Thames Valley Berkshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), is a strategic, business-led partnership between the private local government, community and education sectors, with the aim to drive economic growth within the region, has published the first Berkshire Net-Zero Carbon Research report.

We were commissioned to research and deliver the independent, in-depth report of how Berkshire’s six unitary local authorities are responding to the net-zero challenge and highlighting further steps to ensure that Berkshire plays a leading role in the UK’s drive to net zero.

The report was launched on 8 September 2021 at Newbury College’s new Renewables Centre, where the Planet Mark bus (the UK’s first 100% electric coach) made a stop on its Zero-Carbon Tour through the UK ahead of COP26, gathering support for the UN-backed Race to Zero (which 400,000 UK businesses, including half of the FTSE 100, have signed) as part of the UK's #TogetherForOurPlanet campaign.

Green light for Berkshire to meet climate challenge

We began by conducting desk-based research to understand how the unitary authorities were tackling their net-zero aims, followed by SWOT analyses of each authority's local plans against six themes (new buildings, existing buildings, energy, transport, land use, waste, and overarching issues).

To get a more rounded picture of the Berkshire net-zero agenda and how the LEP could further support local business, we carried out several focus group and stakeholder interviews with representatives from the unitary authorities, anchor institutions, and the private sector. This research enabled us to identify the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats facing the unitary authorities, sketching out Berkshire's progress towards net zero.

This new report is a pivotal point for Berkshire and ensures that we are ready to meet the challenges of net zero together as a community. Our role is to take what this report has told us about where focus is needed and ensure the right people, with the right insight, expertise, and skills come together to bring an action plan to life.

Tracey Rawling Church, Thames Valley Berkshire LEP Director and co-lead on the LEP’s Net Zero strategy

The Berkshire Net-Zero Carbon Research report celebrates the positive steps that Berkshire's local authorities are already taking, such as extensive green public transport projects and progressive policies for the rollout of electric vehicles.

However, the report also underlines areas where greater focus is needed to help the area secure its green future in both the immediate and longer term. We developed key recommendations for Thames Valley Berkshire LEP, including increased funding for green infrastructure and transport projects; supporting and promoting local circular economy businesses; as well as funding, financing, and providing more clarity around energy retrofitting.

The more we work together, the better the outcome for us all.

Cllr Lynne Doherty, Leader of West Berkshire Council

Sending a video message from the Houses of Parliament before the launch, Laura Farris, MP for Newbury and Vice Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Environment said: 'I want to congratulate Thames Valley Berkshire LEP and Planet Mark for this initiative and for all the work that they're doing to help businesses in their endeavors to reach net zero. The truth is that we can't possibly meet the 2050 target without the involvement of businesses.'

Tracey Rawling Church, Thames Valley Berkshire LEP Director and co-lead on the LEP’s net-zero strategy said: 'This new report is a pivotal point for Berkshire and ensures that we are ready to meet the challenges of net zero together as a community.Our role is to take what this report has told us about where focus is needed and ensure the right people, with the right insight, expertise, and skills come together to bring an action plan to life. Reaching net zero will be a huge challenge; there is no silver bullet that will ensure we reach our target. This report signals our commitment to making sure this journey is paved with the information, expertise and achievable plans we need to succeed. '

It is these types of projects that we need to help us achieve the transition to net zero.

Sue Riddlestone, Chief Executive and Co-Founder of Bioregional

Councillor Lynne Doherty, Leader of West Berkshire Council, added: 'Working in partnership to raise awareness on tackling the climate crisis is vital. Our Council environmental strategy has already played a key part in some of the projects across West Berkshire, helping to put us on the pathway towards achieving carbon neutrality.'

Sue Riddlestone OBE, Chief Executive and Co-Founder of Bioregional concluded: 'This is a momentous and inspiring day, showcasing brilliant collaboration between six unitary authorities and Thames Valley Berkshire LEP. It is these types of projects that we need to help us achieve the transition to net zero.'

Download the full Berkshire Net-Zero Carbon Research report here.

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