Published: Monday, 1 November 2021

Oxford City Council has outlined the next steps that it is taking to engage and motivate citizens and communities to tackle the climate emergency.

This upcoming work – integral to the Oxford to Zero campaign - builds on progress made in recent years and aims to motivate and enable individuals and communities to take little sustainable actions which, combined, add up to a significant impact on the city’s carbon footprint.

Progress so far

In January 2019, Oxford declared a climate emergency, and in autumn 2019 was the first UK city to hold a Citizens' Assembly on Climate Change.

The Citizens’ Assembly brought together people from a range of viewpoints and backgrounds over two weekends to discuss and shape climate action. It demonstrated that there is strong support at a local level for decarbonisation ahead of the national 2050 target.

Assembly Members wanted the Council to continue to take a lead in reducing emissions and increasing biodiversity, while ensuring that the burden of change was shared fairly between local and national government, businesses and individuals.

In response, the Council developed ambitious plans to reduce its own emissions building on the progress made since 2008.

This work has included:

  • Publishing its 4th Carbon Management Plan – setting out how the Council will achieve net zero emissions by 2030 across its estate and operations – a full 20 years ahead of the national target. This involves the doubling of the Council’s carbon reductions to be achieved each year, from 5% to 10%
  • Ongoing work to become a Zero Carbon Council -  through working to electrify at least 25% of ODS’ fleet by 2023, as well as being awarded £10.9m of grant funding to install heat pumps and reduce the carbon emissions from Oxford’s public leisure centres.
  • Appointing its first Scientific Advisor - Professor Nick Eyre, to advise on the best practice and approach to achieving net zero which has involved him helping to develop the Zero Carbon Oxford roadmap and speaking at Oxford Youth Climate Summit.
  • Establishing the Zero Carbon Oxford Partnership - bringing together the city’s major organisations together with the ambition to achieve a Zero Carbon Oxford by 2040 – 10 years ahead of the national legal target.
  • Publishing the Zero Carbon Oxford roadmap and action plan - with five yearly carbon budgets, outlining how a Zero Carbon Oxford can be achieved. The roadmap outlines that:
    • Domestic emissions must be reduced by 87%
    • Commercial emissions must be reduced by 86%
    • Industry related emissions must be reduced by 86%
    • Institutional related emissions must be reduced by 91%
    • Transport related emissions must be reduced by 88%
  • Delivering key decarbonisation key projects - including the £41m Energy Superhub Oxford (ESO) project – which will see the installation of the world's largest hybrid battery system to support the acceleration of Oxford’s electric vehicle charging capacity, as well as powering ground-source heat pumps for residential properties.
    As well as the £40m Project LEO, which will be running a wide range of innovative energy trials across Oxfordshire, seeking to accelerate the UK’s transition to a zero-carbon energy system.  
  • Working to introduce Britain’s first Zero Emission Zone - starting in February 2022, in partnership with Oxfordshire County Council.

National action needed

Although there is a lot that can be done locally, the Council recognises that additional action is needed by central government to provide funding and policies to support the transition to zero.

While recent announcements are welcome, there are still concerns about the short- term and limited nature of funding available for areas like the energy efficiency of housing – which will be critical to reducing emissions and preventing increasing levels of fuel poverty.

The Council will continue to lobby government for the changes we need to deliver a fair transition to net zero locally.

Zero Carbon Communities - Together To Zero

While local and national government and local businesses have a hugely important role to play by providing funding, infrastructure and incentives for change – it is critical that everyone in the city takes action to reduce emissions.

The Council will be working closely with it communities team throughout this programme in order to reach a wide range of communities, the work will include: 

  • Empowering local communities to take action that meets the needs of their own communities and to educate others, as well as works towards the wider goal of a Zero Carbon Oxford
  • Informing communities about the specific actions they can take to reduce their carbon emissions in order to tackle the climate emergency
  • Providing leadership to encourage individuals to make zero carbon decisions such as adopting zero carbon transport, and retrofitting homes, and other lifestyles changes
  • Working with partners including the Zero Carbon Oxford Partnership, Energy Superhub Oxford, Project LEO to help deliver key carbon reduction programmes
  • Working with local authorities to ensure a concerted programme aimed at behaviour change
  • Supporting work with schools and young people to raise awareness and encourage climate action

Empowering local community action

The Council has published a list of nine key actions that communities and individuals can adopt in order to reduce their carbon footprint.

The list includes living car free, switching to an electric vehicle, flying less, switching to a green energy tariff for electricity, using public transport/car clubs/active travel, and installing retrofitting measures on their properties.

The actions on the list, which has been shaped by the Zero Carbon Oxford roadmap, with insight from Professor Nick Eyre, the Council’s scientific advisor.

Over the coming months, the Council will be sharing more information on how individuals can reduce their carbon footprint through these actions.

“How do you persuade tens of thousands of people in Oxford to make little sustainable changes in the day-to-day lives for the benefit of everyone?

“The answer is simpler than it might seem: every citizen can play their part, at first by making changes in their own lives then spreading the good news about the financial, health, and other benefits of change. The Council seeks to kickstart a big discussion about the importance of practical changes, so that more people can come onboard.

“COP26 is our last best hope to tackle our climate crisis. In a world of cities, Oxford is recognised as a climate leader, which is why I’m pleased to have been invited to Glasgow on the city’s behalf – alongside Oxford’s scientists and industrialists to set out what we are doing, and what additional help we will need from Government.

“But, it’s not all about Glasgow or the Prime Minister or some technological breakthrough. It’s about you and the lifestyle changes we can make to achieve a greener and fairer city, and we want to support everyone as they take action in their own life and under their own roof.”

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

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