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Oxfordshire Councils and the climate crisis

Oxford Friends of the Earth is a thriving and effective local group that has been active for over 40 years. Our purpose is to work together to promote a healthy and sustainable environment

On May 12th Oxford Friends of the Earth  published our report ‘In case of emergency… – Oxfordshire Councils and the climate crisis’  You can download the report – click here:Oxfordshire Councils Climate Action Report

So what are we saying? Two years on from declaring a ‘climate emergency’ our councils have got plans and frameworks in place but they need to do a lot more to cut emissions if they are to reach their own targets. A key priority will be that we want to see a county-wide ‘route map’ to net zero agreed by all six councils.

The report makes a set of 21 recommendations and ‘calls to action’ on what needs to happen if our councils are to actually meet their targets. These are summarised on page 5 of the report – the key ones are below.

So what should we be asking our councils to do? 

There’s a lot of recommendations. We’d like to know more about what you think we should be pushing on. We don’t have the resources to do it all so we’d like to know what you think the priorities are.

Go online here https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/OxfordFoE-councilsactions

and you will see the list of the ‘calls to action’. We invite you to choose the seven that you think are really important and that we should focus on. Please share the link: invite other people and groups to complete this survey as well. The survey will run through July 2021.

Our key messsages to our councils:

  • The good news is that all councils do now all have climate action plans and are moving forward – some faster than others. We welcome that. Now we want to see HOW they will turn those plans into action. We need more action to actually cut emissions and an annual reporting mechanism so that we can all see what is happening.
  • Its also that case that no one council can do this on their own. We challenge all six councils to cooperate to develop a clear county-wide route map that will set out the changes they will make in the next few years. We have a lot of new councillors this week.  We will urge all new and existing councillors to remember the pledges their councils made two years ago, and to commit to action now.  The sooner we start to make changes, the easier it will be to reach the targets they have set.
  • There are big opportunities this year: the proposed ‘Oxfordshire 2050’ plan and the new ‘Local Transport and Connectivity Plan’ should both put their climate action pledges ‘front and centre’.

There are specific recommendations on transport, energy and biodiversity.

Other messages:

  • We must do better.  We need to see a 10% reduction (at least) in carbon emissions every year across the county if we are to play our part in avoiding the worst impacts of climate change (* see Tyndall Centre figures below).  We have had that reduction over the last year due to the Covid crisis, but we need to make the same level of cuts each year as we move to recover from Covid.
  • The county faces huge development pressures: our planning system needs to take on the commitments made by our councils, and decisions must reflect the UK’s goal of achieving net zero. If new homes are to be built then they must be built to zero carbon standards. Existing homes must be improved – we need a county-wide task force to support people in making the changes that will save them energy and money.
  • This is clearly not just a matter for our councils. We need government action to support councils to make the right choices and to get us on the path to ‘net zero’.  Our MPs need to take note.  The commitments made by our local councils need to be backed by national government.”
  • Oxfordshire is well-placed to play a leading role in tackling climate, and create many new jobs as a result. We have two large universities with centres of climate expertise; our science parks are home to innovative start-ups; and we have many active voluntary groups.  With these resources we should be showing real leadership and setting the pace of change.

These are some of the key ‘calls to action’ (there are 19 in all). These will be going out to all councillors, new and old. These include calls for all six councils to cooperate to:

  • Develop a county-wide ‘route map’ to take us to ‘net zero’ before 2040 with year-on-year emission reduction targets and that is fully integrated with the upcoming Oxfordshire 2050 plan.
  • Introduce measures / indicators to show their progress towards net zero and to publish an annual report on that progress.
  • Cooperate to set a common ‘zero carbon’ standard for any and all new homes to be built across the county
  • Set up a County ‘Emergency Retrofit Task Force’ to plan and deliver energy saving measures in homes and buildings across the county and to join those calling for a properly scaled and funded national programme.

Each council is also asked to:

  • Ensure that updates of their Local Plans put the need to reach net zero at their core
  • Set a ‘carbon budget’ alongside their financial one to show how they use energy and where they will save it.
  • Train all relevant staff and councillors so that they understand the council’s commitment to cutting emissions and how they can help make this happen.
  • Review how far planning committees are integrating the climate and nature commitments made by their councils into their decision-making processes and develop stronger procedures to ensure that new construction developments are in line with these commitments.

We welcome feedback on the report and ideas on how we take this work forward.
Email us: climate@oxfoe.co.uk