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  • Writer's pictureElizabeth Dennis-Harburg

Boiling Britain At Breaking Point

As the mercury rises and we face an unprecedented hot summer Tory ministers are consumed with their own party infighting. Our house is on fire, yet they fiddle while Britain burns.

This crisis was foreseeable, and has been predicted by forecasters for weeks. Yet the Tories have taken no action to support and prepare us for the crisis. Just as they've taken no action to fight the Climate Crisis. They need to get a grip and fast.

This unprecedented heatwave will become our new normal. The adaptations we have to make to keep ourselves and loved ones safe in high temperatures will no longer be unprecedented if we continue to fail to take the climate mitigations needed to stop warming. 2050 is not an acceptable target. We have to aim for 2030. Missing that deadline isn't failure if the efforts start to get us back on track to protect our planet before things reach critical mass.

Boris' zombie government, distracted by self-indulgent fantasy economics rather than preparing for a crisis or taking action, needs to get a grip and fast. Steve Barclay was appointed Health Secretary ten days ago, but is yet to say anything about the heatwave and unprecedented pressures our emergency services are facing. Our health and care services need leadership now, not the invisible man. It’s no good Ministers simply saying people should wear a hat and drink water, then going silent on those facing working in unbearable conditions, the lack of ventilation in schools, hospitals and care homes, or the looming travel chaos on the railways and roads over the coming days. We need urgent guidance for safe indoor working temperatures, and the Government must ensure employers allow staff to work flexibly in the heat.

My children have been told by school they don't need to wear ties or blazers during the high temperature. But the rest of the uniform code remains in place. Some employers are mandating all staff be in work, not working from home or working flexibly to avoid the hottest part of the day. This is not right. There are international examples of best practice which government could adopt to support workers. But instead ministers have gone missing in action, playing who can be more Thatcherite than the others. At a time when we need a real plan properly communicated on the delivery of essential services and how people will be kept safe the bickering and infighting should be set aside.

The Conservative leadership contest has been an appalling spectacle when it comes to the climate emergency. We have seen candidates seeking to turn back from taking on the biggest long-term threat we face. Extreme weather is one manifestation of that threat with projections suggesting that extremely hot summers will be much more regular by 2050. We cannot have a situation where we are so unprepared that our homes and workplaces are too hot, our rail tracks melt, and our ambulances are on critical alert. A predicted 2,000+ excess deaths this week due to the heat should be the wake up call they need. But the Tories are asleep at the wheel.

Even members of the government don't trust their colleagues to tackle the Climate Emergency. Writing in the Observer this weekend Alok Sharma, who led last year's COP 26 summit, has said he won't rule out resigning if the Tories fail to proactively tackle the net zero agenda and take steps to ensure green growth. Liz Truss has called for a temporary moratorium on the green energy levy, while Penny Mordaunt wants green levies scrapped altogether. Rishi Sunak withdrew grants for insulation while he was Chancellor. If now isn't the time for urgent investment to protect our environment, when is it?

We need a government that will take serious action to adapt our infrastructure and keep workers safe in this warming world. We also need a government that will take seriously the threat of the Climate Emergency. Tackling this crisis is the best way to protect our country for future generations, bring down bills, and rebuild Britain with good jobs across our country. We face a challenge, but it is one which if we are brave and meet it head on delivers rportunity. And if we fail, the consequences don't bear thinking about.

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