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Climate Change

Volume 485: debated on Thursday 11 December 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment his Department has made of its capacity to adapt to climate change; and what plans he has to publish a climate change adaptation strategy. (241181)

The cross-Government Adapting to Climate Change Programme increases Government’s capacity to adapt by ensuring a co-ordinated approach across all Departments and the public sector. This includes implementation of the adaptation aspects of the Climate Change Act, such as development of the national climate risk assessment. Information about the programme can be found at

The Department of Health recognises that climate change will affect the health of UK citizens and in February, this year (2008) updated its 2001-02 report on the “Health Effects of Climate Change in the UK”. A copy of the report has been placed in the Library.

Climate impacts affect many departmental responsibilities. We have worked closely with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) to develop the adaptation sections of the Climate Change Act. There are therefore no plans at present to publish a separate climate change adaptation strategy as this would be seen as a duplication of the work that DEFRA are taking forward.

The key areas for the national health service in adapting to climate change include adapting the health and social care infrastructure (hospitals, nursing homes) to be more resilient to the effects of heat and floods; development of local ‘Heatwave’ and ‘Flood’ plans for coping with disasters; and increasing awareness of how people can adapt to changes in climate.

One of the effects of climate change already encountered in this country is the increased frequency of heat waves. The devastating heat wave across Europe in 2003 led to the Department of Health first launching its National Heatwave Plan in 2004, in which a ‘Heat-Health Watch’ system operates in England during the summer months, with advice from the Met Office, with four levels of response and appropriate advice.