Oxford City Council has set out the topic and the scope of issues to be addressed at the Oxford Citizens Assembly on Climate Change, which will be held this autumn.
In January, Oxford City Council Members unanimously declared a climate emergency and agreed to create a Citizens Assembly in Oxford to set out recommendations for how to move the city towards net zero carbon emissions. In April, Members set a vision to reduce the City Council’s own emissions to net zero by 2030 at the latest.
The Citizens Assembly will be held over two full weekends (28-29 September 2019 and 19- 20 October 2019) at the Said Business School. A randomly selected, representative group of 50 Oxford residents will learn about climate change and explore, discuss and vote on different options to cut carbon emissions in the city.
An independent Advisory Group has been established to agree the format and objectives for the Citizens Assembly and define the issues it is to consider. As the evidence around man-made climate change is clear and overwhelming, it will be treated as a ‘given’ and the Assembly will not be asked to consider whether or not it is a reality. At its meeting on 24 July the Advisory Group agreed the topic, scope and content for the Assembly.
Following Government legislation that the UK will reach net zero carbon by 2050, national policy, legislation, and innovation will emerge in order to achieve this. While this will require a significant acceleration in the current rate of carbon reduction, it nevertheless represents a ‘least ambitious’ approach.
The Oxford Citizens Assembly on Climate Change will consider:
How proactive should Oxford be in seeking to achieve net zero carbon sooner than 2050 and what trade-offs are we prepared to make?
Scope and content
The issues surrounding climate change span from local to global and therefore it is important to define the Citizens’ Assembly should address. The Advisory Group agreed the Assembly will gauge how ambitious residents want Oxford to be to reach net zero earlier than 2050, and examine how the City Council can drive that change using its levers of direct control, its partnerships with other bodies, and its wider influence. Areas entirely outwith the Council’s control or influence, such as emissions from aviation or international shipping, will not be considered.
The Citizens Assembly will address three themes, divided into five separate areas of content. These were selected following work undertaken for the City Council by Anthesis, an Oxford-based environmental consultancy that provided quantitative evidence of where the Council can help deliver the most significant emissions reductions:
- How do we use less energy?
- Buildings – how do we ensure our buildings are fit for the future?
- Transport – how do we develop a sustainable zero-carbon transport system?
- How do we make more energy?
- How do we transform our energy system to ensure it comes from renewable sources?
- How do we improve environmental quality on the journey to net zero?
- Waste – How do we reduce our waste to deliver net zero?
- Offsetting – How could Oxford offset the emissions it can’t reduce?
The issue of biodiversity will be considered within each of these subject areas.
Schedule for the Assembly
The Assembly schedule will be structured to enable participants to hear from a series of expert speakers who will provide an overview of the issue of climate change resulting from human activities, the expected impacts of global heating and the actions required to limit the further release greenhouse gases. It will involve panels that will bring together speakers with different views and perspectives on each subject area. Invitations will be going out to speakers shortly.
The first weekend will start with a series of speakers providing scene-setting overview of the issue, what happens if we don’t act, and what it takes to get to net zero emissions. The remainder of the first weekend will examine each theme and subject area in turn, including consideration of the associated key challenges and trade-offs.
The second weekend will involve participants’ discussion and deliberation of each subject area and the introduction of specific questions around particular trade-offs. Around 8-10 questions in total are envisaged, responses to which will help guide the City Council in its own policy making, and how it can use its influence. The questions will span areas that the Council has direct control, where it can work in partnership with other statutory bodies, and where it can influence others. Information will be provided on cost and cost saving (as appropriate) with different measures.
Following the deliberation participants will be asked to vote on each question.
A final report on the findings of the Oxford Citizens Assembly on Climate Change will be produced by Ipsos MORI, the independent body appointed to facilitate proceedings, published within three weeks of the end the Assembly. The report will be formally presented to Oxford City Council with recommendations to be considered for adoption and it will inform a new City Council’s Sustainability Strategy, which will reflect new measures and carbon emissions reduction targets.
With high public interest in participation in the Oxford Citizens’ Assembly on Climate Change, Oxford City Council will enable a limited number of members of the public to attend as observers on both weekends. Public observation of the Assembly will help to ensure transparency around the proceedings.
In order to ensure that participants feel free to ask questions and express their views within a safe space, observers will be unable to join tables to listen into discussion and deliberation as this can change how participants engage with the process.
It is important that the selection process for observers is inclusive and objective in order to ensure transparency. At the beginning of September, the City Council will invite members of the public to register their interest to attend, and the observers will be randomly selected from those who register.
In addition, all of the speaker presentations to the Assembly will be filmed and made accessible to the public, and presentational materials will be published.
”I’m grateful to colleagues in the Advisory Group who are giving up their time and bringing real expertise to help ensure the Oxford Citizens Assembly on Climate Change will be a landmark moment for the city. We’re very conscious that the eyes of public - and those of councils in many other UK cities - are upon us, as they look to Oxford’s lead in what can be achieved.”
Councillor Susan Brown, Leader of Oxford City Council
Advisory Group Members
The Advisory Group members are:
- Cllr Susan Brown, Leader, Oxford City Council (Labour) – Chair
- Cllr Andrew Gant; Opposition Leader, Oxford City Council (Liberal Democrats)
- Cllr Dick Wolff, Member, Oxford City Council (Green)
- Cllr James Mills, Leader, West Oxfordshire District Council (Conservative)
- Professor Steve Fisher, Political Sociology, University of Oxford
- Professor Myles Allen/Professor Nick Eyre, Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford
- Mark Beard, Chairman/Mark Gregory, Bid Manager, Beard Construction
- Richard Pantlin, Oxford Citizens Assembly Network
- Zuhura Plummer, Oxford Extinction Rebellion
- Nigel Carter, Secretary /Hassan Sabrie, Chair, East Oxford Unite
- Yasmin Sidhwa Yasmin Sidhwa, Artistic Director, Mandala Theatre Company
Councillor Tom Hayes, Cabinet Member for Zero Carbon Oxford, attends Advisory Group meetings and will formally receive the report from the Citizens Assembly on behalf of the City Council.