Published: Thursday, 10 December 2020

The Zero Carbon Oxford summit is to be held with key partners to set a vision for reaching Net Zero faster than the Government’s legal deadline of 2050.

The announcement came as Oxford City Council joined other local authorities in welcoming UK 100’s goal of reaching net zero area-wide emissions by 2045 at the latest.

The Zero Carbon Oxford summit to be held on 04 February 2021, will bring together leaders from the city’s universities, institutions and large businesses to consider the actions required to accelerate carbon reduction across the city and  how early it could be possible to achieve Net Zero. 

The Council’s newly appointed Scientific Adviser, Professor Nick Eyre of the University of Oxford’s Environmental Change Institute, who has advised Government on carbon reduction measures, will use his expertise to provide independent scientific advice to the Summit partners. They will discuss mapping five yearly carbon targets for the city that are both achievable and scientifically robust.

It is intended that the Summit will also lead to the creation of a new Zero Carbon Oxford partnership for the city, replacing the Low Carbon Oxford partnership established a decade ago. The new partnership will enable a wider range of stakeholders to play their part in cutting Oxford’s carbon footprint to zero.

When the Low Carbon Oxford partnership was formed in 2010 it set an ambition to achieve a 40% reduction in carbon emissions across the city by 2020 on a 2005 baseline, and today the City Council can announce that this has been achieved.

Why is the Council holding the summit?

The Council is hosting a summit in response to the declaration of a climate emergency in January 2019, the recommendations of last year’s Oxford Citizens’ Assembly on Climate Change, and the calls for collective action by the Council’s Youth Climate Summit, which took place at the end of November 2020.

The Citizens’ Assembly recommended that Oxford should aim to exceed the UK Government’s target and achieve net zero carbon emissions sooner than 2050 and called on the Council to work with partners to set a strategy for how this could be achieved. The Summit will bring together leaders from both City and County Councils, both universities, both hospital trusts, major businesses, anchored institutions, and others organisations that collectively are responsible for much of the non-residential carbon emissions within the city.

Although it is responsible for just 1% of Oxford’s emissions, the City Council has already set out a vision to reach zero carbon across its own operations by 2030. In its proposed Budget 2021/2022, released to public consultation today (10 December), the Council has set plans to achieve net-zero emissions across its own operations by the end of 2021, using offsetting. It is also accelerating programmes to reduce underlying carbon emissions across all of its operations.

Other organisations are also in the process of developing plans for carbon reduction across their own operations. The Zero Carbon Summit will develop a roadmap to net zero emissions for Oxford as a whole and set an aspirational but scientifically robust date by when this can be achieved.

How will it work?

The summit will take place virtually because of the Coronavirus pandemic and will bring together large partners to discuss a plan for Oxford as a city moving towards net zero.

The Summit will be an opportunity for representatives to showcase their climate plans and action, facilitate conversation about a collective vision, and establish a formal partnership and collaborative approach to tackling the climate crisis.

The summit will feature a keynote address by the City Council’s Scientific Adviser, Professor Nick Eyre, and will ask key partners for their goals and aspirations for how they plan to reach net zero carbon.

Following the summit, and consideration of the views and insights of participating organisations, a map of the carbon targets for the whole city will be announced in March 2021, with an aspirational target date for a zero carbon Oxford that may exceed the UK100 target date and the Government’s national target date.

Zero Carbon Oxford partnership

The summit will lay the foundations for the creation of the Zero Carbon Oxford Partnership. The partnership will provide a collaborative approach to implementing carbon reduction measures, enable members to share their examples of best practice and learn from each other, develop funding bids and attract financial support for the ambitious and innovative projects which will allow the city to go further and faster in its journey to net zero carbon, and lobby the UK Government for powers, policy, and funding, and engage customers, citizens and communities in shared climate action.

“We know our problem: climate breakdown has to be stopped, and carbon dioxide emissions must be reduced, as rapidly as possible to zero. The city has taken great strides forward and, today, we are delighted to announce that, in our deadline year, Oxford has met the target of reducing our emissions by 40% on a 2005 baseline.

“This achievement creates a foundation to build upon. While we support the principle of the UK100’s 2045 Net Zero goal, the city’s first Zero Carbon Oxford Summit and a Zero Carbon Oxford formal partnership, potentially chart the way to an earlier date. We want to work ever more closely with the city’s biggest players and, together, we want to get behind a new vision— a vision of a Zero Carbon Oxford by an aspirational date, but nonetheless one which the City Council’s independent Scientific Adviser says is robust and scientifically possible.”

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

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