#PlanetPartners: Reading marks two years of action since declaring a climate emergency
Release Date 26 February 2021
Experts at the University of Reading have played a key part in tackling climate change locally in the two years since a climate emergency was declared in the town – and now residents are being asked to go a step further.
Reading Borough Council declared a climate emergency on 26 February 2019, and a roadmap towards a net zero carbon Reading by 2030 was subsequently published by the Reading Climate Change Partnership (RCCP), in which University researchers play a leading role.
The strategy has led to several achievements in Reading, including reducing the town’s emissions by 47% by 2020 - exceeding the target of 34% set out in the previous Reading Climate Change Strategy 2013-20.
On the second anniversary of the climate emergency being declared, RCCP is asking residents, businesses and local organisations to re-double their efforts to tackle climate change, taking advantage of the information and resources on the Partnership’s new website to help them contribute to achieving net zero carbon in Reading within the next decade.
'Real opportunities to do things differently'
Professor Tim Dixon, Co-chair of the Reading Climate Change Partnership added: “Tackling this ambitious target will be challenging and will require everyone in Reading to work together, and for us all to change the way we do things.
“As we emerge from the COVID pandemic and look to COP26 Climate Change Conference in Glasgow in November, there are real opportunities for us to do things differently. Climate change matters now more than ever, and to find out more about how everyone can make a difference please do visit the Reading CAN website.”
Local achievements since the climate emergency was declared include:
- Construction of more energy efficient housing to comply with the ‘zero carbon housing’ policy in the Council’s Local Plan, adopted in November 2019.
- Further development of a strong public transport network and bus priority measures in particular which saw Reading continue to buck the national (pre-pandemic) trends for bus use.
- Community-led action to promote ‘plastic-free’ initiatives such as Refill Reading, with Caversham working towards Plastic Free Community accreditation. The University’s Sustain It initiative has also reduced the number of single-use bottles on campus by hundreds of thousands since it was launched in 2017.
- Continued increases in the rate of recycling in Reading and the recent introduction of food waste collections.
- Development of ‘nature-based climate solutions’ such as the Trees for Reading initiative and ‘re-wilding’ trials in greenspaces across the town.
- Early adoption of ‘smart city’ technology, with support from University researchers, to help ensure that future change supports the net zero objective.
Campus initiatives contribute to carbon cutting
The Reading Climate Emergency Strategy 2020-25 was launched by RCCP in November 2020 following public consultation, at an event involving Reading Borough Council, major businesses, employers, community groups and other institutions across the town.
The University of Reading submitted an institutional response to the consultation, informed by its experience of successfully reducing the carbon footprint of its own campuses. The University is on track to surpass its target of reducing carbon emissions by 45% by July 2021.
Councillor Tony Page, Reading Borough Council’s Lead Member for Strategic Environment, Planning and Transport, said: “We have made good progress in two years since we declared a climate emergency; and there is a lot more work planned for us to do ourselves and with others to achieve a net zero carbon Reading by 2030.”
“We recognise the importance of the Council leading by example, and recently signed up to the international ‘Race to Zero’ campaign with that in mind. But action speaks louder than words so we also have taken steps to drastically cut our own carbon footprint, reducing our emissions as a Council by 63.5% since 2008/09, and have reaffirmed our commitment in our recent budget announcement which includes ambitious plans for low carbon investment.”
Tracey Rawling Church, Co-chair of the Reading Climate Change Partnership said: “We’d like to acknowledge the achievement of our predecessor Chris Beales, who led the Partnership during the conclusion of the strategy period 2013-20, and the magnificent efforts of the board and our theme leads in exceeding the planned emissions reduction during that time.
“My Co-chair Tim Dixon and I are committed to ensuring that we are similarly successful in delivering the current plan and accelerating our progress towards a net zero, climate resilient town by 2030.”