UK temperatures hit 40C record sparking fresh calls for bolder climate action

Green groups warn heatwave is ‘taster of things to come’, as campaigners call for more ambitious net zero strategy and renewed focus on climate resilience

Green groups are calling on the government to urgently strengthen its net zero and climate resilience efforts as the UK today experienced its hottest day on record with temperatures topping 40C for the first time.

The Met Office confirmed the record this afternoon, with London Heathrow Airport reporting a temperature of 40.2C at 12:50. The temperatures smashed the previous record of 38.7C, amidst reports of melted roads and runways, canceled trains, school and nursery closures, and severe health risks.

The UK record is one of a string of records across Europe in recent days as the continent faces one of the most extreme heat waves it has ever experienced, leading to surging energy demand, wildfires, and fears of an increase in the death rate.

The spike in UK temperatures also comes as the Conservative Party moves to appoint a new Prime Minister, with candidates facing growing calls to strengthen the country’s decarbonisation and climate strategy resilience. Just yesterday, the High Court ruled the current Net Zero Strategy is forbidden and ordered the government to provide an update to the plan by next April to provide more detail on how Ministers intend to ensure legally binding emissiosn targets for the 2030s are met.

Greenpeace UK’s head of politics, Rebecca Newsom, said the new record temperature should focus policymakers’ attention on the need to both slash emissions and enhance climate resilience.

“How hot do you think it needs to get before the Prime Ministerial candidates realise that tackling the climate crisis needs to be their number one priority?” she asked. “It’s clear to everyone that urgent action to cut emissions must be taken, but the four Tory candidates are staying conspicuously quiet on the matter

“This life-threatening heat is just a taster of what’s to come unless the next Prime Minister delivers the concrete policies that will transition the UK away from fossil fuels, cut bills, boost cheap renewables and green our homes. Failure to do so won’ t just lose the Conservatives votes at the next election – it will threaten the future of our society as we know it.”

Bob Ward, policy and communications director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics and Political Science, echoed Newsom’s concerns, adding that the heatwave is a direct result of climate change and that extreme weather events will continue to intensify unless the world reaches net zero emission.

“This record temperature is a harbinger of things to come,” he said. “These impacts will continue to grow until the world reaches net zero emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. That means risks to lives and livelihoods will keep rising for at least the next 30 years in the UK and around the world. net zero now would mean far more suffering later.”

Gareth Redmond-King, international lead at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), said that the heatwave “is to nice summer weather what a hurricane is to an April shower”.

“We are not used to coping with these temperatures in the UK, and we’re not set up to live our lives normally and safely with these new extremes,” he said. “This is no doubt part of the reason why two thirds of the public support the UK’s commitment to net zero, to cut emissions sharply to avoid even worse in the future.”

Richard Black, senior associate at ECIU said that the record temperature reflects long standing scientific warnings around worsening climate impacts, and that without action of bringing emissions down to net zero the world can expect to see more extreme weather in the form of heatwaves, droughts , and floods that will pose a serious threat to food supplies, critical infrastructure, and geopolitical stability.

“Arriving in the middle of a Conservative Party leadership election where some candidates have been querying the cost of cutting emissions, the weather is reminding us in the starkest possible terms of the penalties for not doing so,” he said. “The science is equally clear that just trying to adapt cannot work, and that the costs of not halting climate change – the cost of not zero – will be far higher than the cost of net zero.”

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