatwaves. There's been very little action over the past 10 years. What we're recommending in this report is a change to the building regulations so we have more water efficient, less overheating homes, schools and hospitals.”

An official told the BBC the government would “carefully consider” the report and would keep taking “robust action to ensure our country is resilient and prepared”.

The “long-term plan for climate change adaptation” will see work and investment to protect food and water supplies, businesses and communities, the official said.

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