Tom Hayes, Oxford City Council Labour member for St Clement's

How much higher will our global temperature rise? I don’t know, and, sadly, nor do you. But, what we do know is that global warming is disrupting our lives in Oxford.

Last year, many of us had to barricade our front doors with Oxford City Council-distributed sandbags to stop rising waters from flooding homes.

Caused by unusually heavy rainfall, this severe flooding is being blamed on climate change by an Oxford University study.

In recent years, air pollution levels in Oxford have reached worrying high levels.

In 2012 there were 60 breaches of Oxford’s hourly mean for nitrogen dioxide. In 2013 this fell to more than 10 breaches.

These are just two illustrations of our changing climate but they hopefully stress the importance of changing course.

It’s not that we’ve done nothing to tackle the problem, it’s that we’ve done less than is needed for natural processes to clean the 43 per cent carbon dioxide excess in the environment.

Had the politicians running things before I was born heeded the climate science, they would have headed off the warming that is causing difficulties today.

Put bluntly, what we’ve done to stop warming is much less than everything we’ve done in that time to make the situation worse.

That’s why the election taking place on May 7 offers a new and overdue opportunity for dramatically changing course.

Within months of taking office, the next Prime Minister is going to be charged with negotiating the best possible UN climate deal at five-yearly talks in Paris. The United Nations summit in Copenhagen in 2009 fell into farce as countries refused to do deals.

This time, the big polluters want a deal after seeing the effects of uncontrolled emissions.

We need a binding pact setting ambitious targets for meeting the pledge secured in 2009 by the last Government to limit temperatures to 2C.

In line with such a deal, the next Prime Minister will have to pass a law to further reduce our emissions.

It’s pathetic that the 2008 Climate Change Act is the most ambitious climate legislation anywhere in the world today.

We have a fantastic chance to build momentum and agree the strongest possible law with the tightest of emissions targets.

In many ways, Oxford provides a model for changing course, which really amounts to leaving 80 per cent of fossil fuels in the ground, unburned, at a faster rate.

The city council is making investments in renewable energy.

A £2.3m loan ensured a social enterprise’s community share offer to fund renewable energy to power a small village exceeded its £1.5m target inside nine weeks.

Initiatives to ‘power down’ are happening in Barton, which improve the energy efficiency of homes, lowering energy use and bills. Introduced in January 2014, a low emissions zone is doing sterling work to clean our air.

The breaches of recent years fell to zero last year.

However, the city council’s approach is not stirring the Government – in spite of an Oxford MP’s pressure – to develop a national plan, meaning councils make their way at different speeds.

In its environmentalism, the city council is rethinking how to put social and financial value at the heart of its responses to slashed government contributions.

We’re trying to show that the values driving our work are the most important to local people.

Residents tell me they feel empowered to see this and our promises never to invest in fossil fuel burners and allow any fracking in our area.

When you try to get your communities through the toughest years they’ll know because of spending cuts, it’s heartening to hear this.

But the thought follows of how much more this council could do given the room to breathe.

And this election excites me because it offers the chance of an environmentalist Government seizing upcoming opportunities. But it also offers a new local government landscape in which councillors can achieve even more for the climate.