Ministers deny failing to prepare for UK heatwave

Boris Johnson today warned that ‘time is running out’ to prevent climate change destroying humanity today – as Conservative Party members suggested they don’t care. 

The outgoing Prime Minister urged action to mitigate ‘the carbon tea cosy that is heating our planet to destruction’ as Britain braced for its hottest summer day in recorded history. 

He spoke as he addressed aviation leaders at the Farnborough Air Show and urged them to find greener ways of powering transatlantic flight.

But it came as a new poll found that just four per cent of Conservative Party members rate the 2050 Net Zero emissions target one of their top three priorities for the new leader who replaces him.

The survey by YouGov for the Times found that winning the next election, controlling immigration and easing the impact of the cost-of-living crisis on families came top of the list. 

Mr Johnson told guests at the Hampshire aviation showpiece:  ‘On this scorching day, with the thermometer about to blow and temperatures here apparently higher than the Sahara, there is the next great technological challenge, which is how to send a plane across the Atlantic without burning thousands of tons of kerosene and adding to the carbon tea cosy that is heating our planet to destruction.

‘We know that we must fix it. We know that time is running out.

‘That’s why one of the first things I initiated three years ago was a project called Jet Zero, which I think many of you are participating in, thanks very much for what you are doing. A zero-carbon flight.’

A sign at London Bridge station about the heat The Met Office is warning temperatures could climb to 41C

As the country prepares to grind to a halt thanks to temperatures that could hit 41C (106F), Kit Malthouse insisted the Government was ready.

However he admitted that lessons would be learnt – as he advised people to ‘take it easy’ over the next few days. 

It came after the Cabinet minister who led last year’s landmark UN climate change summit in Glasgow has indicated he could resign if the next prime minister is not fully committed to the Net Zero agenda.

Cop26 president Alok Sharma said some of the remaining candidates in the Tory leadership race had been only ‘lukewarm’ towards climate commitments.

Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Mr Malthouse today defended Boris Johnson’s decision not to attend a Cobra meeting on the heatwave and instead spend the weekend having a party at Chequers. 

He  told Sky News: ‘It’s my job to chair Cobra meetings. I briefed him yesterday morning at about 8am personally.’

As the country prepares to grind to a halt thanks to temperatures that could hot 41C (105F), Kit Malthouse insisted the Government was ready.

Heavy traffic on the M4 near Bristol, people are urged not to travel unless they have to as most of the UK has an amber warning with some places have a red warning for high temperatures.

‘If you are lucky enough not to be working today and you are going to the beach, obviously I know you will take lots of sun cream and water and an umbrella and all those kinds of things and be sensible.

‘But we need to recognise that there are some people who will not cope well in the heat and what we want is for everybody to look out for them.

‘Lots of people will go about their lives perfectly normally, for example we have said that schools should stay open and kids should go to school, very often they are safer in schools and kids need to learn and schools can look after them and hydrate them and keep them nice and cool.

But he also told the BBC: ‘We definitely need to adapt the way we build buildings, the way we operate and look at some of our infrastructure in the light of what seems to be an increasing frequency of these kinds of events,’ he told BBC Radio.

He urged people to ‘look out for those groups who are most vulnerable to the heat’ – particularly small children and the elderly.

In an interview with The Observer yesterday, Mr Sharma urged the new PM to ‘proactively’ set out their support for the net zero agenda and ‘green’ growth. 

Leaders at Glasgow’s Cop26 agreed to try and limit global warming to 1.5C – and the UK has pledged to become net zero by 2050.

It comes as climate experts warn of increasingly frequent extreme weather, such as that being seen across Europe and in the UK, and emphasise that the effects of climate change are not coming, they are already here.

‘Anyone aspiring to lead our country needs to demonstrate that they take this issue incredibly seriously, that they’re willing to continue to lead and take up the mantle that Boris Johnson started off,’ he said.

