New data on carbon emissions in Oxford

Published: Thursday, 26th September 2019

On the eve of the Oxford citizens assembly on climate change, the City Council has published a new assessment of the greenhouse gas emissions generated across different sectors the city.

The latest data is published in the City Council’s Climate Emergency Strategy Support report, commissioned from Oxford-based environmental consultancy Anthesis.

The report examines the greenhouse gas emissions – including carbon dioxide - produced by Oxford’s 155,000 residents and 4,500 businesses and other organisations through their buildings, travel, waste and agriculture. This is equivalent to 718,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide per annum. However, this does not include the emissions associated with the food, goods or industrial materials produced outside the city that we consume. Nor does it include emissions from our travel outside Oxford’s boundaries, including air travel.

The report highlights those areas that the City Council has direct control or influence over, as well as areas where partnership work is needed in order to reduce emissions.  It identifies key influencers and underlines the need for organisations across Oxford to work together to tackle carbon emissions. ,

The findings have used to help shape the topic areas to be considered at this weekend’s Oxford Citizens Assembly on Climate Change.

Key highlights:

The report highlights four key sources which are responsible for greenhouse gas emissions in Oxford: Buildings, Transport, Waste, and Agriculture.
It found that:

  • 81% of the total emissions in Oxford comes from buildings
  • Residential buildings are the largest contributor to emissions at 29% of Oxford’s total emissions
  • The University of Oxford is the largest contributor to the city’s carbon footprint of any individual organisation - responsible for around 8% of total emissions
  • Oxford City Council is responsible for around 1% of emissions in the city
  • Transportation is responsible for 17% of total emissions, with on-road transport making up 16% and rail 1%.
  • Waste is responsible for less than 2% of total emissions
  • Agriculture and forestry is responsible for less than 1% of total emissions

The Report

The report looks at the total greenhouse gas emissions within the city from two different areas:

  • Direct emissions: Greenhouse gas emissions from sources located within the Local Authority Boundary, such as petrol, diesel or natural gas.
  • Indirect emissions: Greenhouse gas emissions occurring as a consequence of the use of grid-supplied electricity, heat, steam and/or cooling within the city.


The report found that 81% of the total carbon emissions within Oxford came from energy and fuel use in buildings.

Residential buildings

Residential buildings contribute 29% of the total emissions, and were found to be the greatest single contributor to carbon emissions. 
Privately rented and owned homes contributed 79% of residential housing emissions in Oxford and socially rented housing made up 21% of emissions.

Institutional buildings

​​​​Institutional buildings are the second largest contributor to carbon emissions in Oxford – at 26% of total emissions.

The University of Oxford generates more emissions than any other individual organisation in the city, responsible for 8% of the total. Oxford University Hospitals contribute 2% of the total emissions and Oxford Brookes University also contributes around 2%.

Oxford City Council accounts for approximately 1% of total emissions in the city.

Industrial buildings

Industrial buildings which are involved in the manufacturing of products in Oxford are responsible for 17% of Oxford’s total carbon emissions.  The BMW Mini plant accounts for nearly half of citywide industrial space, but it also helps offset its emissions with the largest solar PV array in the city.

Commercial buildings and facilities

Commercial buildings and facilities are responsible for 9% of Oxford’s total carbon emissions.


Transport accounts for 17% of Oxford's total emissions. Of this, 16% comes from on-road transport within the city boundaries, and 1% from rail.


Oxford’s household and business waste treatment accounts for under 2% of Oxford’s carbon footprint.

Oxford Citizens Assembly on Climate Change

The data in the report has helped provide focus to the themes which are to be considered in the Oxford Citizens Assembly on Climate Change to ensure we focus where we collectively can make the biggest difference. 

The Assembly will discuss the overall topic: The UK Government has legislation to reach ‘net zero’ carbon by 2050.  Should Oxford be more proactive and seek to achieve ’net zero’ sooner than 2050 and what trade-offs are we prepared to make?

Within this, the Assembly will be asked to consider the following five themes:

  • How do we ensure our buildings are fit for the future?
  • How do we develop a sustainable transport system for net zero carbon?
  • How do we transform our energy system to ensure it comes from renewable sources?
  • What is the role of biodiversity and offsetting?
  • How do we reduce our waste to deliver net zero carbon?

These five themes are to be discussed at the Citizens Assembly which begins this weekend and have been identified as areas which can help to deliver the most significant carbon emissions savings.

“We know emissions cause climate breakdown, now we know more clearly than ever what causes emissions in Oxford. As a City Council, we have crucial controls over key causes of carbon emissions and, now that we’re armed with the latest evidence, we’ll look at the levers we can pull on directly to reduce emissions.

"We can’t tackle climate change alone and, critically, this report tells us the types of partnerships we need to build to tackle our climate emergency at a local level.

"Combined with the upcoming Citizens Assembly on Climate Change, this report supplies the Council with an enormous understanding of everything we need to do to chart our journey to a Zero Carbon Oxford by 2030--much sooner than the Government's current target.”

Councillor Tom Hayes, Cabinet Member for Zero Carbon Oxford

The report is available to read here.