An opinion piece by Cllr Anna Railton, Cabinet Member for Climate Justice and Zero Carbon Oxford, on her new role.
As Oxford City Council’s new Cabinet Member for Climate Justice and Zero Carbon Oxford, I wanted to introduce myself ahead of what will be a very exciting year.
As a quick introduction, my name is Anna Railton, I’m a ward councillor for Hinksey Park, and Machine Learning Engineer at GitHub.
I was born and raised in Solihull, and Oxford has been my home since 2017.
There are many things to love about Oxford, but for me what makes Oxford special is the heritage and diversity that comes with living in this historic university city, as well as being surrounded by parks, green spaces and the river.
I know that for many people - myself included - when you first start learning about the climate emergency it’s easy to become overwhelmed and to feel that individuals can’t make a difference. And, while big organisations certainly have their influence, we are not helpless.
What inspired me was learning about the power within our own lives. We can all make choices – big or small – that can have an impact. I am looking forward to working with residents to raise awareness of what we can all do to make a difference in our city.
As Oxford City Council, we know that the largest area of challenge, but also opportunity, is buildings: how we heat, and how we insulate them.
Buildings are responsible for roughly 60% of Oxford’s emissions, and around 60% of homes in Oxford have an energy efficiency rating of D or below. We need to address energy in homes to tackle fuel poverty, rising energy costs, and the climate emergency. Fortunately, this area is seeing increasing attention locally and nationally.
The City Council is responsible for 1% of Oxford’s emissions, and we are already taking action to decarbonise our buildings. Last year we carried out a £14 million programme to decarbonise several of our leisure centres, including Hinksey Outdoor Pool.
We also secured a £1.9 million Government grant to help low-income residents to make their hard-to-heat homes warmer and greener.
We are keen to keep building on this success. We are expecting to hear back from the Government on whether we’ve been successful in securing funding which could help us to retrofit more council homes. We’ll also continue to work closely with local communities on how they can make a difference in their homes.
But in order to do this we need your help and belief that we can make a difference in Oxford. There’s a lot to be done, but I am looking forward to the challenge.