Oxford Citizens Assembly on Climate Change backs ambitious approach to achieving zero carbon

Published: Friday, 25th October 2019

The Oxford Citizens Assembly on Climate Change, the first of its kind in the UK, held its concluding session last weekend (19 and 20 October) and its recommendations will be published in late November

At the conclusion of two full weekends of information gathering, discussion and deliberation, Citizen Assembly members were asked to vote on the question Should Oxford seek to achieve net zero carbon sooner than the 2050 deadline set by Government? 90 per cent said ‘yes’.

This followed a series of sessions that tested Assembly members’ ambition levels for taking forward carbon-reduction measures across the five themes – buildings, transport, waste, renewable energy, and biodiversity and offsetting

Assembly findings

Top level findings from Assembly members include:

  • Overall agreement that Oxford should seek to achieve net zero carbon earlier that the government’s 2050 target
  • No specific target date was proposed with many saying that this would be a distraction
  • Broad agreement that Oxford, including its councils, other organisations, businesses and individuals should be ambitious in making changes to accelerate the reduction of carbon emissions
  • The costs and any negative impact of change on the most disadvantaged in our community should be mitigated
  • Information was key to Assembly members forming a view about the actions needed to cut carbon emissions. Much more needs to be done to enable others across the city to gain a similar understanding of both the challenge and the solutions

Next steps

Detailed feedback and recommendations from Assembly members across all of the sessions is now being collated and analysed by Ipsos MORI and will be compiled into a full report to the City Council, that will be published in the week commencing 18 November. This will be presented to Cabinet in December and Full Council in January for response and will inform the City Council’s future sustainability strategy.

About the second assembly meeting

The second weekend included a look at Oxford’s future from Rob Hopkins from Transition Network and a presentation on what influences behaviour change from Nick Chater from the University of Warwick.

Across the weekend assembly members were asked to discuss which benefits would be good for Oxford and which trade offs would be difficult for Oxford. The questions covered areas where the Council has direct control through to areas where it has to rely on its influence.

All the presentations were live-streamed on the Oxford City Council Facebook page, Videos and presentations from the first weekend are available at the Oxford Citizens Assembly webpage, videos from the second session will be available shortly.

What participants said:

 “The Assembly opened my eyes to the number of possibilities there are in terms of tackling climate change. I previously thought that there was one clear route of what should be done, but for different people there needs to be different responses. It is not necessarily the most extreme thing which is the right thing to do in the long term.”
Alexandra, Assembly Member

“Climate change is not something you can brush under the carpet and I wouldn’t encourage anyone else to do it either. Being in the assembly was like being in the mixing pot with different fruits and vegetables, and by the end we became unified. The process was very enlightening and is something which can be used to educate a community who may not have had their attention in this area. I feel that I am a spark who can ignite the conversation in communities”
Tendai, Assembly Member

Speaking at the conclusion of the Assembly, City Council Leader Councillor Susan Brown said:

I’ve really enjoyed listening to the deliberations and hearing the presentations from an enormous number of experts on this subject and I think we’ve all learnt a huge amount, not just about how climate change might affect us as a city and the world, but also some of the really positive things that we can do to tackle it – again both here and in the world more widely.”
Councillor Susan Brown, Leader of Oxford City Council

The make-up of the Assembly

The Assembly was a representative sample of Oxford residents, and was selected from a larger pool of people by industry experts Ipsos MORI to reflect a broad range of demographics in the city. 50 residents were selected to take part, of which 42 members attended both weekend sessions. 40 votes were cast on the question Should Oxford seek to achieve net zero carbon sooner than the 2050 deadline set by Government?,  36 for ‘yes’ and 4 ‘no’.

A breakdown of assembly member demographics can be found here.

Find out more, and follow the latest updates about the Oxford Citizens Assembly on Climate Change at www.oxford.gov.uk/citizensassembly