Funded by the Brussels Centre for Urban Studies (BCUS)

Project Duration: May 2023 – September 2024

Led by: Dr Andrea Armstrong (Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium and Silent Spring Consultants, UK).

Project Partners: Dr Candice Howarth (Place-based Climate Action Network, UK),  and Wim Pulinx (Silent Spring Consultants, UK).

Professional Intern: Izabel Oliveira ( Vrije Universiteit Brussels, Belgium and Silent Spring Consultants, UK).


Climate risks such as heatwaves and drought are predicted to become more frequent and intensify over the coming decades. Every year, heatwaves claim the lives of infants, older people, and people with chronic health conditions. The 2003 European heatwave killed more than 70,000 people, and the 2015 heatwave in India reportedly killed over 2,500 people. People living in urban areas – and especially the urban poor and those most vulnerable to heat - are amongst the hardest hit when a heatwave occurs because these are hotter than the surrounding countryside. Deaths from heatwaves are not inevitable and it is crucial that cities incorporate heat-reduction tactics such as green spaces into their plans for growth or retrofit them in built areas. In addition to threatening the lives and health of vulnerable populations, heatwaves have cascading impacts in other areas of society, such as reduced economic output, strained health systems and rolling power outages. As Mark Watts, Executive Director of C40 Cities said, “Cities that are used to hot weather need to prepare for even longer periods of sweltering heat and cooler cities need to prepare for levels of extreme heat that they are not accustomed to” [emphasis added]. Heat actions in cities are happening but far more work is needed to reduce and manage heat risks and ensure cities are resilient to heat shocks as the frequency and intensity of heatwaves increases.

Research Aims

There are three for this project – learning, comparison and exchange.

  1. LEARNING: To gather more empirical evidence on decision-making responses to heatwaves by building on and extending the UK study to cover Belgium and two local authorities in the UK. To collate existing case studies and examples from Europe and internationally on heat-related actions and interventions in cities. 
  2. COMPARISON: To compare the Belgium and UK heat-related policies and guidance in order to ascertain similarities and differences using the comparative framework and assess examples of best practice for enhancing responses to heatwaves.
  3. EXCHANGE: To facilitate the exchange of knowledge gained in the project by creating an event in which those involved (and other interested parties) can effectively listen to each other, share knowledge and skills, explore new ideas, learn, adapt and apply the knowledge they gain. To enable the translation of the research into heat-related policy and practice.

 Research Questions

  1. How effective are UK and Belgium heatwave policies in minimising their impacts and building long-term resilience?
  2. What are the comparisons between the two countries (differences and similarities)?
  3. What can be learnt from each other’s experiences and responses to heatwaves?