Published: Wednesday, 10 March 2021

Residents have overwhelmingly expressed concern about climate change and air quality, despite the ongoing nature of the coronavirus pandemic, a new survey by Oxford City Council has found.

In addition, there was strong support among residents for electric vehicles and for greater local authority involvement in bus services.

The findings come from polling of the Council’s Residents Panel - a representative sample of citizens selected independently – which was undertaken during lockdown in January 2021.

"Oxford's citizens are strongly concerned about climate change and air pollution and they want to address it despite the ongoing pandemic. When asked about the transport technologies we'll rely on, residents showed a lot of support for the traditional bike courier in the delivery of groceries and parcels while also expecting a majority of the vehicles to be electric. As a promoter of a cycling city and responsible for providing a third of electric vehicle chargers, Oxford City Council is speeding up the end of fossil fuel vehicles on our roads. Still confined to the experimental stage in Oxford, a third of poll respondents were willing to ride in autonomous vehicle while a further third wanted to know more and open to persuasion about their safety, which shows the city to be a forward-thinking community. Clearly residents want to see their local democratic bodies playing a role in opening up the accessibility of buses and, in addition to this Council backing the bus at this difficult time, we want to support residents to easily and affordably get around the city.”

Councillor Tom Hayes, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Green Transport and Zero Carbon Oxford, Oxford  City Council

Tackling Climate Change

74% of the Residents Panel said that they were very concerned and 16% said that they were fairly concerned. 9% said that they were not very concerned or not at all concerned.

When asked about the impacts which can arise from worsening climate change, Residents Panel members overwhelmingly expressed concern.

  • 74% of Panel members strongly agreed that they are worried about the loss of wildlife due to factors such as habitat destruction and climate change;
  • 72% of Panel members strongly agreed that they are worried about the frequency of extreme weather events in the future; and
  • 79% strongly agreed that they are worried about the effects of climate change on future generations.

When asked about their preferred solution in the fight against climate change, 78% of Panel members  expressed support for lifestyle changes and technological advancement or scientific innovations which will help us find solutions to climate change.

Oxford City Council recently announced that Oxford is expected to have achieved its target of 40% reduction in carbon emissions by 2020 on a 2005 baseline. At a Zero Carbon Oxford summit coordinated by the Council, a group of 21 leaders from the city’s universities, institutions and large businesses signed the Zero Carbon Oxford Charter, which marks their support for achieving net zero carbon emissions as a city by 2040.

Oxford City Council has outlined how it will become a zero-carbon council by 2030. The Council has agreed a Carbon Management Plan for 2021/22 to 2029/30 to outline the intensification of the its decarbonisation ambition. The Council aims to achieve an average annual (absolute) emission cut of 10% every year until 2030 – doubling its current business as usual rate of reduction of a 5% year on year reduction target. Significant progress has been made towards zero carbon status, with an average 5.4% per year reduction in underlying emissions over a five-year period to 31 March 2020.

The Council is responding to the declaration of a climate emergency in January 2019, the recommendations of the 2019 Oxford Citizens’ Assembly on Climate Change, and the calls for collective action by the Council’s Youth Climate Summit, which took place at the end of November 2020.

Assembly Members of Oxford’s Citizens’ Assembly, the first to be held by a UK city on the topic, were worried by the extent to which the burden of change was – in their eyes – being placed on individuals. Assembly Members wanted to know what large businesses and government were doing to change their ways – and, in the latter case, to support individuals and communities. As a result, the Council has prioritised decarbonisation of its estate and operations and the formation of a new partnership with major employers and economic actors in the city.

Assembly Members also made a demand for more education and information provided for the wider public in Oxford to help them understand what they can personally do to help. 94% of the Residents Panel believe that they absolutely or somewhat know what they can do on a personal level to tackle climate change. 76% of the Residents Panel said that they have changed aspects in their own behaviour in the past year to help tackle climate change.

Tackling Air Pollution

Preventative measures to protect citizens from air pollution are supported by a majority of the Residents Panel. 80% of Panel members strongly agreed or agreed that Oxford must take preventative measures even if it means preventing polluting cars from entering the city and 86% strongly agreed or agreed that Oxford must take effective measures even if this requires reallocating public space to walking, cycling, and better transport.

