Greens welcome the creation by Oxford City Council of a Climate Emergency budget (arising out of a motion proposed by the Greens in Autumn 2018 and passed by Oxford City Council in January 2019). Says Green Councillor Dick Wolff, "This is the direct result of pressure being applied by Green Councillors. There is no denying that this is a modest, but nonetheless welcome, step forward. However, there is much which is still uncertain and there are key demands from the Citizen’s Assembly, echoed by local climate campaigners, which will NOT be met by the measures proposed."
Green commentary on proposed measures:
1 Council commitment: Become net zero as a Council in 2020.
Green commentary: This excludes Council assets such as the thousands of social houses still owned by the Council which are not included in the ‘net zero’ definition being used. There is no commitment to make new homes built by the Council net zero and there is no commitment to making non-residential new build e.g. the new community centre buildings (East Oxford and Bullingdon) net zero.
2 Council commitment: Respond directly to the recommendations of the Citizens’ Assembly through raising the energy efficiency of new homes and community buildings, cutting transport emissions, boosting renewable energy installation, expanding biodiversity across the city, and increasing public engagement with recycling.
Green commentary: These commitments, and plans to reach the aspirational targets, remain vague and the Council has committed to some proposals which will actually lead to increased carbon emissions. For example, on transport, the Council is currently spending £6m expanding car parking and has recently agreed the Oxford North proposals (which by creating 4,500 new jobs without sufficient housing will increase car commuting into Oxford).
3 Council commitment: Hold a Zero Carbon Oxford summit in the early new year – involving the major organisations responsible for the majority of emissions in the city to see how we can work together to will be to develop a shared vision, forum, and plans to set a course towards a Zero Carbon Oxford. AND Establish a Zero Carbon Oxford Partnership and influence partners to do more.
Green commentary: Such a network ALREADY EXISTS. Low Carbon Oxford (http://lowcarbonoxford.org/), a network of over 40 organisations, was set up by the Council in 2010 but has been dormant for several years. This had regular meetings, a shared vision and worked in partnership. Rather than being a new initiative this is merely a welcome refresh of a previous network that the Council had allowed to fade away.
4 Council commitment: Creation of new carbon budgets for the city to step down to zero
Green commentary: This is a genuinely welcome new initiative which will support and inform other net zero projects. However, the Council has set no net zero target year for the City as a whole.
5 Council commitment: Provide support to individuals and communities to tackle the climate emergency.
Green commentary: Commitments to individuals and communities remain vague. There are already ‘low carbon’ community groups across the City which are currently NOT supported by the City Council.
6 Council commitment: Spend an £1m extra revenue and £18m extra capital on tackling the climate emergency
Green commentary: These figures sound a lot but they are spread over four years and represent just 1% and 4.5% of the City's proposed revenue and capital budgets respectively. It is not yet clear how this money will be spent or how much of it is genuinely 'new' money. It could be argued that much of the remaining capital expenditure is being spent on developments (such as car park expansion) which will make it MORE DIFFICULT for the City to achieve net zero emissions.
FMI: Cllr Craig Simmons 0773 980 3047