On the back of last week’s unprecedented heatwave, no fewer than 34 locations around the UK exceeded the country’s previous highest temperature of 37.8°C last week, with Coningsby in Lincolnshire reaching 40.3°C.
Devastatingly, at least 41 properties were destroyed by fire in London, 14 in Norfolk, five in Lincolnshire and further properties damaged throughout the UK. I pay tribute to the bravery of our fire services; their courage no doubt saved us from much greater devastation.
The heatwave has been incredibly traumatic for communities across Great Britain. People have had their homes destroyed, farmers and businesses have seen their livelihoods go up in smoke and lives have been lost.
All the science and evidence point to our country being increasingly likely to experience more extreme events, such as last week’s heatwave, in the future. Along with other extreme weather events, abnormally hot weather presents expansive risks across society. Heatwaves pose a comprehensive threat to us.
Consequently, a national resilience strategy should be expedited. People’s homes and lives are at risk; preparedness needs to be developed at all levels of government so that future extreme weather events are mitigated to the best of our ability.
The Conservative Government’s resilience plan, however, is already ten months overdue – the British people should not be forced to wait a year for it. We need a long-term emergency resilience plan already in place that implements a department-wide approach, with a Minister for Resilience. We need to give local government the resources it needs to plan and prepare for emergencies.
More generally and worryingly, during the Tory leadership contest, candidates have been at best apathetic to honouring the ‘Net Zero by 2050’ commitment and, at worst, hostile to it. I believe it’s extraordinarily irresponsible, especially given the blatant evidence around us last week, to treat climate policy in such a manner.
The world our children and grandchildren inherit will be based on the decisions we make today. We must be ambitious with Net Zero and we must not kick the issue down the road to successive governments. Delaying action on tackling our climate crisis is hardly a successful strategy. Last week was a stark reminder of that.