This Covid-19 crisis is a devastating, sobering reminder that the structures, that make up our world, are not so invincible. My deepest sympathies to anyone who is affected by the virus. It feels so very unfair. And I share in the worries that we all face at the moment.
I am awe-inspired by the health care workers, shop assistants, and everyone else bravely protecting us in this crisis. Meanwhile I am holed-up at home, like most of the country: trying to get into a rhythm; trying to get some work done (which is a real challenge with a cooped-up two-year-old); and trying to ration the amount of heavy news for the sake of my sanity.
All sorts of emotions flood around at a time like this. In addition to the worry, I have been wrestling with a bit of grumpiness, which seems completely self-indulgent. After a hard winter though – overloaded and going through one cold after another – I’ve been desperately looking forward to the Spring. I’ve been looking forward to enjoying the final part of my journey as RCCP chair. And looking forward to the buzz of sharing our new ReadingCAN Climate Emergency Strategy and all the good and important things we’ve been building over the last couple of years.
We are where we are though. As the RCCP board, we know that now is not the time to push our public consultation or to decide about the launch we planned for July this year. We are going to re-assess the situation after Easter. Noting that until a cure is found, we could be in-and-out of lock-down for many months. And it could be a while after that before many people are able to engage with the Strategy, feedback their thoughts, and hopefully think about getting involved.
So Covid-19 has put a real cloud over this year but I know I am very lucky compared to what many people are going through. I want to think about some silver linings to these dark clouds though: I get to spend more time with my wonderful son and wife for one thing…
…for another thing, we are all being treated to a bit of a wake-up call. Our non-stop, high-energy lives have been put on hold. Money and busy-ness are not what matters at the moment. It’s all about keeping each other safe and well – and remembering how precious life is.
There are many positive impacts as well just looking at how our lock-down has reduced our impacts on the environment. An increasing number of scientific and media articles are picking-up on this, and thinking about the positive impacts on climate change.
It has certainly been on my mind. I have been talking about climate change a lot, especially over the last couple of years. I’ve been talking about need to cut our carbon emissions – and that we can do it if we put our minds to it. It will take some adjustments to lifestyle and investing money to save energy…but let’s face it, these the changes and costs are nothing like what this virus is forcing us to do at the moment.
I’ve also been talking about the risk that extreme weather-related events pose to us. These extremes events (e.g. heatwaves and floods) are made more likely by climate change…and here in Reading – not just anywhere in the world. Covid-19 isn’t a climate-related event but it should ring alarm bells: remind us that 1-in-100 year events do happen, and that can have severe consequences for our lives. Also that getting prepared (adapting) in advance can make a big difference to how well we get through these things.
We are going to learn a lot through this crisis. We’ll learn a lot about pandemics, and whether our health and social care, and emergency planning systems were ready for this. We can also learn a lot about ourselves, and how we could adjust our lifestyles to be more climate ready. The following have been on my mind recently.
How much cleaner the air is without all that traffic. And how much quieter it is – I’ve certainly noticed a lot more birdsong, and that’s really nice.
I wonder how much less food waste there is. Maybe that will be a positive to learn from all that panic buying.
The internet has been buckling under the strain of video calls and home working. There is more infrastructure to build for the telecom companies but many of us will realise that there is more we can do form home now. Hopefully encouraging a future with fewer car journeys and an opportunity to build up our local communities.
I’m looking forward to hearing more observations…as well as looking at the dip in global carbon emissions that we will see from this.
Run by the Energy Managers Association (EMA), the awards recognise and celebrate outstanding work in the energy management and sustainability industry.
Dan has led the University of Reading’s Sustainability Services team since 2011. Some of the team’s main achievements during this time include:
Ensuring the University met its 35% carbon reduction target in 2016 (compared to its baseline 2008/09 emissions)
Achieving a 40% carbon reduction earlier this year – keeping the University on track to deliver on its current 45% reduction target by 2021
Introducing a campus-wide refillable bottle scheme in partnership with Coca-Cola in 2017, helping to reduce the number of single-use plastic bottles on campus by more than 150,000
Recycling more than 100,000 coffee cups since March 2018
A major expansion of the University’s solar panel programme, with more than 1,000 individual panels now installed across campus
The EMA judges said: “The winning candidate has overseen an impressive reduction in the organisation’s carbon footprint which has put the organisation as a leader in their sector. The candidate has developed a number of tools which are used to monitor planned operational changes and identify the potential of energy and carbon savings in buildings. His drive is encouraging others to learn from the experiences and promoting the industry to future energy and sustainability professionals.”
Commenting on the award win, Dan said: “As a university with extensive expertise on climate change it is only natural that sustainability is at the heart of everything we do.
“Support and investment from the senior leadership of the University has enabled us to put many of these initiatives and practices into place, but it is participation of our staff and students that have helped us to achieve the fantastic results we have.
“It is very encouraging to receive this recognition from the Energy Managers Association. The University will continue in its efforts to make Reading a greener, more sustainable place to study.”
The award was presented at the EMA’s annual Energy Management Exhibition at Excel, London on 27 November.