This blog was written by Professor Tim Dixon (co-chair of Reading Climate Change Partnership and based at University of Reading).
The Reading Climate Emergency Strategy (CES) was published in November 2020 during the height of the global pandemic. Although the COVID crisis has taught us how we could do things differently, the threat of far-reaching and severe climate change is stronger than ever, and during COP26 this week in Glasgow, presided over by one of Reading’s MPs, the Rt Hon Alok Sharma MP, it is even more important that the UK and Reading are both seen to be leading the way on climate action, and setting an example for others to follow.
In 2018 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded that to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees – considered necessary to avert the most catastrophic impacts – would require ‘rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society’ and this was re-enforced by the recent 2021 IPCC report. Through the declaration of a climate emergency in February 2019, and commitment to the goal of a net zero carbon and resilient Reading by 2030, our community has embraced the call to action laid down by the IPCC.
Reading has a good track record of taking action on climate change – between 2005 and 2019, carbon emissions per person have fallen by 49% in the borough, the 5th largest reduction of any local authority in England. But we know this is not enough. We must now re-double our efforts to accelerate the journey towards a net zero carbon Reading in the short time which the science suggests is available.
The aim of the Reading Climate Change Partnership in producing the CES is to set out a clear pathway to a net zero carbon and resilient Reading and to harness the commitment of everybody who lives, works, studies or plays in Reading to work together to achieve this. We believe that the Partnership is truly what it describes: a close collaboration and an open and transparent working arrangement between business, academia, NGOs, community groups, the people of Reading and Reading Borough Council.
So, as Reading re-thinks its future in the light of COVID-19, we also need to think about how we plan for the longer-term: to think and re-imagine Reading as a greener, more resilient and net zero carbon urban area to 2030, and beyond to 2050. This also connects to the ongoing work of Reading 2050 and the recovery strategies of various partners, so we will need to collaborate to ensure Reading’s approach is closely integrated and produces a recovery that uses the crisis as an opportunity to tackle climate change and create sustainable, inclusive economic growth.
We can all play our part in this, as Greta Thunberg’s book ‘No one is Too Small to Make a Difference’ highlights. Individual actions joined together can make a big difference and by thinking globally but acting locally we can change things and tackle climate change. But this requires positive leadership and collective action. Making a pledge to change how we do things in our everyday lives can be a positive start, so do look at the RCAN website to find out more and see how you can make a difference!