Cllr Gregor Murray, Executive member for Climate Emergency Wokingham Borough Council writes Part 2 in a series on tackling the Climate Emergency
Two years ago, our Council committed itself to playing as full of role as possible in achieving a carbon-neutral Wokingham Borough by 2030. While much of that time has been spent supporting the local fight against COVID-19, the vital work of reducing our carbon footprint has not fallen by the wayside.
Reducing carbon takes time. Yes, this is an emergency. Yes, we need to take bold and swift action. But we can't afford to create other issues further down the road at the same time. Our actions must, in themselves, be sustainable. We need to move quickly and decisively but we also can't afford to knee jerk into ill-conceived initiatives, ideas, programmes, or targets. That means we must tackle the root cause of our emissions now, rather than simply trying to apply a temporary or short-term solution that could then prove to do greater damage later. We are, therefore, doing everything as quickly as we can, but taking as long as we need to ensure we do them properly.
To reduce our 580,000-tonne carbon footprint we have focused our actions into eight key areas. Our eight priorities are:
- Reducing the energy consumed by our business and domestic properties.
- Utilising the Council's assets to generate green energy.
- Setting the highest standards in green development as part of our new local planning process.
- Encouraging people to use alternative transport options by building green infrastructure and mitigating the reasons why residents chose to use cars.
- Reducing how much we throw away each year and increasing the amount that we recycle of what remains.
- Greening our Borough by planting 250,000 new trees and supporting increased biodiversity.
- Supporting our schools to teach sustainable living to future generations.
- Helping residents to develop sustainable living behaviours.
Within these eight priorities there are over one hundred different programmes and initiatives that will help reduce our carbon footprint. These range from building solar farms and cycle lanes, to making energy saving improvements to existing homes, and creating new areas for wildlife to flourish. We are developing local regulations that will require the highest standards in green house building and programmes that will encourage people of all ages to make small but significant changes to how they behave day-to-day.
Encouraging a shift into different ways of travelling, particularly more walking and cycling where you can, means healthier bodies breathing in less potentially harmful emissions and particulate matter. Generating green energy locally will allow us to significantly reduce the carbon produced when creating the energy we currently use. It will also allow us to better react to future energy demands from electric vehicles and other technologies. Planting more trees will bring greater beauty and wildlife to our Borough while also improving our air quality. Changing our planning guidance means that, among other things, we can put an end to the ‘plant and forget’ approach to tree planting that we have seen in recent years. Reducing our carbon footprint also means cleaner air for us to breathe, and knowing we have done all we could to protect our community and our environment for future generations to enjoy.
After all, as the native American proverb says, “we do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.”