Oxford City Council to create citizens assembly to assist with climate change targets

Following a week of climate-related protests in London, Oxford City Council has announced its intention to become the first UK local authority to create a "citizens assembly" to assist with the establishment of new carbon targets and climate mitigation strategies.

Oxford City Council to create citizens assembly to assist with climate change targets

Last year

Oxford City Council members agreed to set up the assembly in January 2019, and randomly selected Oxford residents will be involved in the first meeting in September 2019. According to the Council, it will be the first citizens assembly created in the UK to address climate change.

“The urgency in the need to act on Oxford’s carbon emissions was underlined by the City Council’s unanimous vote this year which declared a climate emergency and called for the setting up of a citizens’ assembly to help us consider additional measures and make recommendations for our city. Taking this forward is one of the Council’s key priorities for 2019,” the Council’s chief executive Gordon Mitchell said.

Oxford City Council will commission research to help develop timescales and potential targets for carbon reductions across hard-to-combat areas such as housing and transport. The findings will be put to the citizens assembly.

While the Council is responsible for just 1% of Oxford’s airborne CO2, the City Council has invested in numerous initiatives to improve its carbon footprint.

Last year, Oxford unveiled plans to phase out petrol and diesel vehicles from the city centre with an ultimate aim to deliver a zero-emission zone in 2035. The Council has also created a network of organisations aiming to reduce emissions by 40% by 2020 against a 2005 baseline.

An “Energy Superhub” in Oxford will play host to 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. The scheme is just one of the initiatives totalling more than £80m in investment to support carbon reduction.

Elsewhere, Cardiff University will act as the location for a new £5m research centre that will connect industries, governments and charities to tackle climate change. A citizen’s assembly and a young people’s panel will both be established to work with the Centre.

Disruptive demands

The creation of the citizens assembly comes at a time of disruptive reflection on the UK’s approach to climate change.

The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a special report outlining that an increase to 2C would significantly worsen the risks of drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people. Specifically, it notes that the proportion of the global population exposed to water stress could be 50% lower at 1.5C than at 2C.

Next week, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) will publish guidance for the UK Government on what steps can be taken to enshrine a net-zero carbon target into UK law. It is widely agreed that net-zero emissions are required by the 2050s to reach the ambitions on the Paris Agreement.

The stage is set for a revamp on UK policy towards climate change. Thousands of climate protestors took to key London landmarks as part of the Extinction Rebellion protests, calling for the UK Government to reduce carbon emissions to net-zero by 2025, as well as establishing a citizens’ assembly to create plans that tackle both climate change and biodiversity loss.

Matt Mace

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