Council greenhouse gas emissions reduce by 8.4% in single year towards zero carbon by 2030 goal

Council greenhouse gas emissions reduce by 8.4% in  single year towards zero carbon by 2030 goal

Oxford City Council’s greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) across its own estate and operations have reduced by 8.4% in a single year, as it moves towards its zero carbon by 2030 goal.

The Council measures the greenhouse gas emissions from its buildings – including offices, leisure centres and car parks – vehicles and water use every year.

The latest Greenhouse Gas Emissions report covers the reporting year 2019/20 – before the coronavirus pandemic hit.

It found that the Council reduced its underlying greenhouse gas emissions by 4.0% – from 7,741 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions in 2018/19 to 7,425 tonnes in 2019/20.

However, when taking in to consideration the inclusion of Renewable Energy Guarantees of Origin (REGO) certified electricity, the Council’s overall reduction in emissions between 2018/19 and 2019/20 was 8.4%.

REGO sourced electricity matches the equivalent volume of electricity that the Council uses each year, with renewable energy electricity generated elsewhere as an offsetting approach.

Contributing to the annual decrease in the Council’s GHG emissions also included:

  • The Council’s wholly-owned company ODS reduced its diesel fuel carbon emissions by 6%
  • The Council’s leisure centres reduced their carbon emissions by 3.5%
  • The Council continued to reduce the use of grid-generated electricity at Council owned sites, with the equivalent of about 11% of the Council’s electricity now being generated using solar energy on its buildings and assets

During 2019/20 the Council also installed one of the UK’s largest public solar car ports over the car park at the Leys Pools and Leisure Centre in Blackbird Leys.

The latest figures follow the Council’s announcement earlier last month on how it plans to become a Zero Carbon Council by 2030.

Since 2014/15, the Council has achieved a 45.8% reduction in its carbon emissions.

Council’s carbon emissions

The largest contributors to the Council’s carbon emissions are:

  • The Council’s leisure centres (Barton, Ferry and Leys leisure centres, Hinksey Outdoor Pool, and Oxford Ice Rink), which account for more than 44% of its greenhouse gas emissions
  • ODS’ fleet of vehicles (which include Oxford’s recycling collection, gritting and road maintenance vehicles), which accounts for 31.1% of the Council’s total emissions

Plans to tackle carbon emissions

The Council will become net zero carbon for its direct activities – where it pays the energy, fuel and water bills – by the end of this year. This will be achieved in part by offsetting any residual emissions using high quality carbon offsets where possible.

The Council aims to reach absolute zero carbon – minimising the use of offsetting where at all possible – for its direct activities by 2030.

To achieve this, the Council is aiming for an average annual emission cut of 10% (approximately 530 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions) every year until 2030 – double the current 5% target.

The 2030 target was announced in the Council’s Carbon Management Plan for 2021/22 to 2029/30.

The Council is responsible for just 1% of Oxford’s carbon emissions.

Work to tackle carbon emissions

The Council is carrying out a wide range of activity to reach the zero carbon goal by 2030, including:

The Council has been purchasing REGO sourced supplies for the past three years, and since October 2020 has been purchasing around 10% of its gas supplies from certified green gas sources.

Green energy purchase through certified renewable energy sources is a first step along the pathway to zero carbon but greener approaches to energy purchase are becoming more accessible and will be pursued to help drive forward faster development of renewable energy supply capacity in the UK.

For example, traceable power purchase agreements (PPAs) of electricity supply linked to local solar farms (as well as Council investment in such installations) is one example of greener electricity supply that the Council will be pursuing.

The Council also recognises its ability to help deliver change through working in partnership with key stakeholders in the city to help reduce the two largest sources of emissions in Oxford – buildings and road transport.

Last month, the Council held the Zero Carbon Oxford Summit with leaders from major businesses and organisations across the city. The Summit saw leaders give their support to the aspiration of Oxford becoming a net zero as a city by 2040, sign the Zero Carbon Oxford Charter, and form the new Zero Carbon Oxford Partnership.

Councillor Tom Hayes, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Green Transport and Zero Carbon Oxford, said: “This Council continues to make significant annual reductions in our carbon footprint, so that we meet our climate emergency. We're not in the business of managing carbon reduction, we're in the business of eliminating our contribution to climate change. We have upped our ambition from annual reductions of 5% to 10% as part of our new Zero Carbon Council by 2030 plan. 

“This Council accounts for 1% of the city’s emissions and, although we’ve slashed our emissions by significant amounts, we want to eliminate 100 per cent of our footprint. Ours is a scientifically based, robust action approach which secures significant funding. It's our ambition which has just secured £10.9m of investment in the Council’s decarbonisation efforts so that we can meet a third of our funding gap to becoming Zero Carbon by 2030 in this year alone."

Simon Howick, Managing Director at ODS, said: “ODS is fully invested in the Zero Carbon Council Vision and operates following the Oxford model, which ensures that we adopt a transparent and ethical approach to our business. Our values are at the heart of everything we do, which help us to deliver on our promise of doing good for our community.

"Since 2018 we have actively worked in improving our CO2 emissions with the use of telematics for example, and are on track to converting over 25% our fleet to electric by 2023. Last year, we installed ODS’s first 50kW rapid electric charger for our fleet vehicles as part of the £41m Energy Superhub Oxford project.

“We have also recently won a grant to collaborate with Oxfordshire County Council to develop an innovative and cost-effective device that could allow households without off-street parking to charge electric vehicles at home. Finally, we are delighted to see Oxford’s first electric refuse collection vehicle quietly at work.”