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.
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.
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.
The close of 2019 is rapidly approaching. It has been a huge year for us, as now a growing Reading Climate Action Network. A lot of good things have happened:
We declared a Climate Emergency in February, which has been a powerful inspiration;
Our board has strengthened, and capacity is building in some of our partners, for example the Council’s appointment of Peter Moore into a new post, as Climate Change Manger for RBC;
New sub-networks are building, including the Reading Business CAN;
There have been a lots of climate change related events, directly or indirectly connected with us, from Theme workshops to the inspiring Climate Strike and the Strategy launch;
The first Reading Adaptation Plan is finished, and will be uploaded here soon;
And, of course big job of writing the new Strategy has dominated the second half of the year, with a growing number of us shaping Reading’s direction for the next 5 years.
There have been challenges as well. Personally, it has been heavy going, trying to balance the chairship with the day job, fatherhood / family life and being a musician. Thank you for being patient if I have been slow to respond. I know I am not alone here, and I am hugely grateful to all of you who have put your time, knowledge and passion into ReadingCAN. We do rely on good will and volunteering. I know this has limits but I hope the seeds we sow here will help us grow and will help us build the case for more support (people and money).
Speaking about challenges, there has of course been a General Election. As I work in the public sector, I had to observe 5 weeks of pre-election silence. This was important but the timing was not great for the Strategy work. And the final result did not go the way I hoped it might. I noted the other party manifestos did offer more optimistic lines on climate change, which could have given us a real lift. However, there was no escape from the vortex of Brexit in this election.
The climate is still changing though, and this makes what we are doing even more important! We need to be there for our colleagues, families and friends in Reading. We need to show leadership; we need to support each-other; and we need to grow, learn and inspire over the next 5 years. We can make a real difference in bringing our carbon footprint down, and preparing the town for more extreme weather…the consequences of climate change. And we are not the only town doing this – the majority of Local Authorities have now declared Climate Emergencies so there is a wider network we can reach out to.
Where there is a will there is a way!
I wish you all Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year.
The Reading Climate Change Partnership has commissioned a first Adaptation Plan for Reading. This will help us to understand some of the climate-related risks that we face in our town. It will also give us some guidance about how we should respond to prepare for these changes.
On the 22 October 2019 we held an event at the Town Hall, to give an introduction to the plan. This was followed by a good opportunity for public questions and answers.
As Chair of the RCCP, I gave a introduction, highlighting the need to think about climate change adaptation, and why we commissioned this report.
I talked about what is behind the Zero Carbon Reading 2030 target and how this fits with global carbon zero targets.
We face a profound choice: if we can move away from coal, oil and gas, within the next decade, we have a good chance of limiting climate change to 2 degrees C. If we don’t, we face the risk of more extreme weather events.
There is a growing public pressure for us to meet our low carbon targets but I finished by noting how the political and media focus is very much elsewhere.
Hence we need to think about adaptation, and get ourselves ready for a hotter and stormier future.
Please note that some images may be subject to copyright. Credit: Chris Beales, October 2019
Jason Lowe (Met Office [based at Reading University]) then talked about the impacts of climate change for the UK and Reading specifically.
Jason started by noting some of the consequence of recent extreme weather events in the UK, including: the increase in hospital admissions resulting from the recent heat waves; and the damages associated with flooding.
He showed some of the visible changes we have seen in Reading’s temperature and rainfall records.
He then moved on to talk about the recent UK Climate Projections 2018 (UKCP18), which highlight a number of risks for the town including: hotter extreme temperatures; more rainfall in the winter season; potential for flash flooding.
Please note that this presentation may be subject to copyright. Credit: Lisa Horrocks, October 2019
Finally I returned to give a short presentation on what is next:
The following slide summarises my expectations from this first plan. It is important to note that it is a light touch first plan for the town. The emphasis is very much on learning about adaptation so we can get everybody on board.
There are a lot of things that we need to pick up on from this first plan.
We will need to start thinking about more detailed Adaptation Planning over the next couple of years.Whether this is to develop a single second plan or more targeted, sector-based plans. We will need to invest more money to make this happen. Hopefully we can build on some of the adaptive planning that has been pioneered by projects like Thames Estuary 2100.
Publishing the Plan
We will publish the plan on the ReadingCAN website after the general election. We need to wait until then due to government pre-election restrictions which affect some partners (notably the Chair of RCCP).
Well I needed a bit of a pick-me-up – joining the Reading Schools Climate Strike today certainly gave me that!
There was a big crowd outside the council offices that just kept growing. And listening to the chants of the schools children really did catch the heart strings. It made me very proud to be part of this town!
I was very pleased to have a chance to say a couple of words (see news update from 14:28)…
Unfortunately the sound dies halfway through the clip (from the GetReading website here). What I was saying though is that right now we are working on the new Climate Change Strategy for Reading. There is a lot to do, and we need your help.
If you have expertise please join us and help make sure we get the strategy right. And help us to get the message out…an social media experts out there, please get in touch!
Everybody though…we need your help to make this happen! Please be part of our developing Climate Action Network “ReadingCAN”. Encourage schoolmates, workmates, friends and family to join us too. And do check our new ReadingCAN.org.uk website. We are going to use it to host the strategy, climate events and everything we learn about how we can cut our carbon emissions and get ready for the climate challenges that the town faces.
Thank you to all of the organisers of today’s Strike. And especially to all of you who stood up to make sure there is a good future for our children, and their children to follow.
In this second interview with Ayo Sokale, I talk about the Reading Climate Change Partnership (RCCP): who we are, and how we are trying to Get Reading Ready for the challenges of climate change.
This website, and the Reading Climate Change Strategy that it hosts, are going to help us to deliver our vision. However, it is critically important that we develop a strong network of people and organisations to really link through to everyone in the town. This is the Reading Climate Action Network (ReadingCAN), which I hope you’ll all join us in being a part of.
Ayo summed it up really nicely: “Reading CAN but it needs you to get engaged with it!”