Cllr Gregor Murray, Executive member for Climate Emergency Wokingham Borough Council writes Part 1 in a series on tackling the Climate Emergency
The eyes of the world will soon be on Glasgow as the COP26 conference looks for actions and commitments to solve the climate crisis. As we start a bigger discussion on climate change, I wanted to look back on why Wokingham Borough Council declared a climate emergency in July 2019, and what actions have been taken since then to help reduce our Borough’s carbon footprint. I thought the best way I could do this is to answer some of the questions that I get asked most often. Over the next few weeks, I aim to do just that.
Q. Why did Wokingham Borough Council declare a Climate Emergency?
A. When it comes to Climate Change, I believe that we have a responsibility to future generations to act on the issues our planet currently faces. To quote a fantastic phrase “There is no Planet B.” Simply put, we must take responsibility for the impact we are each having on our environment or face devastating consequences in years to come. In declaring a climate emergency, Wokingham Borough Council is stating our intention to be responsible global citizens and committing ourselves to playing as active a role as possible in having a carbon neutral footprint by 2030. In declaring a climate emergency, we are now one of over 300 district, county, unitary and metropolitan councils that have done so to date.
Q. Shouldn’t this be left to the national Government? Why does Wokingham Borough Council need to act?
A. Despite what some might imply, there is no silver bullet in combatting climate change. I wish there were. The only way we can get close to achieving our goals is by doing a series of smaller actions that build up to a bigger benefit over time.
There are areas of carbon emissions that governments can influence. They need to take responsibility for them and then legislate and enact accordingly. Similarly, there are related and different areas of carbon emissions that local authorities, businesses, religious groups, charities, schools, and individuals can influence. By each of us taking responsibility for the impact we have on the environment and choosing to act differently, by each of us choosing to address the different areas of climate change we can influence, and making several small but positive changes, soon the series of small changes compounds into a big overall impact.
Within Wokingham Borough our carbon footprint in 2017 was 580,900 tonnes. That’s about the same weight as 100,000 African Bull Elephants, thrown into the atmosphere above us, every year. Over 90% of those emissions came from just five things: domestic gas use; road transport; industrial and commercial electricity; domestic electricity; and industrial and commercial gas.
Taking resources that were previously underground and putting them into the atmosphere is clearly going to impact on our lives and on the world around us. It’s clear that WBC alone can’t solve this problem, but we are choosing and committing to do what we can, and are relying on others - from individuals to communities, organisations to governments - to also choose to do the same. If we all choose to take responsibility for the emissions that we can influence and choose to act then, soon, that series of small changes will result in a large and positive impact for us and the world we live in.