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Oxford Council aims for net-zero emissions in 2020

Oxford City Council has released plans to bring its carbon emissions to net-zero by 2020. The announcement comes a year after the Council declared a climate emergency which led to the creation of a Citizens’ Assembly whose purpose was to find ways for Oxford to reduce emissions and set new carbon targets.

Currently, Oxford City Council is responsible for about 1 percent of the city’s greenhouse gas emissions. The Council’s electricity supply already comes from 100 percent renewable sources while the Council’s natural gas provider contract comes to an end this year. This plan would ensure that the Council works with a gas provider who uses green gas.

“In this situation, we are talking about doing energy and water differently,” said Tom Hayes, a cabinet member of Zero Carbon Oxford, during a Council meeting. Hayes also talked about how this plan was a way for the Council to turn its large-scale ideas into actions.

Establishing a zero-emission zone (ZEZ) is part of the Council’s plan to reduce emissions city-wide, since most of the emissions and air pollution in the city centre is caused by motorised traffic.

Councillor Yvonne Constance, cabinet member for the environment on the council, said “I am really pleased that at the start of the New Year we are on track to introduce the Zero Emission Zone in Oxford by the end of 2020. Not only will this project make a huge difference to the quality of life and health of people living and working in the city centre, we are showing that it is possible as we start to respond seriously to the climate emergency. This is a great way to start an important decade of climate action.”

Increasing biodiversity in the city is another way the Council wants to offset emissions. These efforts include increasing tree planting, maximizing the benefits from waterways, and producing a strategy to protect green spaces. The Council does not want to use these efforts as an excuse to keep producing fossil fuel emissions, rather, they want to make efforts to absorb the carbon already in the atmosphere.

Before the Council’s plan can move forward, their budget for the 2020-2021 financial year must be approved. The net-zero carbon emission plan commits £1 million of additional revenue and £18 million of capital funding to support the Council’s response to climate issues. These funds would be in addition to the £84 million that the Council already commits to addressing climate change problems.

If the Council were to accomplish its goal of net-zero carbon emissions by the end of this year and net-zero emissions in the Oxford city region by 2030, it would be far in advance of the UK’s goal to bring greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2050.

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