Thinking about Oxford in five years’ time, we asked about how citizens expect to receive home delivery of groceries and parcels. 44% of Panel members saw a continuation of today’s model of a dedicated delivery person typically using a van, 10% imagined autonomous ground vehicles with lockers, 6% considered autonomous aircrafts or drones (6%), and a further 6% imagined ground delivery droids (6%). Excitingly for meeting the needs of the here and now, 35% said that home delivery of groceries and parcels would involve bike couriers.

Switching to Electric and Autonomous Vehicles

Moving forwards and considering Oxford in ten years’ time, 33% of our Residents Panel thought the clear majority of vehicles on our roads would be electric, 23% thought that a small majority would be electric, and 20% thought there would be as many electric cars as petrol/diesel cars. When asked whether their next car would be electric, more than half (55%) said that it was very or quite likely that it would be.

Attitudes towards autonomous vehicle technology is mixed. 37% of Residents Panel members said they would not want to ride in an autonomously driven vehicle even if it was fully tested and declared as safe as a human-controlled one, 30% said that they would, and a further 32% said that they were unsure. 

The transport sector is responsible for 16% of citywide carbon emissions and 67% of the main pollutant of concern in relation to air pollution. Oxford City Council has agreed a new local annual mean NO2 target of 30 µg/m3 by 2025 and is set to introduce a Zero Emissions Zone in the city centre in 2021. These measures will further stimulate demand for EVs in the city.

Oxford is a centre for EV charging innovation, with several major projects hosted in and around the city.

In Oxford there are around 108 charging points available public to use. Oxford City Council is responsible for nearly a third of the available chargers in Oxford.

By mid-2021, this will increase from 35 AC chargers to c.120 AC chargers and c.30 DC chargers (c180 chargers in total). These chargers will be delivered under two projects: Go Ultra Low Oxford (GULO) and Energy Superhub Oxford (ESO).

The Council’s Go Ultra Low On-street (GULO-O) project started in 2016. It is funded by the Office for Zero Emissions Vehicles (OZEV – formerly OLEV) and aims to trial and install chargers in Oxford’s residential areas for the benefit of residents who do not have off-street parking. OZEV’s grant funding requires the Council to deliver up to 100 installations (with an aspirational target to reach 130 installations). Phase 1 of the project saw 46 trial chargers installed across 28 locations available to private residents and car club. The next phase of the project will see further chargers installed across the city for residents without off-street parking.

ESO is pioneering an integrated approach to decarbonising power, transport and heat to accelerate Oxford’s zero carbon journey. It will showcase a powerful network of EV charge points (a minimum of 50 - 30 fast and 20 ultra-rapid), hybrid battery storage, low carbon heating and smart energy management, providing a model for cities across the UK to cut carbon emissions and improve air quality.

Oxford City Council is working with Oxford Direct Services and Oxfordshire County Council on a feasibility study to explore opportunities for “cable gullies” – to provide a charging solution to households without off-street charging. This project will end in early 2021.

Promoting Public Transport

86% of Residents Panel members strongly agreed or agreed that as local authorities provide public money for the bus network they should have more control over bus services, including routes, fares, and timetables in Oxfordshire. 59% of the Residents Panel strongly agreed or agreed with the introduction of pay as you go area-wide ticketing with an automatic daily cap on spend on buses in Oxfordshire.

What is the Oxford Residents’ Panel?

The City Council received 184 responses to the survey, which was carried out between 21 January 2021 and 2 February 2021.

The Oxford Residents’ Panel has 550 members and is a representative cross- section of Oxford’s residents.  The main aim of the Residents Panel is to ensure the views of a wide range of residents are reflected in consultations  that the council runs.

The recruitment process of the Residents Panel is handled by Ipsos MORI.

The Oxford Residents’ Panel is an additional online form of gaining informal feedback on projects in Oxford, as well as providing an insight to public attitudes. It can be used alongside and is not used as a substitute for formal public consultation.

Residents who are a member of the panel, can have their say on local issues by completing online surveys. They may also be invited to take part in virtual focus groups.  

Members from the Resident’s Panel were also selected to participate in the Oxford Citizens Assembly on Climate Change, which occurred in 2019.

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