Reading Borough Council (RBC) declared a climate emergency last night, outlining its aim to eliminate carbon dioxide emissions in Reading by 2030.

Councillors unanimously backed a motion tabled by Councillor Tony Page, lead member for Strategic Environment, which was prompted by a petition from campaigners Extinction Rebellion Reading (XRR).

The motion, ‘Climate Emergency – Towards a Zero Carbon Reading’, was altered after campaigners held discussions with Cllr Page, focused on strengthening the declaration.

The final and approved version commits the council to play ‘as full a role as possible’ and ‘lead by example’ in achieving a carbon neutral Reading by 2030.

It also calls on the government to ‘accept its moral and ethical responsibilities’ and give Reading as soon as possible the additional powers and funding needed to become carbon neutral by 2030.

Cllr Page said: “Reading needs to collectively up its game in terms of improving the local environment and playing are part in tackling climate change.

“The council has a role to play in leading the local community but we all have a responsibility to deliver.”

RBC will commit to revising its local transport plan and climate change strategy, as well as any other relevant policy statements, ‘to reflect the urgency’ of the resolution.

The motion states, however, that the 2030 timescale is only achievable with substantial policy changes from the government.

The previous target set by the council for carbon neutrality was 2050.

Campaigners, including XRR and the local Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace groups, demonstrated outside the Civic Offices before the Full Council meeting where the motion was approved.

XRR campaigner Naomi Emmerson said: “We are delighted that RBC has joined 40 other UK councils in making this climate emergency declaration.

“The resolution sets out clear commitments and actions to move forward with emergency planning, which gives a strong indication to residents and businesses of the local leadership being taken to address this urgent crisis”.

XRR’s petition was presented at the start of the meeting by Jennifer Leach and 12-year-old Skye Timmis.

The petition was inspired by last October’s UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, which warned in October 2018 that there are just 12 years left to get climate change under control.

Skye called for the climate emergency declaration to be followed up with ‘real action’, calling for safe cycle routes, planting more trees and protecting wildlife in parks.

Cllr Page suggested a charge on drivers who use Reading as a ‘shortcut’ to motorways as a potential policy to improve clean air in the town but said neighbouring authorities need to work together to deliver solutions.

Several councillors gave impassioned speeches about the need for all parties to work together to address climate change at a local, national and international level.

Reference was also made to the unusually warm February weather as a worrying sign of climate instability.

Green councillor Josh Williams asked what his four-year-old boy’s world will be like in 12 years time if ‘ambitious action’ is not taken.

Councillor Rachel Eden, who seconded the motion, said: “If we don’t take action now when will we? What future are we leaving for Skye and our own children?

“Platitudes are popular but real action is hard and controversial.”

Conservative councillors called for an amendment to be added to the motion to include the achievements of the current government in tackling climate change but this was rejected by the controlling Labour group.