All of us have a part to play in helping to combat climate change. That was the key message of Cllr Donna Stimson, the Royal Borough’s cabinet member for climate change and sustainability, who was guest speaker at Maidenhead Rotary Club on Monday.
Delivering her talk via Zoom, Cllr Stimson outlined the council’s plans to reduce carbon emissions in the borough to zero by 2050, or earlier if possible.
A Conservative councillor since 2019, Cllr Stimson represents St Mary’s Ward and her portfolio also covers parks and countryside. She explained how she had personally overseen the creation of the council’s environment and climate strategy, working with about 80 residents representing a broad range of views from Extinction Rebellion to property developers.
But she added that due to the effect on council finances of previous Conservative administrations cutting council tax, there was no budget to help deliver the climate strategy. However, she was optimistic that by ‘building sustainability’ into council policy and people changing their behaviour, the strategy could achieve its aims.
She said the main sources of carbon emissions in the Royal Borough were vehicles (33 per cent), domestic electricity use (11 per cent), domestic gas use (27 per cent), commercial electricity use (16 per cent) and commercial gas use (12 per cent).
“Over 60 per cent of achieving net zero emissions is about behavioural change – one person, one household, one street at a time. All of us can make a difference. By encouraging people to live a sustainable life, little by little things can get better,” she said.
Cllr Stimson outlined the four main areas of the climate change strategy:
· Circular economy – the reduction of waste and consumption and an increase in repair, re-use and recycling.
· Energy – the reduction of energy consumption and demand, and decarbonising the supply by increased use of renewable energy.
· Natural environment – improving water and air quality, promoting biodiversity and protecting the environment.
· Transport – the creation of accessible, affordable and sustainable transport choices, transforming the transport infrastructure to cut the need for travel and shift journeys away from cars.
“We have got a huge hill to climb but I would ask each one of you to help us on our journey and be part of it,” she said.
Following her talk, Cllr Stimson faced robust questions from Rotarians over how building houses on Maidenhead Golf Course and high rise flats in the town centre could be considered sustainable, and whether viable alternatives could be delivered to make people give up their cars.
She said hard choices had to be made and the housing development was necessary to stop further building in the countryside. And she was optimistic rapid technological advances, for example in electric cars, would help people change their behaviour.