Over the past week the UK experienced yet another heatwave with temperatures reaching 35oC. Official drought was also declared across large parts of England. Frequent extreme heat events across the world are inevitable as global average temperatures continue to rise due to greenhouse gas emissions. 

Cities are more vulnerable to overheating because of the density of buildings, pavements and other surfaces that absorb and retain heat. This is known as the ‘urban heat island’ effect. Extreme heat currently affects nearly two billion urban residents around the world. 

Here are our top five actions to adapt to heatwaves:

1. Plant trees and vegetation

Planting trees and vegetation increases shade cover and provides cooling by releasing water vapour into the air. 

Co-benefits: improved air quality, increased biodiversity and reduced risk of flooding

2. Cool roofs 

Making a roof highly reflective to sunlight and less absorbent to heat helps buildings stay cool. There are a number of different ways to achieve this including painting the roof white or using reflective tiles. 

Co-benefits: reduced energy use, reduced greenhouse gas emissions and improved health and wellbeing

3. Improve water infrastructure

The UK’s water systems waste 2.4 billion litres of water a day largely due to burst or cracked pipes. Ensuring that water systems are functioning properly would reduce the chance of drought when a heatwave occurs. 

Co-benefits: improved health and wellbeing, job creation and increased protection of natural water resources

4. Install green roofs and walls

Covering the roof or wall of a building with vegetation can reduce temperatures because it hides the building material that would otherwise absorb heat. 

Co-benefits: reduced energy use, improved air quality and job creation

5. Rewilding

Rewilding activities aim to restore and protect natural processes. The UK heatwaves have put the nation’s water supply at risk, however, the reintroduction of beavers can combat drought. Beavers build dams which then create wetlands, slow river flow and store water.

Co-benefits: increased biodiversity, improved water quality and erosion control. 

Implementing climate adaptation measures

96% of climate scientists don’t think we will keep global warming under 1.5oC. Therefore, governments must act and put the right measures in place to adapt to rising temperatures. We need a positive adaptation that creates resilient communities and regenerates the living systems of our planet whilst reducing carbon emissions. 

Our second Leadership Cohort will support Local Governments to align their climate plan around co-benefits for a whole council response to the crisis we face. Cohort members will learn how to use OnePlanet technology to facilitate collaboration, build capacity and save time on reporting. To find out more click here or get in touch with us by booking a meeting here or contacting niamh.james@oneplanet.com