Oxford City Council to establish UK’s first citizens assembly to address climate emergency

Published: Tuesday, 23rd April 2019

Oxford City Council is to be the first UK local authority to establish a citizens assembly to help address the issue of climate change, and consider the measures that should be taken in Oxford.

The recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report warned that the current global target of 80% cut in carbon emissions by 2050 is not enough to avert catastrophic temperature change. It said it’s essential that global temperature change is limited to 1.5 degrees Celsius and that rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society are required to ensure this.

Next week the UK’s independent Committee on Climate Change (CCC) will publish its advice to the UK Government on tightening Britain’s carbon reduction targets. This will lead to new minimum requirements for us all.

In January, Oxford City Council members unanimously declared a climate emergency and agreed to create a citizens assembly in Oxford to help consider new carbon targets and additional measures to reduce emissions.

The citizens assembly will involve a randomly-selected representative sample of Oxford residents and will meet in September. It will be the first citizens assembly in the UK created to consider climate change.

The City Council will be commissioning research to develop options and timescales for carbon reduction in areas such as housing and transport, which will be put to the citizens assembly. In addition, it will hear from a range of independent contributors. The citizens assembly’s recommendations will assist the City Council in its final decisions on adoption of carbon abatement measures and targets.

Last November a Manchester partnership, including Manchester City Council, commissioned its own climate change research and has recently announced its intention for Manchester to become carbon-neutral by 2038.

It is estimated that the City Council is responsible for just one per cent of total CO2 to Oxford’s air. The City Council is a member of Low Carbon Oxford, a network of 40 public/private organisations that aims to reduce citywide emissions by 40% of 2005 levels by 2020.

In the last month, the City Council has announced initiatives totalling over £80m to support the council on its goal to support reducing carbon emissions. This includes installing one of the world’s largest batteries to support electric vehicle charging and low-carbon heat networking, and creating a new ‘smart grid’ to allow individuals and communities to become active participants in the energy systems of the future. The City Council has also secured additional funding to upgrade the city’s buses to Euro 6 standard, and to support the arrival of the first zero emission capable taxi to the streets of Oxford.

The City Council is not working alone on the challenge of carbon reduction. The universities, and many local businesses and communities have also recognised the importance of action and are taking action both in partnership with Oxford City Council, and through their own initiatives.

In June, the City Council, along with partners, will be organising Oxford Green Week.  The festival - which will begin on Saturday 8 June with Oxford’s Big Green Day Out –celebrates sustainability and inspiring people to take action against climate change, with events and activities taking place every day until Sunday 16 June.

Gordon Mitchell, Chief Executive, Oxford City Council, said: “The urgency in the need to act on Oxford’s carbon emissions was underlined by the City Council’s unanimous vote this year which declared a climate emergency and called for the setting up of a citizens’ assembly to help us consider additional measures and make recommendations for our city. Taking this forward is one of the Council’s key priorities for 2019.”