Survey shows heatwaves are top priority for councils

A survey from the Local Government Association has shown that local councils are increasingly concerned about the risks to people’s health from heatwaves, with that being the greatest priority climate worry.

Recent years have seen an increase in extreme weather, with 2022 bringing record breaking temperatures, wildfire incidents and major infrastructure disruption, whilst 2021 saw significant flash flooding. The extreme heat last year also led to thousands of excess deaths across the country.

The survey from the LGA found that:

  • Damage to critical infrastructure and buildings, including roads and homes, ranks as the second greatest concern for councils. Widespread risks to people and the economy from climate related failure of the power-system was the third greatest concern.
  • 21% of responding councils said that a lack of data was a barrier in addressing climate impacts to communities and service delivery. “Lack of funding and/or available finance turned out to be the top identified barer that is faced by councils, with 93% of the responses.”

In order to prepare cities, towns, and villages for more impacts of climate change, the LGA has said that urgent action is needed and is calling for government to enable urgent acceleration in local action. This would come as part of the upcoming National Adaptation Programme.

The third iteration of the NAP is being worked on by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, with this expected to be published in the summer. Running from 2024 until 2029, the NAP will establish the actions that government will take in order to adapt to climate change challenges over the five-year period. With the third iteration being worked on, the LGA has stated that it must focus on more that can be done to raise awareness of how people can adapt to climate change whilst also improving the availability of data to prepare for climate change easier. The LGA has also called for investments to reflect both adaptation and net zero goals.

Councillor Linda Taylor, environment spokesperson for the Local Government Association, said:

“The impacts of climate change are going to intensify into the future and councils are warning people and places will be left increasingly vulnerable without further preparation. Councils need support to prepare their communities for impacts of climate change now.

“The extreme heat we all experienced last summer is just one of many effects we expect to reoccur, the year before that we had significant flash flooding. Councils need the funding and resources to adequately reduce the risks to lives and livelihoods.

“As the leaders of local areas, councils are at the forefront of local climate action, they must be made able to protect their residents.”

Local councils are also calling for guidance from the government on the critical thresholds for different weather patterns, including the threshold temperatures that services can change or close, ranging from play areas to libraries. Many councils are currently developing plans and the risks being posed, whilst more than 300 have already declared a climate emergency.

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