Consultation Launched on Reading’s New Climate Emergency Strategy

Reading Climate Emergency Strategy Consultation Launch

THE Reading Climate Change Partnership (RCCP) has launched a six-week public consultation on its new Climate Emergency Strategy – a plan to propel the town towards its net zero carbon target by 2030.

Consultation on the draft Climate Emergency Strategy 2020-25 has been accelerated by six months, to reflect the urgency since Reading Borough Council declared a Climate Emergency last year.  The Council is just one member of the RCCP, which includes community groups, businesses and organisations across Reading.  For the strategy to succeed, it needs to be ‘owned’ by everyone in the town.

Public consultation on the draft strategy was launched at a special climate change ‘Question Time’ with schoolchildren at the University of Reading’s renowned Meteorology Department on Friday (March 13th).

Children were photographed holding a stark ‘warning stripe’ graphic – a visual representation of the temperature change in Berkshire as measured over the past 150+ years. Each stripe represents the temperature averaged over a year. For Berkshire  – and virtually every country or region on earth – the stripes mainly turn from blue to red in more recent years, illustrating the rise in average temperatures. The striking graphic has been used around the world to start conversations about climate change, and was developed by Prof Ed Hawkins, a climate scientist at the University of Reading.

The draft Climate Emergency Strategy is Reading’s third. RCCP’s vision is to work rapidly towards a position of net zero carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 and to create a town which is resilient to the impacts of a changing climate. People can find the draft Climate Emergency Strategy and have their say at A six week period of consultation is now open and runs until 24th April 2020.

Latest available figures show Reading as a whole produces 536 kilo-tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions annually (2017 figures).  Around 40% of this ‘carbon footprint’ comes from industrial and commercial activity, 40% from domestic sources (heating, lighting and appliances) and 20% from transport.

The pathway to a ‘net zero’ Reading by 2030 requires the removal of virtually all fossil fuels from the energy mix. Key priorities identified are:

• Retrofitting homes and other buildings, and building new ones, to low/zero carbon standards: we need to reduce energy demand in domestic and commercial properties via ‘deep retrofit’ of existing property, and ensure that new property is constructed to net zero standards

• Generating more energy from renewable sources: we need more green energy, particularly from local sources, to ensure that the increased demand for electricity which will arise as we move away from gas is met from low/zero carbon sources – an increase of approximately 10-15 times the current level of renewable energy generation is needed

• De-carbonising transport systems: we need to reduce the need to travel, encourage a switch to low/zero carbon modes of transport, and support the phased replacement of petrol/diesel vehicles with electric vehicles

• Consumption and waste: we need to buy and use less ‘stuff’, reduce waste generation overall, increase recycling and develop Reading’s ‘circular economy’ in which waste will be treated as a resource

The draft strategy outlines how improved management of greenspace and the water environment around Reading offers scope to reduce carbon emissions as natural areas can act as ‘carbon sinks’ as well as helping Reading adapt to climate change impacts. Embracing technology to accommodate a radically different pattern of local demand for, and supply of energy, is also marked as key.

Chris Beales, Chair of the RCCP Board, said:

“Our vision is both strong and inspiring – to make Reading a zero carbon by 2030 and to ensure we are all ready to adapt and deal with what we can expect from the changing climate. I am hugely grateful to everyone who put their time, ideas, passion and commitment into the strategy.

“Six themes sit at the heart of Reading’s strategy and behind each one sits a detailed action plan that we will deliver over the next 5 years. I hope you find it as inspiring as I do.  Please do read it and share it with family, friends and colleagues, and I hope you will join us in taking it forward. We are all looking forward to hearing your feedback to the consultation.

“As Chair of the RCCP I am also extremely proud to have reached this important stage. This time last year the RCCP was in the process of kick-starting a very busy year. Alongside work on the strategy, we had also just agreed to promote the creation of a new ‘Reading Climate Action Network’ (ReadingCAN) – something for everyone to be part of, and a growing group of experts, businesses and members of the Reading community to write and deliver the strategy with us. This consultation is the culmination of that work, and the beginning of our response to the next stage in this Climate Emergency.”

RCCP’s draft strategy was endorsed for consultation at a meeting of the Council’s Policy Committee last week. Reading Borough Council is managing the consultation on behalf of the partnership.

The Council itself declared a climate emergency in February 2019 and is fully committed to the goal of achieving a carbon neutral Reading by 2030. Reading Borough Council is leading by example, having reduced its own carbon emissions by 62.5% since 2008/09, mainly through its Carbon Plan, avoiding energy costs of £11 million in the process. A new Carbon Plan will return to Committee later this year for adoption, alongside the draft Climate Emergency Strategy.

In the two full financial years since the climate emergency was declared (2019/20 and 2020/21), the Council has committed £34 million to capital projects in transport, waste and energy which will all contribute directly to carbon reduction.

Tony Page, Reading Borough Council’s Lead Councillor for Strategic Environment, Planning and Transport, said:

“This is a Climate Emergency Strategy for the whole of Reading – not just for the Council. Its success hinges on getting support from residents, communities, businesses and organisations across Reading, which also includes the Council. The Climate Emergency is everybody’s responsibility and no one organisation can deliver a net zero carbon Reading on its own.

“The Council is leading by example, having cut its own carbon footprint by 62.5% since 2008/09. We are not resting on our laurels – there remains much to be done. The Council is consulting on its own separate strategies – like the draft Local Transport Plan and new Tree and Biodiversity strategies – which will all feed into the overarching vision outlined in the RCCP document.

“I would urge residents, communities, businesses and organisations to take some time to read the new strategy and feed into the consultation. They will all play an essential role in helping the RCCP and the town realise its ambition for a carbon neutral Reading by 2030.”

Following consultation, the final draft strategy is due to return to Policy Committee later this year for formal adoption by the Council. It will then be launched at a high-profile ‘Reading Climate Summit’ in July 2020.

The Reading Climate Change Partnership is a voluntary, multi-stakeholder group including representatives from business, voluntary groups and statutory authorities, originally established in 2008 as part of the Reading Local Strategic Partnership.  The Council is an active partner in RCCP.

Oscar Mortali

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