Oxfordshire County Council commits to do more to tackle climate change

With schoolchildren set to strike, raising awareness of global warming (on 15 March), Oxfordshire County Council believes young people are right to push for change, and has committed to do more to reduce its own ‘carbon footprint’.

The council already has a long-term programme to cut carbon emissions. Now, inspired by the young people’s determination, Councillor Yvonne Constance, member for the environment, has announced that, later this year, there will be a review of existing commitments to cut carbon emissions by 3% annually.

There has already been an average 6% per year reduction in the council’s carbon emissions since 2011; that’s double the target.

But Councillor Constance is determined to do more.

She said: “We will set ourselves ambitious but achievable targets. We are determined to make a big stride in the right direction.”

Oxfordshire County Council is already delivering a series of ‘green’ initiatives, including helping install more solar panels on schools.

Solar Schools is a partnership between the council and not-for-profit organisation Low Carbon Hub, funded from resident shareholders who make an ethical investment to fund solar panels for a small annual return.

Brookside School, in Bicester, is the latest to benefit from the scheme; panels were installed over the recent half term holiday.

The 20 Oxfordshire County Council maintained Solar Schools generate electricity to the equivalent needed to power 150 households, saving over 260 tonnes of carbon per year.

As part of its ‘big switch’, the council is committed to replacing the remaining 50,000 street lights with low energy lighting over the next four years. This will reduce Oxfordshire’s greenhouse emissions from streetlighting by 70%.

The investment will also include a communications system between streetlights, allowing dimming of groups of lights when they’re not needed.

The council supports a 65 strong network of Community Action Groups (CAG) at the forefront of community-led climate change action. They organise events and projects on issues including waste, transport, food, energy, biodiversity and social justice.

Groups are working to establish community fridges to reduce food waste and share surplus. They run workshops, teaching residents how to repair items, keeping products in use for longer. Working with local businesses, they help them reduce their impact on the environment; for example, Abingdon Carbon Cutters. And recruit refill stations for water, such as Refill Oxford, and detergents (SESI) to reduce waste from single use plastics.

County Councillor Yvonne Constance said:

“Today’s schoolchildren will inherit what we leave behind. It is unforgiveable if that’s a polluted planet, damaged by global warming and rising sea levels. I admire the determination and passion of these young people.

“Oxfordshire County Council is proud to be at the forefront of many ‘green’ initiatives, from the 20 Solar Schools, to reducing our ‘carbon footprint’, better waste management, and working in partnership with residents and volunteers as a thriving community.

“But we’re not complacent, and we recognise the challenge everyone faces to reduce waste, and prevent global temperatures rising.

“We will do more, because we want our children, and our children’s children to have a bright future. A ‘green’ future.”