BROADCASTER and national treasure Sir David Attenborough last week told of his worries the coronavirus pandemic would distract UK leaders from focusing on big climate change issues.

While Covid-19 is understandably the biggest issue pre-occupying the powers that be across the country, tackling climate change was the central focus for Bracknell Forest’s councillors last week.

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A climate change ‘marketplace’ was held at Time Square where officers from the council’s different departments showcased how they are cutting carbon in their areas of expertise.

Bracknell News:

Councillors had a chance to look around the marketplace on Tuesday, March 10, before coming together to discuss the authority’s approach to climate change.

The News was given exclusive access to the marketplace and the discussions. Here are five things we learned from the day.

Climate change is being considered in everything the council does.

Back in July 2019, elected members at Bracknell Forest Council (BFC) chose not to declare a climate emergency, unlike many other local authorities.

They did, however, commit to going carbon neutral by 2050.

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Climate change is “part of the core operating principles the council works under”, meaning the “big picture is being taken into account when decisions are being taken” that are in support of the 2050 goal.

Bracknell News:

“This approach makes addressing climate change everyone’s business”, a report accompanying the meeting stated.

Before the meeting got underway, director Kevin Gibbs gave a presentation to councillors.

He told them: “We want to make sure it is front and centre in terms of the council’s thinking and doing.”

…But some councillors aren’t happy with how quickly things are moving

After Mr Gibbs’ presentation, councillors had the chance to speak their minds about BFC’s approach to tackling climate change.

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Responses varied in their tone. Councillor Michael Gbadebo called for a more pragmatic approach which was “realistic” about what the council can achieve, whereas others called for greater urgency.

Bracknell News:

Councillor Mary Temperton urged council bosses to “get a move on”, and councillor Robert McLean said the authority needed to be putting its money where its mouth is.

This came after Councillor John Porter highlighted sections in a report showcasing the steps the council has taken in tackling climate change — one of which includes planting 1,400 trees by April 2020.

Cllr Porter said: “Why are we so slow? We need to accelerate and get these things in place a lot quicker.”

Despite this, there is a lot going on in the background

Several councillors praised the marketplace event held before the meeting.

Bracknell News:

Cllr Temperton called it “superb” after touring the stalls with her fellow members.

The marketplace included:

  • A presentation from BFC’s planning team who told passers-by about the eco-friendly policies proposed in the authority’s draft local plan.

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  • A display from the authority’s waste team, who were showcasing the new food waste bins and the environmental benefits this new collection will bring.
  • Presentations from BFC’s energy officers, who are helping to efficiently heat homes
  • An exhibition from the Public Protection Partnership, which is aiming to improve air quality in areas across Bracknell Forest.
  • And much more…

Cllr Temperton said: “There is a lot going on but if we are really going to move this forward our local people need to be empowered.”

Bracknell News:

There’s an effort to get the public as involved as possible

Members of Bracknell’s Extinction Rebellion — who demonstrated outside Time Square in July last year — were invited to observe the evening meeting.

Bracknell News:

Councillors split into two groups after an initial discussion amongst themselves and the members of the public who attended were invited to join in with the conversation, too.

They were asked to come up with ideas about how best to engage residents with efforts to tackle the issue.

Suggestions included an annual ‘green’ summit, actions days highlighting what people can do to get involved, competitions at schools and in communities, and more visual aides to show people what is being done and encourage culture changes.

Councillors know what is important to residents when it comes to tackling climate change

Members of the public at the meeting and councillors were also asked for their thoughts on what is most important to Bracknell Forest residents when it comes to tackling the issue.

Bracknell News:

The two groups produced small lists with what they thought matters most to the public, with one group suggesting climate change action is most easily encouraged if lifestyle changes can save them money and are easy to understand.

This group also suggested protecting the future of children was up there with the most important issues for residents.

The second group pointed towards reducing air pollution, implementing better planning policies and expanding recycling services as priorities for residents.

We would love to know what would encourage you to take more action against climate change — let us know what you think the council should be doing below.