EARLIER this month, Oxford City Council appointed its first ever scientific advisor, Professor Nick Eyre.

Prof Eyre will give the council advice on decisions around its commitment to tackle climate change.

Below he writes on the subject ‘Climate Change – What should Oxford do?’

The science of climate change is increasingly well-understood.

The overwhelming scientific consensus is that the world is warming, largely due to emissions of carbon dioxide.

And we know its main sources: burning of fossil fuels and, to a lesser extent, deforestation.

READ AGAIN: Professor appointed as Oxford's first ever chief public scientist

Climate change is already having impacts. Although it’s a global problem, the impacts are unevenly felt.

In Oxford, it’s only too apparent that flooding has become more common in recent years.

In many other places, the main impacts of extreme weather are droughts and storms that disproportionately affect some of the poorest people in the poorest countries.

So climate change has to be stopped.

To do this, carbon dioxide emissions have to be reduced, starting now and eventually to zero.

Oxford Mail:

Prof Nick Eyre

The Governments of the world committed to do this as part of the Paris Agreement in 2015, but they are still a long way off delivering on this goal.

A major international meeting to agree the next practical steps was scheduled for this month in Glasgow, but has been delayed for a year, due to the pandemic.

However, the climate crisis has not gone away, so governments around the world will still need to take stronger action.

In Britain, we have made some progress, reducing emissions by 40 per cent over the 30 years since climate change was identified as a major problem.

Most emissions reduction has come from better energy efficiency, using less energy to provide the same services, for example by using better designed vehicles, lighting and heating.

The other main contribution has been from increased use of renewable energy, especially wind and solar energy, for which costs of have fallen dramatically in recent years.

Some scientists are looking at other ideas, like new nuclear power stations, or capturing carbon dioxide from the air to bury underground, or putting mirrors in space to reflect sunlight.

But the evidence is now clear that using energy efficiency and renewable energy will be quicker and cheaper, as well as creating jobs and reducing air pollution.

In short, we already know much of what needs to be done; the priority is to get on and do it.

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Unfortunately, the UK Government has reduced its support for both energy efficiency and renewables in recent years.

Fortunately, we do not need to wait for central Government action. We can ‘think globally, but act locally’.

Renewable energy and energy efficiency can both be funded and delivered in local communities.

In Oxfordshire, the Low Carbon Hub has done ground-breaking work to develop renewable energy projects.

And many of the changes needed can be supported by our local councils, as part of their core functions, such as planning, housing, transport and waste management.

In an urban area like Oxford city the main focus needs to be reducing the carbon footprint of our buildings and transport.

Some of the measures needed are well-known – better insulated buildings, improved public transport, support for cycling and walking, and tree planting.

But we will need to go further if the aspirations for a zero carbon city are to be delivered.

It will require new technologies: every vehicle will need to be powered by renewable electricity or another carbon-free fuel; and every building will need a low-carbon heating system, such as a heat pump.

These types of measures were discussed at the Oxford Citizens Assembly on climate change last year.

There was a strong feeling that change is possible and desirable, and therefore that Oxford should seek to be a leader in the move to zero carbon.

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As the City Council’s new scientific advisor on climate change, my role will be to help ensure that debates and decisions are properly informed.

We can be proud that our elected politicians are taking climate change seriously.

The path to a zero carbon city will not be easy, and there will doubtless be controversial issues. So our local politicians will need to show leadership.

As citizens and voters, we will need to ensure that they do.