Agenda item

Chairman's announcements

To receive any announcements from the chairman and general housekeeping matters.


Sue Cooper arrived partway through this item and took no part in the discussion.


Chair’s Inaugural Statement


The Chair addressed the Committee and the public who were present. The full text of her statement was;


‘Globally, we have 11 years to turn around our carbon emissions. Other local councils have responded by setting targets for their districts and cities to reach carbon zero by 2030, some even earlier. Climate breakdown is already upon us, with catastrophic events occurring daily, from Hurricane Dorian wreaking havoc in the Bahamas a couple of weeks ago leaving 50 dead and 70,000 homeless, to biblical floods in Northern Spain this week. The desertification of Mediterranean countries is underway, and hostile new natural environments are driving millions of people from their homelands.


Since Margaret Thatcher gave her speech on the dangers of global warming to the UN Assembly 30 years ago, we have emitted more carbon dioxide that we had emitted in the whole of human history before then. Do we then, in the next 30 years anticipate the breaking down of human civilisation?


It is not only our species that is affected. We are a part of nature, and nature is in crisis. Ours is amongst the most nature-depleted countries in the world, and outside of London, Oxfordshire is the worst in the South East of England. The older ones of us will remember the dawn chorus, a cacophony of sound replaced now by a soloist wood pigeon. We remember the roads littered with squashed hedgehogs, and rabbits cavorting in fields. All gone. We remember road visibility quickly diminishing as our car-windscreens covered up with the tiny corpses of thousands of insects. Not now.


We are in crisis. So what should we be doing?


Tonight we shall set a target for carbon-neutrality. We should hold this very clearly in our minds and then embark on the seismic shift to get there. We must change our Local Plan to ensure that every home built and all new settlements are carbon zero. We need to set our sights on a radically different district with people working near their homes to reduce commuting, and  walking, cycling or taking fast transit to wherever they want to go, without needing a private car. We want to see our landscape refilled with an abundance of diverse animals and plants.


For this, we will need people in our council: planners, administrators and communicators to advise our citizens and lobby higher authorities. Tonight, we will consider setting up officer project groups to work with ‘task and finish’ councillor groups. We want to work interactively with all levels of society to embed climate action into our normal lives. We need citizens to engage with us and shall consider setting up a Residents’ Panel.


The District Council has a vital function in co-ordinating work across society. Council staff have done a terrific job putting this report together showing what actions are already underway and what actions can be built upon. We will review these for costing and appraisal and set about resourcing them. Some things we can do now; some through liaison with appropriate partners; and some will require new resource, and then, we can have programmes ready and waiting for the moment that Government wakes up to the demands of its own Committee on Climate Change, which states that action must be co-ordinated and funded at council level.


Beyond our next steps, we need to delineate clear paths to our endpoint, setting up new programmes to tackle hard-to-manage issues. Take the retrofit of existing homes for energy efficiency. Essentially, we have picked the low-hanging fruit with loft and cavity insulation. Now we have to deal with solid wall insulation and other complex tasks. We should set up a bold new programme to manage the bespoke retrofit of every one of the 60,000 homes in our district, including the inefficient homes that are being built currently.


Where we once led the world, austerity and the slashing of all things green has tipped us off course for meeting our UK climate targets. For us in South Oxfordshire financial and organisational constraints are hurdles to overcome. We have been starved of funds since 2010 and run on half our previous budget, annually dipping into reserves to meet our obligations. Complex council processes have brought us to this meeting today, from when we declared a Climate Emergency in April 2019. Now may be the time when we must speed up normal processes to react faster to this crisis and we will address this in Item 9 of the agenda. Let us tonight show the leadership that is so strongly required. South Oxfordshire could set the bar as the UK once did with its 2008 Climate Act.’


Public Climate Emergency Events


The Chair announced that Friday 20 September 2019 was the Global Strike for Climate Day, which would be marked by marches and events around the world. There would be events in Oxford.


Sunday 22 September 2019 would be Car Free Day. The event, backed by Oxfordshire County Council and Oxford City Council, encouraged motorists to get out of their cars to highlight the benefits of traffic-free streets, including reduced air pollution.


From Saturday 23 November to Sunday 1 December 2019, there would be National Tree Week. This would be the UK's largest annual tree celebration, marking the start of the winter tree planting season (November to March each year).