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UK committee seeks views on mitigating rising temperatures

UK: As the UK swelters in heatwaves driven by El Nino, the government’s Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) has launched a new inquiry into heat resilience and sustainable cooling.

Building on the evidence base of the predecessor Committee’s report, the new inquiry will focus on the relationship between heat and health, government policies in relation to current and future needs for cooling and measures that could be taken to increase adaptation and resilience to rising temperatures. 

The EAC says it is aiming to understand how communities can better adapt to increased temperatures “without relying on energy-intensive solutions, such as air conditioning units”. 

Statistics show that the five heat-periods between June and August 2022 resulted in excess mortality of 3,271 deaths, of which 2,803 were those aged over 65 (a heat-period is defined as day(s) on which a level 3 heat health alert is issued and/or day(s) when the mean Central England temperature is greater than 20°C). The inquiry will seek to understand better how the most vulnerable can be better protected.

The Climate Change Committee has previously warned that the Government’s progress on adaptation fails to adequately address the risks identified, and that the effect of increasing temperatures on human health was highlighted as a particular weakness.

MPs are looking to uncover sustainable cooling solutions and adaptation strategies that minimise overheating, reduce energy consumption and prevent overloading the electricity grid. 

It warns that while many look to air conditioning units in warmer temperatures, it is aware that there could be less energy-intensive alternatives such as solar protection devices, ceiling fans and nature-based solutions.

It blames air conditioning energy demands for coal-fired power stations being brought into action last month, breaking Britain’s 46-day run of coal-free electricity generation.

“We need to break the cycle of using energy-intensive cooling solutions – like air-conditioning – to manage the higher temperatures we are experiencing,” said EAC chairman Philip Dunne MP. “There may well be better and more sustainable alternatives, and our committee will seek to explore these further.”

The committee is inviting written submissions on a number of relevant issues by 17.00 on 17 August 2023. Details on these can be found here.

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