A new ECI report has challenged Oxfordshire’s key decision-makers to embrace several new recommendations aimed at supporting the county’s drive towards a zero-carbon future.
The ‘Pathways to a Zero Carbon Oxfordshire’ report - created by the University of Oxford’s Environmental Change Institute, alongside leading sustainability organisation Bioregional and backed by the Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (OxLEP) - has highlighted several pathways for the county to achieve a zero-carbon economy by 2050.
It also showcases the considerable sustainability expertise that exists in Oxfordshire, underpinned by a thriving world-class innovation ecosystem.
The report places a spotlight on the challenges ahead in transforming the county’s energy and transport systems, as well as the need to upgrade Oxfordshire’s building stock and use of land for carbon sequestration. It identifies areas where change and investment are urgently needed.
Separate chapters within the report focus on themes including; innovation, transport, buildings and heating, renewable energy, and land use.
The report highlights the successful deployment of solar energy in Oxfordshire and calls for an expansion of up to 10 times current levels. However, the authors also point to sectors where progress on reducing emissions has been slow, including energy efficiency and renewable heating in buildings and the transport sector.
They predict that the rapid uptake of electric vehicles in the next decade will help to reduce carbon emissions and dirty air but emphasise the need for behavioural changes and infrastructure investment to drive uptake of active travel, shared mobility and home working.
Organisations to have contributed to the report include; Oxfordshire County Council, Low Carbon Hub, Cherwell District Council, Oxford City Council, West Oxfordshire District Council, South Oxfordshire District Council, Vale of White Horse District Council, Oxford Sciences Innovation, the Greater South East Energy Hub, Oxford Brookes University and Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks.
Ahmed Goga, Director of Strategy and Programmes at OxLEP, said: “The launch of the ‘Pathways to a Zero Carbon Oxfordshire’ report couldn’t be timelier with COP26 now just a few months away.
“This report offers our businesses and key decision makers practical solutions as to how we can create a zero-carbon future in Oxfordshire and - collectively - we absolutely encourage all communities from across the county to embrace it.”
Professor Nick Eyre from the Environmental Change Institute added: “This report makes clear that there are different possible routes to achieving a zero-carbon economy over the next three decades, depending on the types of technological and social change we decide to pursue.
“What is clear though is that transformative change will be needed in the ways in which we use and generate energy; design and use transport systems, and plan our use of land.”
Oxfordshire’s low carbon energy sector generates £1.15bn a year, and over the past half-decade, the county has attracted £2bn in foreign direct investment.
Meanwhile, the county’s Energy Strategy is set to help spearhead a further £1.35bn annually to the Oxfordshire economy, creating at least 11,000 new jobs in the low-carbon sector by 2030.
In addition, Oxford will be the first UK city to introduce a Zero Emissions Zone, and the county has over 270 community renewable energy projects, including the UK’s first community-owned solar and hydro schemes.
Oxfordshire County Council has welcomed the report - particularly in providing an evidence base for the transition to zero carbon and the role of partnerships in achieving these goals.
Councillor Dr Pete Sudbury, Cabinet Member for Climate Change Delivery and Environment at Oxfordshire County Council, said: “We are leading the way in cutting carbon, from getting our own house in order, by replacing the county’s street lighting with energy-efficient LED alternatives, to working with Innovate UK to develop a net-zero energy system for Oxfordshire.
“The decade to 2030 is a critical period to accelerate the decarbonisation of our economy. Building on the momentum that has been growing over the last ten years is a huge challenge, as acknowledged in the report. We will review the findings and recommendations in detail with our internal programme board and with our partners around the county so that we continue to respond to this climate emergency with the innovation, determination and dedication that it requires.”