In the UK, failures to adapt to present-day vulnerabilities were made visible by the 2003 heatwave, which led to pressures for change and the development of the Heatwave Plan for England. This provides guidance to health practitioners and the public regarding the protection of vulnerable people. Heatwave-related actions in the UK’s National Adaptation Programme are spread across at least four government departments, as well as the Environment Agency, Public Health England, the National Health Service and local government. In recognition of the need to adapt urban environments, the National Planning Policy Framework now includes a requirement for local plans to consider overheating risk.
Despite these responses, serious recognition of the need to adapt the built environment in the face of increasing temperatures projected for coming decades is lacking. According to the most recent official Climate Change Risk Assessment, the average number of heat-related deaths in UK are expected to more than triple to 7,000 a year by the 2050s, in the absence of additional adaptation. Few, if any plans, are in place to adapt the present-day built environment (including homes, hospitals, care homes, schools and prisons), and standards are absent for preventing new developments (including hospitals and care homes) from adding to the number of buildings prone to overheating (ASC 2017). Responsibility for coordinating action across departments has been found by the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee inquiry on the issue to be ‘ambiguous’.