Thousands of people living in the Braintree district are at risk of the worst effects of soaring temperatures as climate change threatens people's health, new figures suggest.

As the Met Office says the first predicted 40C temperatures in the UK are a sign that the impact of climate change is here, Friends of the Earth say extreme heatwaves will become much more frequent as the climate crisis worsens.

Analysis by the campaign group shows that more than six million people across England will be vulnerable to extreme temperatures caused by global warming.

The most vulnerable areas include three Braintree neighbourhoods which are "at risk" of rocketing temperatures in the coming years – including 2,463 homes, based on 2011 estimates.

And 5,880 people lived in these neighbourhoods, according to 2020 estimates.

An "at risk" neighbourhood is an area that will experience extreme heat for more than five days every summer and has a vulnerable population, based on research from Manchester University which looks at a range of social and personal factors such as age, deprivation, housing characteristics and access to health services.

Hot weather places particular strain on the heart and lungs, and the Met Office warned that older people, young children and those with pre-existing health conditions are especially at risk.

Communities most vulnerable are generally those with an older population, a higher number of young children, without green spaces to shelter, and those with housing most susceptible to overheating, such as high-rise buildings and mobile homes.

Extreme heat is defined as being above 27.5C with global warming of 1.5C, or above 30C with global warming of 3C.

Friends of the Earth said extreme heatwaves will become much more frequent and severe, and urged the Government to act swiftly.

The Government has pledged to reduce emissions by at least 68 per cent by 2030 and 78 per cent by 2035 compared to 1990 levels, before reaching net zero by 2050.

A Government spokesperson said: "Thanks to government action, we have already driven down emissions by over 45 per cent – the fastest reduction of any G7 country.

"Local areas have an integral part to play in tackling climate change, which is why significant funding is already available to councils for them to take local action, including £1.2 billion in dedicated funds for 2020-21."