Councillors approved plans by Oxfordshire County Council to meet its ambitious target of reducing its own carbon footprint to net zero by 2030 at a full council meeting today (5 November).
And by taking greater climate action the county council will enable people living and working in Oxfordshire to breathe cleaner air; choose more sustainable ways to travel, and find new jobs in the growing green economy.
Council leader Ian Hudspeth updated councillors on progress after a unanimous council decision in April 2019 to commit to the zero-carbon target for its own estate and operations.
He announced a declaration called ‘Climate Action for a Thriving Oxfordshire’, which explains how the council will reduce its own carbon emissions and supporting the environmental ambitions of others, including schools.
Carbon emissions down since 2008
The county council has already reduced its carbon emissions by nearly 50% since 2008 but Councillor Hudspeth said that getting to zero would be much harder to achieve. Councillors considered a report at the meeting that highlights the scale of the challenge:
“Delivering this new ambition takes us well beyond our current ways of working both in pace and breadth. It will require new kinds of relationships with our supply chain and countywide partners and in supporting our communities to make change.”
The county council already funds support for 65 community action groups at the forefront of community-led climate change action. The council sees the continued success of these action groups in tackling environmental issues such as waste, transport, food production and local energy generation as vital to reducing emissions in the county.
Proposals for change
The council has started planning for the major changes as part of setting its next budget, with a cross-party group of councillors already working on proposals for change.
Simon Furlong, Strategic Director of Communities at Oxfordshire County Council, explained: “The county council wants to be part of the growing green revolution in Oxfordshire by helping communities achieve their own climate action goals. But first we need to get our own solar-panelled house in order and focus on where we can make a difference in our every day activities.
“As a large employer we should lead by example – we will continue to reduce our own carbon emissions and help to inspire and enable communities and individuals to develop and deliver their own climate action work.”
Communities making a difference
Henry Owen, Project Manager for Community Action Groups Oxfordshire, said: “Oxfordshire’s residents are really keen to know how they can make a difference.
“We have seen a large rise in interest in both joining Community Action Groups and in starting new ones – boosting our efforts for climate action across the county.
“We’re really excited to see even more people getting together to improve their communities and tackle climate change at the same time. There’s huge potential when communities and local authorities pull together to tackle the challenges we face.”
Climate Action for a Thriving Oxfordshire
Oxfordshire County Council’s climate declaration at the council meeting on Tuesday 5 November 2019 included the following promises:
- Make Climate Action a top priority in all decision making
- Make our corporate estate carbon neutral by 2030
- Maximise solar generation on our buildings and land
- Buy local green power for our estate
- Electrify our vehicles and seek alternative fuels
- Support our staff to use zero carbon travel options
- Challenge our suppliers to match our ambition
The county council also pledged to lead action to reduce carbon across Oxfordshire, with commitments to:
- Manage land to capture carbon
- Enable schools to reduce their carbon
- Reduce carbon from your streetlighting
- Provide charging points for your electric car
- Invest in cycle paths and safe walking routes
- Reprioritise road space for low carbon travel
- Invest in community energy
- Support our communities to take Climate Action
- Team up with innovators to test new solutions
- Work with our partners so we all achieve more
- Keep you informed on our Climate Action plans and progress
Some of the significant climate actions the council is taking with its partners so far include:
Lighting the way to greener streets
The council will replace street lights across Oxfordshire with low energy LED units which will save 6,000 tonnes of CO2 – a 70% reduction – over the next four years. Street lighting is the biggest contributor to the council’s carbon output and energy costs. This initiative will have the biggest and quickest impact.
Driving down its own emissions
The council has already started to an electric fleet and committing to electric as the ‘fuel’ for most of its cars and vans by 2024 and 2028 respectively. New e-bikes have also joined the fleet meaning that staff unused to cycling can get to local meetings more easily under their own steam.
Making Oxfordshire a low-carbon centre of excellence
We supported the establishment of Low Carbon Hub – an award-winning community energy organisation delivering a step-changed in locally owned, community financed renewables in the county and supporting Solar on our schools.
The council has also worked with partners to agree an Oxfordshire Energy Strategy that pitches an ambitious reduction in emissions of 50% of countywide emissions by 2030.
We are also a partner on Project LEO (Local Energy Oxfordshire), a ground-breaking globally leading £40m programme to demonstrate a smart, flexible electricity grid in Oxfordshire fit to support a step-change in electric vehicles and renewables.
For further information about Oxfordshire County Council’s plans to meet its zero-carbon target by 2030, go to: www.oxfordshire.gov.uk/climateaction