Oxford City Council to establish independent advisory group for citizens assembly on climate change

Published: Friday, 3rd May 2019

Oxford City Council is to establish an independent advisory group to provide governance and oversight of the citizens assembly addressing the issue of climate change which is planned for September.

The Council is also unveiling new data that shows carbon emissions in the city have fallen by 24% over a three year period.

The move to create an advisory group follows last month’s announcement by the City Council that Oxford will be the first UK city establish a citizens assembly to help address the challenges of carbon emissions reduction. The citizens assembly will be tasked with assisting the City Council in its final decisions around the promotion and adoption of carbon abatement measures and targets for Oxford and for the council itself.

The advisory group will include a councillor from each the main political parties on the City Council, as well as a representative of the Conservative Party, together with Oxford-based environment and democracy experts and representatives from local industry.

The advisory group will provide governance and oversight for the creation, structure and operation of the citizens assembly. It will be chaired by City Council Leader, Councillor Susan Brown who will provide leadership around the group’s guidance in a non-party political role.  As the recipient of recommendations from the citizens assembly, Councillor Tom Hayes, Board Member for Safer, Greener, Environment will not be a member of the Advisory Group meetings, but will attend meetings.

Yesterday, the Committee on Climate Change, an independent, statutory body which provides advice to Government, said carbon emissions in the UK should be cut to zero by 2050. This follows the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report which warned that the current global target of 80% cut in carbon emissions by 2050 is not enough to avert catastrophic temperature change. 

In January Oxford City Council voted unanimously to declare a Climate Emergency and for the creation of a citizens assembly in Oxford to help advise on measures to address it. On Monday 29 April, Oxford City Council passed a further motion which pledged to:

  1. Continue to call on the Government to provide the powers and resources to fully decarbonise Oxford City Council in the shortest timeframe working towards the vision of zero carbon by 2030 at the latest.
  2. Continue to work with partners across the city to deliver this new goal across all sectors and make further reductions in carbon emissions as the City Council is responsible for just 1% of Oxford’s carbon emissions.
  3. Ensure, as far as possible, that any new targets are reflected in the Oxfordshire Plan 2050 and associated plans and strategies.
  4. Report to Council within two months of the finalisation of the Citizens Assembly report with the actions the Council will take to address this emergency.
  5. After the Citizens Assembly has reported, encourage Scrutiny, as master of its own house, to consider setting up a review group to scrutinise and support plans to deliver against targets.

Today, the City Council unveils new data that shows continued strong progress in both carbon emissions reduction and local renewables generation.

The data, commissioned from consultants Aether-UK, shows that Oxford saw a 24% reduction in Carbon Dioxide (CO2) emissions from 5.88 tonnes per capita (for each resident) in 2013 to 4.48 tonnes in 2016 (the latest year for which data is available). This was mainly due to the decreasing carbon intensity of grid electricity. Renewable electricity generated within the city increased by 56% to 5.1GWh, however, it still represents less than 1% of overall demand. Meanwhile overall energy consumption per capita also increased slightly from 18.7 MWh in 2013 compared with 18.8 MWh in 2016.

It is estimated that the City Council itself is directly responsible for just one per cent of total CO2 emissions within Oxford.

Gordon Mitchell, Chief Executive, Oxford City Council, said: “We are well aware that our decision in Oxford to invite residents to help us with the important choices on how to address climate change has gathered national attention. We want to forge a path that others can follow with confidence and the creation of an advisory panel including independent members will help strengthen the governance around our approach.”