Friends of the Earth, an international network of environmentalist organisations, has published a new report entitled “Fast Forward Oxfordshire” detailing their vision of a sustainable Oxford by the year 2040.
Published earlier this week, the report highlights the magnitude of the impending climate breakdown and outlines steps which must be taken on both a local and national level in government to deliver a fairer and healthier society.
Friends of the Earth Oxford begin the report by setting out the need for dramatic and fundamental changes to address climate collapse.
They assert that the changes currently being made fail to meet the pace of what is required to avoid environmental collapse.
Divided into six sectors: homes & settlements, transport, work, energy, food, and nature, each section begins with a short description of an ordinary scenario in 2040, but whose artefacts differ drastically from contemporary life.
In one example, a pair of friends decide to eat out at a restaurant. Unusually, they decide that they will eat from the restaurant’s “meat” page. In this alternative society, meat has become a rare experience which is described as “strange and different.’’
Additional proposed edits to the county include a new tram railway service, a set of long-distance bike routes, the re-inclusion of beavers in the county’s ecosystem, and a new electric vehicle plant in Cowley.
Oxford City Councillor Tom Hayes, Cabinet Member for Zero Carbon Oxford, said: “It’s not enough to declare a climate emergency and fail to follow up with action. “I strongly welcome this facts-first report which gives the councils that I work with more of the solutions they need to meet the climate crisis. Some of the suggested policies will be challenging to implement, but we must rise to the challenge.
“It’s not just about getting serious about becoming a zero carbon county it’s also about enjoying cleaner transport, homes to be proud of, and greener spaces.”
Aside from combatting climate change, the report makes the case for a range of societal changes intended to improve universal quality of life and encourage a “safer” society.
For example, Fast Forward Oxfordshire says that travellers should be pushed away from cars towards more sustainable means of transport, like trains or cycling.
The suggested policies include workplace parking levies, congestion charging and even constraining road space.
While commuters are driven away from driving, cycling and rail infrastructure should be improved, including the commissioning of new rail links and re-commissioning of old, now disused rail lines.
Although the report made no specific requests or references to Oxford University, there is a general call to use public investment to minimise inequality.
It also promotes the advantages of harnessing the spending power of ‘anchor institutions’ which includes universities.
A spokesperson for the University of Oxford said: “The University, our staff and our students are deeply engaged in improving our sustainability.
“Through our Green Impact scheme, around 6,500 members of staff and students have taken actions to encourage more sustainable workplaces. Our Student Switch-Off campaign, which encourages practical energy saving and recycling, involves more than 3,000 students every year.
“The University has invested over £4 million in carbon reduction projects and emissions have fallen steadily since 2010, despite a large expansion in the size of the University estate.
“The University switched to a 100% wind power supply from Scottish Power in 2017, for which we pay a premium.
“More than 4,200 square metres of solar power panels have been installed across the University estate. “We know there is more to be done and will continue to work with partners across Oxfordshire on actions to tackle climate change.”