West Berkshire Council Weeknotes #72
As we write to you at the beginning of November with our thoughts turning towards the end of year; we are busily working towards setting our budget for next year and ensuring our winter plans are in place. There is, however, one issue that is firmly in our minds as well as those of others across the globe. It will not have escaped your notice that the UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) has been taking place in Glasgow this week, where world leaders have been debating how best to address our shared challenge and committing to take action in their respective nations. This event is of huge significance and is something we in West Berkshire are following closely, which is why it is our focus for this fortnight's blog.
The challenge we all face with regard to climate change is now clearly recognised across the globe and failing to act is not an option due to the scale of the task ahead of us. We have always been acutely aware of the need for fast, meaningful action on climate change and have long committed to responsible environmental stewardship. In our district we have already felt some of the impact of climate change, most notably during the floods in 2007 and then again in 2014, which saw parts of our district under water and many homes damaged. It was this commitment and experience that led to us declaring a Climate Emergency in 2019 and to developing a comprehensive Environment Strategy to bring about real change at a local level while also influencing the regional, national and global picture.
The actions contained within our strategy include the delivery of solar panel installations, wild verge projects and active travel infrastructure as well as working with our communities to develop further initiatives to tackle this issue. Earlier this year we announced plans for our own solar farm, a project we are progressing so that we can look forward to a time when we can generate a significant amount of energy from renewable sources. We have also led the way on alternative financing options through our award winning Community Municipal Investment to deliver green infrastructure schemes, the first of its kind in the UK. These Local Climate Bonds (as they are referred to) have been featured in the recently published Government's Net Zero Strategy as a way to 'make the green choice affordable'.
This is not, however, a challenge we can rise to alone. There is already a groundswell of activity with many of our Town and Parish Councils, local action groups and individuals applying their own creative ideas and actions to the challenge. We have been encouraged to hear of the work going on in the communities of West Berkshire through the Parish Climate Forum and through organisations such as the Green Exchange. Our schools are invited to join us by becoming Eco-Schools and we are also introducing initiatives to support and encourage green action amongst local businesses.
Together, the actions we take will contribute to the journey towards our aspiration of achieving carbon neutrality by 2030. We recognise this is a hugely ambitious target and we will need everyone to work together and play their part in order to achieve it. We feel it is important to be ambitious and innovative, working in new ways and through creative partnerships with residents, businesses and our partners. As Sir David Attenborough said at the conference; "If working apart we are forces powerful enough to destabilise our planet, surely working together we are powerful enough to save it."
This month we launched our own environmental campaign linked with COP26 through which we hope to raise awareness and increase the momentum and enthusiasm for action amongst residents and community groups in the District. This included an Ask Lynne session which took place at Newbury College's new Renewables Centre, where residents could ask their own questions about climate change and make suggestions about how we can act at a local level. If you would like to learn more about this, follow us on social media on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Nextdoor) or watch the session on YouTube.
We have a fantastic opportunity to mobilise change amongst communities that are engaged and residents who are looking for leadership. Our hope is that the outcomes of COP26 will help us see the national and global ambition clearly and give us the tools we need to turn that into increased local action.
We could not finish without once again reminding you of the importance of taking care of each other as we continue to deal with very high local rates of Covid-19. With rising cases in our schools and in the community, it is as important ever to be aware of the risks presented by the virus and to take the appropriate action to stop its spread.
As ever, we wish you and your families a happy and healthy fortnight ahead.