Oxford City Council targets net-zero by end of 2020

Oxford City Council has pledged to achieve net-zero carbon emissions within its own operations by the end of 2020, after residents on the local authority's Citizens' Assembly on Climate Change requested such a move.

Of the 42 Citizens' Assembly members, 90% said Oxford City Council should target net-zero before the national deadline. Image: David Iliff CC BY-SA 3.0

Of the 42 Citizens' Assembly members, 90% said Oxford City Council should target net-zero before the national deadline. Image: David Iliff CC BY-SA 3.0

The local authority published its response to the recommendations of the Citizens Assembly – created earlier this year, ahead of the launch of the national version – this morning (16 December).

In its response document, Oxford City Council pledged to become net-zero across its direct operations by the end of 2020, by switching to renewable electricity and investing in offsets for harder-to-abate emissions, such as those from heat.

Offsets purchased by the Council will be certified and used to finance tree planting in south-east England after Citizens’ Assembly measures called for more action to boost biodiversity on a local basis. But the local authority emphasised that offsets will be used “only in addition to other actions”, adding that it will work to reduce “underlying” emissions rather than simply offsetting them.

Overall, Oxford is aiming to become a net-zero city-region by 2030 – 20 years ahead of the national target. In order to reach this target, the 42 members of the Citizens’ Assembly are recommending the introduction of new energy efficiency requirements for community buildings and new-build housing; measures to boost local renewable energy installations; measures to cut transport emissions and investment to expand biodiversity across the region.

In its response to the group, the local authority confirmed plans to bolster its existing £84m climate-related funding pot with an additional £1m of operational funding and £18m of capital investment. It will outline plans regarding precisely how this pot will be spent – and what other measures will be used to support its aims – in the coming months.

“We’re proud to be the first UK city to hold an Assembly on [climate change] and thank all of our Assembly members, drawn from all backgrounds, for coming together to raise differences of opinion, hear each other respectfully and agree a consensus,” Oxford City Council’s cabinet member for Zero Carbon Oxford, Cllr Tom Hayes, said.

”The measures we are proposing are bold and significant in the context of the City Council’s budget and reach. We are setting a new course, taking the city towards zero carbon, while ensuring this does not sacrifice residents’ living standards or disadvantage low-income households.”

Partnerships and summits

Elsewhere in its response to the Assembly’s recommendations, Oxford City Council confirmed plans to reinvent the city’s region’s Low Carbon Oxford partnership as a “zero-carbon partnership”.

The partnership consists of more than 40 organisations across the city, including businesses, non-profits and community groups, which were all working to help Oxford meet its original climate target of a 40% reduction in city-wide emissions by 2020, against a 2008 baseline.

After that target was met and a climate emergency declared, the Council says there is a “need to reinvent that partnership and give it new energy, to agree interim carbon budget targets for the city and to galvanise action across large scale emitters to achieve them”.

As a first step towards this rebrand, which is due to be completed in the 2020-21 financial year, the Council will hold a summit entitled “Zero Carbon Oxford” within the first quarter of 2020. Businesses responsible for the majority of the emissions in the city will be invited and sessions will focus on how organisations can “work together to develop a shared vision, forum, and plans to set a course towards a zero-carbon Oxford”.

The Council is also exploring the possibility of a retrofit summit, which would bring together manufacturers, contractors and designers to help make the city’s built environment net-zero ready.

Elsewhere, Oxford is soon to play host to an “Energy Superhub” - the world’s first transmission-connected 50MW lithium-ion and redox-flow hybrid battery systems as well as a network of 320 ground-source heat pumps.


edie's net-zero cities series 

Those keen to find out how UK cities are going above and beyond the UK's 2050 net-zero target are encouraged to read edie's new editorial series on the topic. 

In each piece, we explore how local authorities are collaborating with businesses to actuate community-centred sustainability schemes on the road to net-zero. 

Click here to read about Nottingham.

Click here to read about Bristol

Sarah George



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