It was great to be able to share some of the thing we are planning to do in our new Reading Climate Emergency Strategy last night. Many thanks to Michael Bright, and all at Reading Town Meal, for organising the event and for keeping things going despite the Covid restrictions.
This is a reposting of my final interview with the wonderful Ayo Sokale. Ayo asks me to talk about ‘Climate Change and Class’, which is a subject of real concern to me. Underlying this question is the issue of Climate Justice, particularly the disproportionate impacts that climate change will have on more vulnerable communities. We are used to hearing about the impact of extreme weather on poorer communities in other countries but the risk is very real for us here in Reading as well.
The interview was filmed in June 2019 when I was the Chair of the RCCP.
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.
It is of course a challenging time to be launching this consultation. With the concern about the spread of the coronavirus, many people will not be focused on the Climate Emergency. I certainly share those worries, and desperately hope we are lucky, and that the forecasts don’t come close to those ‘reasonable worst case scenarios’. Climate change probably has little to do with COVID-19, however it is interesting to note the similarity between responding to a viral epidemic, and adapting to climate change. When we have brought the virus under control, I hope we will be able to reflect on: our attitude to risk; and the resilience of our communities and infrastructure, that make our complex lives possible.
The risk of coronavirus will fade over the coming months. The Climate Emergency however, is a much bigger problem for us to deal with. Happily, there has been some really good work going on in Reading to get the town prepared for the challenges ahead.
On 13th March I will be at the public consultation launch of our new Reading Climate Emergency Strategy. This is a proud moment for me as Chair of the Reading Climate Change Partnership. Around this time last year, the Partnership was in the process of kick-starting a busy year of work on the Strategy. We had just agreed as well, to promote the creation of a new ‘Reading Climate Action Network’ (ReadingCAN) – something for everyone to be part of, and a growing group of experts, businesses and members of the Reading community to write and deliver the Strategy with us.
I am hugely grateful to everyone who put their time, ideas, passion and commitment into this work. There are six themes at the heart of the Strategy, all of which have detailed Action Plans of what we are going to do over the next 5 years. And the Visions behind each theme are strong and inspiring…driving us towards a town that is zero carbon by 2030, and a Reading that is getting ready to adapt and deal with what we can expect from the changing climate.
I hope you find it inspiring. Please do share with you family, friends and colleagues, and please do join us. There is a lot to do to deliver this Climate Emergency Strategy…and of course the work doesn’t stop there.
Please do give us your thoughts and feedback by taking part in our consultation. We are grateful to our Partners at Reading Borough Council for hosting and promoting the consultation, which is available here www.reading.gov.uk/climateconsultation and will be open until 24th April.
The Environment Agency is hosting 7 public drop-in events from 26 February to 20 March. Come along to find out more about flood risk in Reading and Caversham, what residents can do to prepare and our updated plans for a possible flood scheme. There will also be information on how climate change may increase flood risk in the future.
Over 700 properties are at risk from a major flood in Reading and Caversham. The latest design to reduce flood risk includes a combination of flood walls and embankments, temporary flood barriers and a channel.
After listening to feedback from the public, we have made changes to the proposed design and have new information to share. At the drop-ins, there will be landscape plans and photos showing what the scheme could look like if it is built. There will also be photos of historical flooding and information about local flood risk and how you can sign up for warnings.
It is important to note that the project is still at an early stage, so it does not yet have the relevant permissions and may not go ahead.
This is the forth in the series of interviews that I had with the wonderful Ayo Sokale. In this, Ayo asks me about ‘Climate Change and Children’. My son was born close to time I started my role as Chair of the RCCP so this is very real for me. It is so important that we create a good future for him, and all of our children. We need to push hard, believe and make it happen…and there is no more time to wait.
Please do check out our new Adaptation Plan. Reading this, you’ll understand a lot about where I am coming from in the interview. It is important to appreciate the risks that we face…and to pick up on the some of the things we can do to get prepared for climate change.