As a sixth former at Reading School, in June I was lucky enough to be a representative at the first step in forming Reading’s new Climate Strategy and Action Plan.
The meeting was held at Reading Borough Council’s Civic offices, where a productive afternoon saw individuals from a wide range of institutions offering their experiences and opinions. These institutions included the University of Reading, several local schools and the Environment Agency. Many were keen to speak up, making precise contributions which will serve as the foundation for Reading’s Climate Strategy and Action Plan up until 2025. Ideas included education about cooking with environmentally sustainable food, networks between schools, and tariffs within Reading in order to fund eco-related programs (whilst also reducing traffic). This will also act as the first step in the town’s goal to have a carbon footprint of zero by 2030.
The broad spectrum of attendees was extremely important to ensure that the Action Plan accurately represented the increasingly diverse demographic of Reading. Equally, it ensured that the event was conducive to creating a Plan that addressed the dilemma from distinctly different angles. It is imperative that the Plan is not just one that combats climate change but one that works for Reading.
The event commenced with discussion with other attendees. I got chatting with some very passionate people – certainly a good way to start the afternoon. Then everyone congregated in the main room to hear a series of talks. Following that all participants cycled round the room, getting an introduction to each theme in order to decide which to focus on for the afternoon. Six main themes were: energy and low carbon building, transport, ‘stuff’ (consumption and resources), water, environment and green spaces, and health.
All themes were popular; I took part in the one on health. Consequently, a lot of what I took from the event came from this theme, but perhaps in a more general context what struck me was that people really wanted to voice their opinions. Often, I found them to be different, unique and sometimes even contrasting. Yet, every person with a view made it clear what it was – this led to not just a workable base for the Plan but a thoroughly comprehensive one. Hence the plan will be meaningful and not something people can simply disregard as it doesn’t impact them. As intended, it will. This naturally gives it far more potency and efficacy.
As well as this general observation there were several poignant objectives I took away that will form a big part of my future mindset. An example of this is monitoring air quality on school grounds. Often, we find ourselves considering the consequence of change in the environment on a national scale or town scale which is obviously unequivocally important. But we must do the same for more local areas, such as schools which are evidently important to me as a student.
That is why specific actions that target very specific local areas have resonated with me as being particularly necessary. On a personal level, my involvement in the event has struck a chord in this respect. Ideas such as networks across different schools address this whilst also advantaging the many. These are things I intend to invest time in.
The future Reading Climate Strategy must also be able to move in tandem with developments in technology. We can see this abundantly with electric cars. An increase in charging points and relevant facilities is a prime example. It is imperative that we keep up with advancements in technology to maximise the scope of of future climate-related action.
As a whole, the event was tremendous in and of itself by laying the initial ground for a Plan. But it has also had an impact by affecting individuals, such as myself, to move forward with a clearer mentality of how we need to achieve our goal in making Reading eco-friendlier. Bearing in mind it is only the first of many steps, it has certainly made a hefty stride towards extremely positive progress.