READING Borough Council’s commitment to deliver a net zero carbon Reading by 2030 is outlined with a proposed £34 million investment to reduce emissions in the two years since it declared a Climate Emergency.
Tomorrow evening (Feb 25) the Council will debate its new spending plans at the annual budget setting meeting. Included are a host of initiatives to accelerate progress.
The Council has already reduced its own emissions by 62.5% since 2008/09, and by 18.5% in 2018/19 alone, saving £10.9 million in energy costs over the last decade. It met its 50% carbon reduction target by 2020, three whole years early.
Since it declared a Climate Emergency one year ago (February 2019), the Council has:
- Completed a full upgrade of street lighting assets to LED, cutting energy consumption by 54% in 2018/19 compared to the 2013/14 peak
- Refurbished Reading Town Hall including roof insulation, switching to LED lighting and upgrading the heating system
- Continued to update Council housing stock with double glazing, insulated doors, solar panels and new showers, ensuring that all new build properties are energy efficient with ventilation that recovers heat
- Continued to upgrade schools with energy efficiency measures and LED lighting
Major capital projects included in the proposed budget – which will be debated at the Full Council meeting tomorrow – include further initiatives which contribute directly to greenhouse gas emission reductions:
- £18 million for the new Green Park Station (across 4 years from 2019/20)
- £11 million for the South Reading MRT (across 4 years from 2019/20)
- £4.5m for renewable energy (across 3 years from 2020/21)
- £2.55 million for energy saving measures (across 3 years from 2020/21)
- £1.49 million for a new doorstep food waste collection service (in 2020/21)
- £1.19 million for retro-fitting the bus fleet to lower emission standards (across 2 years from 2019/20)
- £258,000 for LED streetlighting (across 2 years from 2019/20, completing a total investment of £9.8 million which began in 2016)
- £250,000 for electric vehicle charging points (across 2 years from 2020/21)
- £150,000 for tree planting programmes (across 3 years from 2020/21), more than double the current budget for tree planting
A special revenue budget has, among other initiatives, enabled the Council to appoint a new Head of Climate Strategy. This has enabled the Council to support the Reading Climate Change Partnership to accelerate the development of a new Reading Climate
Key to progress is a new Climate Action Programme Board, set up in January 2020 and given a mandate to ‘embed the action required to achieve the ambition of a net zero carbon Reading by 2030 in the Council’s strategic plans, services and operational practises.’
As part of its proposed Medium Term Financial Strategy, the Council is also proposing a £9 million investment in highway maintenance over 3 years, to benefit all road users. This will encourage sustainable travel options like cycling and walking. A budget of almost £6 million has been earmarked to modernise the vehicle fleet and increase the proportion of electric vehicles within it and £40 million would be spent on new leisure facilities designed to high environmental standards.
Council Leader Jason Brock said:
“The Council’s proposed budget outlines a huge £34 million capital investment over the two years since we declared a Climate Emergency. It delivers on the commitment we made as a Council last year to target a net zero carbon Reading by 2030.
“This £34 million investment is only part of this story though. There are a whole host of major Council projects which sit outside of this budget envelope – across offices, housing, transport, leisure and waste, for example – all of which will contribute significantly to further reducing emissions in Reading.
“Reading Council is leading by example and has already cut its own carbon footprint by nearly two-thirds since 2008. As a town, we are the ninth best out of 400 local authority areas in the whole country in terms of cuts in emissions. Our proposed budget not only builds on that success, it accelerates us towards a net-zero carbon Reading in less than 10 years. It’s an ambitious target, but one which we are determined to invest in to achieve. “
The report to the budget setting meeting of Full Council tomorrow can be found at https://democracy.reading.gov.uk/documents/s10430/item12-ClimateEmergencyAction.pdf