Asked if he could resign if candidates were weak on net zero, Mr Sharma said: ‘Let’s see, shall we? I think we need to see where the candidates are. And we need to see who actually ends up in No 10.

‘I hope every candidate realises why this is so important for voters generally and why it’s important for Conservative supporters. And I hope that we will see, particularly with the final two, a very clear statement that this is an agenda that they do support.’

Pressed a second time, he added: ‘I don’t rule anything out and I don’t rule anything in.’

Of the five remaining candidates in the contest, only Kemi Badenoch has said she does not support the UK target of getting to net zero emissions by 2050, describing it as ‘unilateral economic disarmament’.

The others have indicated varying degrees of enthusiasm for the policy, which is unpopular with some sections of the party amid concerns about the impact on the economy.

This fire in Gironde, France, this week led to the evacuation of more than 12,000 local residents for their safety

The Cop 26 president Alok Sharma said: ‘I hope every candidate realises why this is so important for voters generally and why it’s important for Conservative supporters’

The Met Office has warned that temperatures could rise even further to 43C (109F) tomorrow – with trains already cancelled, hospital appointments axed and schools closed amid warnings that healthy people could die.

Its chief executive Penny Endersby confirmed ‘we may well see the hottest day in the UK in history’ today – beating the record of 38.7C (101.7F) set in Cambridge in July 2019 – but tomorrow is now expected to be even warmer.

With the UK set to be hotter than the Sahara Desert today, transport links in London were already grinding to a halt due to train cancellations – while roads could melt and bosses have urged employees to work from home.

Health chiefs told patients to stay away unless it is an emergency amid fears hospitals will be overwhelmed, while emergency services urged swimmers to stay away from lakes and rivers in case they face difficulties.

Some schools in Nottinghamshire, Hampshire and Oxfordshire have shut while others will close early – and water providers have also warned of shortages after the hottest day of 2022 so far yesterday with 33C (91F) highs.

Other schools were cancelling detentions and sports days because of the heatwave. Northwood Community Primary School in Kirkby, Merseyside, said that sports day had been axed today; while King Charles I School, a secondary school in Worcestershire, has cancelled all on-site detentions both today and tomorrow.

Professor Endersby told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning: ‘We think today we may well see the hottest day in the UK in history, with the hottest temperatures in the South East, but actually the highest temperatures we expect tomorrow, and those temperatures will be further north as that warm air pushes north.

‘It’s tomorrow that we’re really seeing the higher chance of 40C and temperatures above that. Even possibly above that… 41C isn’t off the cards. We’ve even got some 43Cs in the model but we’re hoping it won’t be as high as that.’

One GP surgery in Hertfordshire had to close a site today because it has no air conditioning; others in London have texted patients to warn them of reduced services with limited clinic rooms in operation; and Milton Keynes University Hospital said it was ‘standing down routine outpatient appointments and surgery’ today and tomorrow.

In Cardiff, a children’s hospital’s cancer ward at Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospital was left without air conditioning after the unit failed in hot weather. Engineers were working to fix the fault affecting the chemotherapy area – and health chiefs said that if the problem cannot be solved, patients will be moved to a different ward to keep cool.

As health officials declared a ‘national emergency’, rail chaos was already affecting parts of London this morning – with the Overground suspended between Willesden Junction and Richmond, and Romford and Upminster.

On the Underground, the District, Central, Bakerloo and Jubilee lines all had severe delays while the Hammersmith & City Line was completely axed due to ‘heat related restrictions’ and there was no Metropolitan line between Baker Street and Aldgate. Transport for London told all passengers in the capital to avoid non-essential travel.

The scorching heat means the UK will be warmer than Nassau in the Bahamas (32C), Kingston in Jamaica (33C), Malaga in Spain (28C), Athens in Greece (35C), Albufeira in Portugal (28C) and Dakhla in the Western Sahara (24C).

Temperatures had already hit 33C (92F) at London City Airport before noon today.

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By Jon Doe