Oxford City Council has published its latest Greenhouse Gas Emissions report covering the reporting year 2020/21 – the year of lockdowns due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Council measures the greenhouse gas emissions from its buildings – including offices, leisure centres and car parks – vehicles and water use every year.
The latest report has found that in 2020/21, the Council reduced its underlying greenhouse gas emissions by 32.9% to 4,985 tonnes– compared with 7,425 tonnes in 2019/20.
This means that between 2015/16 - 2020/21, the Council’s underlying greenhouse gas emissions have decreased by 46.3%.
However, this reduction is significantly impacted by the strict lockdowns due to the coronavirus pandemic, with buildings - in particular leisure centres - being closed for long periods of time.
Due to this, these figures cannot be used to inform any underlying trend. Emissions in the next reporting period 2021/22 are expected to increase as buildings and activities return to near normal operation.
Zero Carbon Council
Oxford City Council declared a climate emergency in 2019, and in April 2019, it set out a vision to reach net zero carbon across its own operations by 2030.
In October 2020, the Council appointed Professor Nick Eyre as its first Scientific Advisor, to provide independent advice on its carbon reduction plans.
The Council is committed to becoming a net Zero Carbon Council by 2030, aiming to achieve an average annual (absolute) emission cut of 10% (approximately 530tCO2e) every year until 2030 – doubling its previous business as usual rate of a reduction of a 5% year on year reduction target.
The Council’s main focus of activity to achieve this will be to effect a rapid switch to decarbonising its heating systems across its buildings and its fleet vehicles.
While there is no globally agreed definition, the emerging consensus is that net zero can be achieved by working to reduce emissions as far to zero as possible, with any remaining emissions compensated with offsetting measures.
Councillor Tom Hayes, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Green Transport and Zero Carbon Oxford, Oxford City Council said: “These figures cannot provide an accurate reflection of our journey to zero—the clear reductions in emissions are skewed by our experience of the pandemic. We want to be transparent and open about our journey, so we can build trust in our efforts, and that involves bringing annual updates. We will continue to monitor progress and expect next year’s data, which will cover 2021/22, to provide a more accurate representation of our progress. We want to achieve net zero emission by 2030 or sooner and, although we’re responsible for 1% of citywide emissions, provide an example to the wider city as it moves towards being net zero by 2040 or sooner, enabled by the Zero Carbon Oxford Partnership of major employers which we set up and support.”