READING Borough Council has been nominated as a national finalist in the prestigious MJ Awards in the category of Leadership in Responding to the Climate Emergency.
Judges praised the Council’s ‘innovation with ambitious carbon reduction plans to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030’. They said Reading demonstrated ‘high levels of community engagement’ and ‘robust climate change partnerships’, adding there was ‘clear evidence of early success across LED streetlighting, fleet electrification and increased use of buses’.
Nominations across all award categories can be found at https://awards.themj.co.uk/
Winners will be revealed at a ‘virtual ceremony’ October 2.
Reading Borough Council was among the first in the UK to declare a climate emergency and has been leading by example and working in partnership with the community on climate change for over a decade.
In that time, Reading’s impressive achievements include:
- A fall of 50% in ‘per capita’ carbon emissions since 2005, partly due to more low carbon energy going into the National Grid, but still the largest reduction of any local authority area in south east England
- A cut in the Council’s own carbon footprint of 62.5% since 2008/09 – exceeding its 50% target by 2020 three whole years early
- More than £11 million in energy savings since 2008/09, enabling protection of valuable frontline services
Reading’s first-ever climate change strategy dates back to 2008 and was developed by the Reading Climate Change Partnership (RCCP), of which the Council was a founding member. The partnership has gone from strength to strength since, supported financially by the Council with income from solar feed-in-tariffs. The RCCP has an established Board with senior representatives from the statutory sector, health sector, business, the community and voluntary sectors.
An updated strategy for the town is now on course for publication in the autumn following a recent period of public consultation which was extended during the peak of the coronavirus pandemic to enable more people to have their say. It will set out the town’s vision for a low carbon, resilient future based on clean, inclusive growth and its pathway and key milestones to ‘net zero’, including ambitious action plans for key policy areas.
Cllr Tony Page, Reading Borough Council’s Lead Member for Strategic Environment, Planning and Transport and RCCP Board Member, said:
“This prestigious nomination is well-deserved and follows more than a decade of working with partners across Reading to drive down carbon emissions.
“While this gives us a robust platform to work from, there remains much to be done to reach our net-zero carbon target by 2030, and that is something the Council cannot achieve on its own. The pandemic has presented us with additional challenges, for example by reducing public transport use, but has also shown us how we can tackle global issues by working together in partnership at a local level.
“The RCCP’s new climate emergency strategy will give us a strong framework on which to work. The Council intends to continue its leadership role by setting ambitious targets for the town and for itself, securing finance and helping to engage Reading’s community in action to tackle climate change.”
In its submission to the MJ Awards, the Council highlighted a track record of innovation across key areas including:
- Prioritising ‘low carbon’ travel which, prior to the pandemic, saw Reading buck the national trend for falling bus use with a 4.2% increase in 2018-19 and an increase of 40% since 2011/12. Council-owned Reading Buses boasts one of the most environmentally friendly fleets in the UK.
- Adopting ambitious ‘zero carbon’ standards for new housing sites of more than 10 dwellings, seeking BREEAM ‘excellent’ standards for all major developments and new standards on energy and water use in its newly adopted Local Plan.
- More than £15m in investments on public transport, in addition to over £7 million for energy-saving measures and renewable energy infrastructure in its 3-year budget, This includes the installation of over 13,000 LED streetlights, reducing carbon emissions and electricity costs by over 50%
- Supporting the Reading Community Energy Society (RCES) to deliver solar arrays on over 20 community buildings
- Successful engagement of the local community in climate emergency events and consultations