Categories: Community   

We hope this new blog series gives you a sense of the community that already exists in Reading to tackle climate change and biodiversity, and helps you find your place in it.

PART 1: Reading Borough Council

Across the UK, local councils are directly responsible for only 1 – 5% of the CO2 emissions in their town or city.

In Reading, it’s 1.5%.

Doesn’t this number make it so clear that every person, business and organisation really is part of ‘team Reading’ when it comes to achieving carbon neutrality as an entire town?

Being a carbon-neutral town would mean that as a collective – of people, schools, businesses, religious communities, homeowners, renters, shoppers, students, artists, the Council, hospitals, university, etc., – Reading is no longer contributing to global temperature rise, but is part of the solution.

Reading’s climate community is already active in these challenge areas:

  • Radically reducing the heat, power, food and other resources we waste (e.g. insulate homes; low-carbon appliances, etc.)
  • Increasing our uptake of healthier, lower-carbon alternatives (e.g. walk or cycle instead of drive; create low-carbon leisure, shopping and wellbeing opportunities; heat pumps; EV, etc.)
  • Increasing the % of renewables in our energy mix (e.g. install solar panels; source heat for buildings from air and ground heat; explore IT waste heat, etc.)
  • Getting creative (e.g. reuse, upcycle, share, relinquish, new business models, etc.)
  • Getting smart (e.g. smart meters and thermostats, group buying, etc.)
  • Getting the word out (e.g. mobilising Reading’s creative community to help build climate literacy and action)
  • Advocacy and influence (e.g. calling for government actions that support a rapid and fair low-carbon transition, especially to enable local authority areas to reach net zero by 2030).

Reading Borough Council

This month we look at a few of the climate and wellbeing projects under the Council’s remit.

Reading Borough Council is just one of over 20 organisational partners in ReadingCAN.  (Many RBC staff are also part of ReadingCAN in their personal capacities and have signed up to the Reading Climate Pledge.)

It’s true the Council is directly responsible for only about 1.5% of our town’s emissions. But they can also influence additional emissions reductions: through planning decisions and enforcement; by piloting innovative projects that other organisations can roll out more widely; through bringing partnerships together; through attracting government funds for low-carbon projects; and through communications.

A few new Council projects include:

New Rivermead Leisure Centre

The new Council-funded centre was developed according to the world’s leading sustainability standards (BREEAM Excellent). Two air-source heat pumps at Rivermead will reduce the climate impact of the new centre’s heating system by about 75% and 770 solar panels will generate 296 kW of clean electricity.

Solar Together

Solar Together is an example of how the Council can have an indirect impact on emissions.
This Council-backed group-buying scheme allows Reading residents to take advantage of competitive rates on solar panels.

Reading Borough Council is working in partnership with Bracknell Forest, Wokingham Borough and West Berkshire Councils, along with independent experts iChoosr, to help as many residents as possible make the transition to clean energy.

Making the switch can save money on energy bills and help Reading achieve carbon neutrality.

The latest national statistics show that Reading’s overall carbon footprint cut is the 8th largest reduction of 394 UK local authority areas since 2005. This measure uses data from energy meters (electricity and gas), a combination of vehicle emissions and fuel sales, land use, methane and a number of other sources. It is not the complete picture of a town’s climate impact, but it is a measure we can be proud of and even try to improve on.

Dealing with Reading’s ‘rat-run’ issue

A new Local Transport Strategy outlines plans to invest in alternatives to car travel by developing improved bus, rail, cycle and pedestrian options, all of which will help cut congestion, tackle poor air quality and create a healthier and happier town for residents.

The strategy also explores options to tackle the ‘rat-run’ issue; the many thousands of vehicle journeys which have no origin, destination or purpose in Reading, but continue to use the town’s roads and communities as a rat run, polluting Reading’s air and damaging the health and wellbeing of residents.

A separate (draft) strategy sets out the Council’s ambitions to provide the infrastructure required to enable a rapid transition to electric vehicles in Reading.

New music venue at the Hexagon Theatre

The Council were successful in securing Levelling Up funding to add a new music venue at the Hexagon Theatre. Ground source heat pumps will heat both the existing and new theatre spaces and solar panels will also be installed.

The other part to the Levelling Up funding project is to bring the town’s central library into the Civic Offices. The roof already has over 600 solar panels and a new project will supply all heating and cooling from heat pumps in the building. The building will continue to decarbonise as the electricity grid decarbonises and by 2030 it is estimated it will have emissions of less than 10% of its original footprint.

Electric waste collection vehicles

In November 2021 the Council launched the first fully electric waste collection vehicles in Berkshire, and in 2022 five more were added to the fleet. Each vehicle collects from 1,400 houses daily and drives 8,000 miles a year with no tailpipe emissions, saving 32,200kg of greenhouse gas emissions each year compared to a diesel equivalent.

Reading residents had a chance to name these electric bin lorries and came up with these beauties.

A fund to drive energy efficiency in corporate buildings

Since 2008 the Council has implemented a Government-backed scheme called Salix, which provides a revolving fund to invest-to-save in low-carbon technologies. By the end of 2021 the Council had invested nearly £1.8 million in over 100 projects in corporate buildings.

Green schools

In autumn 2022 the Council completed a programme of green energy investment in 22 school sites (six double glazing projects, three roof insulations, six LED lighting schemes and 20 solar PV projects), supported by a grant of £1.4 million from the Government’s Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme.

Thanks for reading!

Part 2 will share examples from Reading’s circular and sharing economy. (See the full series here.)

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