Oxford to Zero

Published: Monday, 1st November 2021

As COP26 begins, Oxford City Council is launching the third strand of its climate action to achieve a Zero Carbon City by 2040 or earlier.

The launch of a new behaviour changing campaign will encourage citizens and communities to make little sustainable changes in their day-to-day lives which, combined, would add up to a significant impact on the city’s carbon footprint.

The Council has published a list of nine practical actions that communities and citizens can take to make a difference in the face of climate change.

  1. Leave the fossil fuel car at home, and if you must drive, also help to reduce air pollution by driving an electric car
  2. Rethink how you travel for shorter journeys - hop on a bus or help to boost your physical and mental health by cycling or stretching your legs
  3. Fly less to reduce the growth in aviation – board the train not the plane where you can
  4. Reduce energy use and save money by changing your lightbulbs at home
  5. With daily meat consumption in the UK dropping, eat less meat and dairy to also reduce the risk of health problems
  6. Reduce, reuse, and recycle
  7. Help to make your garden or local community wildlife and pollinator friendly
  8. Contact your politicians – they need to know how much you care
  9. If you can afford to, use your money to support the climate

The actions on the list have been shaped by the Zero Carbon Oxford roadmap which was published by the Zero Carbon Oxford Partnership (ZCOP), with new insight from Professor Nick Eyre, the City Council’s scientific advisor and a leading global climate scientist.

The new #OxfordToZero campaign is the third step in work to tackle the climate emergency, with the campaign meeting the Zero Carbon Communities goals that accompany the Zero Carbon City and Zero Carbon Council strategies.

The #OxfordToZero webpages on the Council’s website will highlight the work of the Council and the ongoing work of the ZCOP, as well as identify actions that citizens and communities can take to tackle the climate emergency.

Progress so far

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

90% of Assembly Members agreed that the UK Government’s current target to reach zero carbon by 2050 is not ambitious enough, and that Oxford should aim to achieve net zero sooner than 2050.

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 has prioritised action to reduce its own carbon footprint, setting an objective to reach net zero by 2030, and work with citywide partners and major employers to create a carbon roadmap for Oxford to reach net by 2040.

Since then the Council has been continuing its work to reduce emissions in Oxford including:

Oxford to Zero

#OxfordToZero will build on this work as the campaign moves in to the next phase, focusing in particular on community engagement through its Zero Carbon Communities strand.

It will look at three key areas of work:

  • Zero Carbon Communities
  • Zero Carbon Council
  • Zero Carbon Oxford

More information on the campaign can be found at www.oxford.gov.uk/OxfordToZero 

Zero Carbon Council

The Zero Carbon Council strand will cover the Council’s goal to become a Zero Carbon Council by 2030, and the decarbonisation work that is being carried out to achieve this.

As part of this goal, the Council must reduce its carbon emissions on average by 10% each year in order to achieve this. That is roughly 530 tonnes of carbon every single year – double the Council’s previous carbon reduction rate.

The main way the Council aims to achieve this is through decarbonising the power for the heating systems across its buildings and electrifying its fleet vehicles.

Zero Carbon Oxford

The Zero Carbon Oxford strand will explain the work that is taking place across the city to seek to achieve net zero by 2040 – 10 years ahead of the Government’s own targets.

The campaign will cover the Zero Carbon Oxford Partnership and the Zero Carbon Oxford roadmap and action plan. It will also cover the Council’s own work in this area such as the Oxford Zero Emission Zone, Project LEO, Energy Superhub Oxford, improving biodiversity, and more.

Zero Carbon Communities

The largest strand of the campaign will focus on educating and empowering communities to take action to tackle the climate emergency.  

In order to achieve this, the Council will be working closely with it communities team throughout this programme in order to reach a wide range of communities.

In addition to sharing the list of nine actions, the Council will be sharing more information and opportunities for individuals about how they can reduce their carbon footprint over the coming months.

Why are we doing this?

The science is clear. Climate change is caused by the build-up of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the earth’s atmosphere. These greenhouse gases are released by the burning of fuels like petrol, diesel, gas and coal in cars, homes and power stations.

The recent IPCC report has signalled a “code red” for humanity, while the Environment Agency has said it is a matter of “adapt or die” with action needed to prepare communities and businesses for the impacts of a warming climate.

Reducing carbon emissions is not impossible, but many aspects of people’s lives will need to change. In order to achieve this, everyone will need to together in Oxford – individuals, the Council and local businesses.

“In the grand scheme of things, with the climate crisis looming larger than ever before, these changes are small. They may not feel like it and I, for one, am finding the diet change to be a challenge. But I’m sticking with the changes because they will do more for the planet than you might expect and they can reap big health, financial, and other dividends.

With bills going up and things feeling uncertain, you may wonder whether now is the right time to focus on the climate crisis. Travelling through one crisis, must we really focus on another? The climate crisis hasn’t gone away and, if we don’t act, we’re going to be punished for it. Moreover, if we truly value human life and want to build back better, we have to show it. The changes we make as individuals and as society to address the climate crisis can help to build a fairer city, and as we make these changes, we have to ensure that fairness is at the heart of all we do.

The last eighteen months have been tough, and nobody wants to feel overwhelmed, told what to do, or made to feel guilty. With this campaign we’re engaging citizens who overwhelmingly say they want to do their bit to help the planet. We see these changes as a springboard to getting into new routines that make a big difference. After all, we don’t think twice about wearing a face covering anymore because the science has shown us the clear benefits of minimising infections.”

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