On 28 January 2019, Oxford City Council unanimously backed a climate emergency motion.
“We’ve just had a historic vote at Oxford City Council – we declared a climate emergency. It’s just the first step in a long journey to actually reduce our carbon emissions, so that means looking at every single policy, every single decision we make, every single funding decision we make, and actually focus all our efforts now on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”
~ Craig Simmons, Councillor, Oxford City Council
Ahead of the vote, councillors heard a passionate speech from 15-year-old Oxford resident Linnet Drury:
The motion had been put forward by Green party group leader Craig Simmons and had been partially amended by Labour.
It stated that as well as declaring the emergency, the council would ‘continue to call on Westminster to provide the necessary powers and resources to make local action on climate change easier’; ‘encourage’ the council to establish a Citizens Assembly to make recommendations (on climate); and ‘continue to work with partners across the city and region to deliver widespread carbon reductions.’
Local climate action groups such as Fossil Free Oxfordshire and Extinction Rebellion Oxford had campaigned for months in support of the council’s move, asking them to do more and become carbon neutral as quickly as possible.
“The climate crisis is an emergency that requires actions at all levels of government; local, regional and national. What the climate scientists tell us is that we need is to act quickly to reduce our carbon emissions. We need to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030. This is an extremely challenging – but achievable – goal. But this motion is not something this Council should vote for lightly. We have a duty to ourselves, our residents and businesses and to the wider world to not only declare a Climate Emergency but to deliver real change. The hard work starts here.”
~ Craig Simmons
Agenda Item 15
Declaring a Climate Emergency (proposed by Councillor Simmons, seconded by Councillor Wolff) (amendment proposed)
“Council notes that:
a) the recent 2018 IPCC report states that we have just 12 years to act on climate change if global temperature rises are to be kept within the recommended 1.5 degrees Celsius;
b) all governments (national, regional and local) have a duty to limit the negative impacts of climate breakdown, and local governments that recognise this should not wait for their national governments to change their policies. UK cities need to commit to aggressive reduction targets and carbon neutrality as quickly as possible;
c) cities are well placed to lead the world in reducing carbon emissions, as their higher density opens up a range of sustainable transport, buildings and energy opportunities;
d) the Council’s absolute carbon emissions have reduced by just over 10% (10.17%) over the last five years – an average of 2% per year (Source: Oxford City Council ‘Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Local Authority own estate and operations: Reporting year 2017-18’ (August 2018));
e) although the Council’s carbon emissions reduced in 2017/18 due to changes in the national grid, the Council’s underlying energy and fossil fuel consumption actually went UP slightly – a 2.1% increase in electricity, a 0.8% increase in gas and a 5.4% increase in carbon from vehicle fuel. (Source: Oxford City Council ‘Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Local Authority own estate and operations: Reporting year 2017-18’ (August 2018));
f) although the City Council is managing to deliver absolute carbon reductions –despite the upward pressures on carbon emissions caused by changes in the structure of its operations and services and variability caused by factors such as the weather – it is not delivering the necessary absolute carbon reductions fast enough to meet either the UK’s 2050 80% reduction target or the 1.5 degree Celsius target.
In light of the above, the Council therefore agrees to:
1. Join other Councils in declaring a Climate Emergency;
2. Call on Westminster to provide the necessary powers and resources to make local action on climate change easier;
3. Request Scrutiny to urgently review and make recommendations on revisions to the Council’s 2017-2022 Carbon Management Plan in light of the recent IPCC report and the latest Oxford City Council data (published August 2018). This should include the setting of an early carbon neutral target for the City Council and a governance structure to ensure close monitoring of the Plan;
4. Continue to work with partners across the city and region to deliver widespread carbon reductions.
Amendment proposed by Councillor Hayes, seconded by Councillor Howlett Council notes that:
INSERT new section as D: “The 5% carbon reduction target – as defined by our Carbon Management Plan – is by our implemented measures (including control and influence of council), not the actual emissions reductions. The target has consistently been met on this basis.” (CHANGE DESCENDING LETTERS)
f) (was e) INSERT: “The increasing commercial activity of the Council provides upward pressure on the carbon emissions, but in the main services are being offered locally and at a lower carbon intensity than other commercial concerns providing the service from outside the area would be operating at.”
g) (was f) INSERT: “This Council is only responsible for 1% of the city’s CO2 emissions and works in partnership to achieve ambitious city-wide targets to reduce emissions by 40% by 2020.”
1. INSERT: Continue to call on Westminster…
2. DELETE: “Request Scrutiny to urgently review and make recommendations on revisions to the Council’s 2017-2022 Carbon Management Plan in light of the recent IPCC report and the latest Oxford City Council data (published August 2018). This should include the setting of an early carbon neutral target for the City Council and a governance structure to ensure close monitoring of the Plan;”
REPLACE WITH: “Encourage this Council to establish a Citizens Assembly made up of a representative range of Oxford citizens to establish the facts and make recommendations for our city.”
5. INSERT NEW: “Notes that this Council is a forward-looking council at tackling climate change with a very strong record. The Council has installed enough solar PV across its estate to generate the equivalent of 10% of our annual electricity from onsite generation, reducing CO2 emissions by 380tonnes/year and reduces bills by over £100,000/year). We currently purchase accredited green electricity for practically all sites and have a policy to buy green if the price is not more than 2% above the price of standard electricity. This Council uses a £1m revolving loan fund to reduced energy costs by over £400k/year.”
6. INSERT new: “Notes that this Council works heavily in partnership,including coordinating the Low Carbon Oxford network – a local collaborative of over 40 organisations that are responsible for the majority of Oxford’s CO2 emissions and which have committed to reduce their emissions by 3% each year. The Council is participating in OxFutures II Growing Oxfordshire’s Low Carbon Economy, a multi-stakeholder partnership to grow Oxfordshire’s low carbon economy through assisting SMEs to reduce energy consumption and implement energy efficiency projects.”
Oxford Mail – 30 January 2019:
‘Climate emergency’ in Oxford as council rejects Expressway plans