LATEST global surveys show Reading continues to lead the way on climate action, but Reading Borough Council leader Jason Brock explains why the hardest yards are yet to come. He writes;

On Thursday, November 18, Reading Borough Council was named as one of just 11 local authority areas in the UK - and one of just 95 in the world - to have made the ‘A list’ of towns and cities taking the lead on environmental action and transparency.

The annual worldwide ‘Race to Zero’ survey is run by CDP, a global non-profit which holds the world’s richest and most comprehensive dataset on how companies, cities, states and regions measure, understand and address their environmental impacts. It is widely recognised as the ‘gold standard’ of environmental reporting.

More than 1,000 cities took part this year, with only 9.8% making the ‘A list’. It’s something we are rightly proud of and serves as some validation for our approach.

Over the last 12 years, this council has cut its own carbon footprint by nearly 70%. We’ve done that through initiatives like replacing Reading’s streetlights with cheaper and more efficient LED technology, moving to the refurbished Civic Offices, heavily investing in more energy efficient buildings – including our Council housing – and increasing our electric fleet of vehicles, to name but a few.

Looking forward, energy efficiency is at the forefront of designs for the Council’s new swimming and leisure facilities at Rivermead and Palmer Park. Meanwhile, families on the housing register will shortly be moving into the Council’s highest quality and most environmentally-friendly affordable housing yet on George Street.

But the council’s carbon footprint accounts for less than 1.5% of total emissions in the town, so how is Reading responding? A 49% cut in the town’s carbon emissions since 2005 puts us 5th best out of 379 local authority areas in the UK. But here is the crux – the rate at which that figure is falling will need to approximately double for Reading to achieve net zero by 2030. It’s very clear the hardest yards are ahead of us.

The council has a key role to play. We’re working to put in place important infrastructure to make it easier for people to make the right choices. In pursuit of that goal, we’re investing in initiatives like the weekly doorstep food waste collection service, increasing cycling and walking routes, upgrading rail transport options at Green Park and Reading West, and implementing our new Bus Service Improvement Plan, where the council-owned Reading Buses continues to play an integral role.

Just over 8 years remain before we can say whether Reading has been successful in our ambitious net zero carbon target. We need to do much more and we need to do it quicker, but that requires a level of Government investment which has not so far been forthcoming. A step-up in investment will help residents, businesses, organisations and local councils make the changes they need to. At COP26 last week, we saw the Prime Minister making all the right noises about climate action. Now it’s time for less noise and more action.