Climate action project shortlisted for national award

A string of initiatives aimed at tackling climate change have led to Oxfordshire County Council being shortlisted for a national award.

The council’s climate action programme project is one of six finalists in the Leadership in Responding to the Climate Emergency category of the Municipal Journal (MJ) Awards 2021.

Bill Cotton, Oxfordshire County Council’s Director of Environment and Place, said: “We are delighted that this programme has been shortlisted for an MJ Award and it highlights how Oxfordshire County Council is leading the way when it comes to tackling climate change at a regional level. “COVID-19 has changed our world and re-emphasised the need for climate action. The council is committed to enabling a zero carbon Oxfordshire and transforming our organisation to be carbon neutral by 2030.”

The council acknowledged the climate emergency in 2019 and published its Climate Action Framework in October 2020, setting out its commitments, which include playing a full role in enabling a zero carbon future for Oxfordshire, halving emissions by 2030 and reaching net zero by 2050.

Councillor Dr Pete Sudbury, Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Climate and Environment, said: “We are committed to taking real action to tackle the climate and ecological emergencies and it is gratifying to know that these efforts are being recognised. We recognise the increasing urgency of action and the need to increase both the pace and scale of our actions.

“Enormous changes are needed over the next decade, but across Oxfordshire, with our citizens and partners, we have the knowledge, drive, vision and energy to put this county at the leading edge of the global drive towards a greener, fairer, sustainable society.”

Climate action is a key priority for the new council leadership and its commitment to a zero carbon future is integrated into strategies, decision-making and service planning..

The council’s iHub, one of the largest in-house local authority innovation teams in the UK, has helped develop pioneering technology, business models and policy alongside its many partners countywide. Examples include:

  • Local Energy Oxfordshire, which is exploring how a smarter local electricity system could work and benefit households, businesses and communities.
  • Trialling the country’s first zero emissions zone in central Oxford in partnership with Oxford City Council to reduce carbon emissions and air pollution.
  • Developing the Oxfordshire electric vehicle infrastructure strategy in partnership with the county’s district councils to help more people make the switch from fossil fuel vehicles.
  • A mapping tool to identify opportunities for tree planting across the county.

The council is also stepping up its action on corporate emissions through a series of measures, including:

  • Bringing its approach to the climate emergency in line with the stringent proposals in the Climate and Ecology Bill.
  • Taking account of all of its climate impacts, including outsourced services and those resulting from council decisions
  • Converting Oxfordshire's streetlighting to LEDs, which will result in a 70 per cent reduction in CO2, by 2026.
  • Replacing its cars and vans with electric vehicles by default.
  • Using green grid electricity on its corporate estates and maintained schools since 2020.
  • Ongoing estate decarbonisation and energy generation projects.
  • Solar investment including a grid application for a solar farm.

Other areas where the council has taken early climate action include implementing walking and cycling initiatives across the county, recycling and composting 58.8 per cent of all household waste – the highest in England for the seventh year in a row – and trialling carbon management pilots for major infrastructure projects to reduce emissions.

The winner will be announced at the awards ceremony in London on Friday 17 September. Oxford City Council is among the other finalists, alongside Cornwall Council, the London Borough of Hounslow, Manchester City Council and Stroud District Council.

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