County council fails to meet 'tough targets' to cut carbon emissions

Alan Armitage

Alan Armitage

First published in News Banbury Cake: Photograph of the Author by

LIMITING staff travel and making buildings more efficient have failed to help Oxfordshire County Council meet its own energy reduction targets.

Five years ago, the council pledged to cut 11,368 tonnes of its annual carbon footprint, the equivalent of 18 per cent, by 2012.

But now the council has admitted the figure is closer to 10 per cent.

Witney MP David Cameron helped launch the county’s carbon reduction programme when he was leader of the opposition in 2007.

But as the fifth year of the programme draws to a close, the council has admitted the actual reduction figure is 6,550 tonnes, or 10.4 per cent.

The main way the council has cut its carbon footprint is by reducing energy consumption in its buildings by seven per cent over the five years.

At a meeting of the council’s growth and infrastructure scrutiny committee on Monday, officers and some councillors said figures were still encouraging.

But Lib Dem deputy group leader Alan Armitage launched a scathing attack on the council, claiming the programme had failed.

He said: “I remember when this was launched there was a great deal of razzmatazz at Oxford Castle with David Cameron, but against that target we have achieved 10 per cent.

“I think that’s very poor, in fact I think it’s unacceptable. We’ve achieved very little in five years.”

In a report to the committee, council environment director Huw Jones accepted the council had failed to meet its targets.

He said: “The council’s investment in energy efficiency has delivered significant savings but has not achieved in full the ambitious targets that were set.

“There are more lessons to be learnt from aiming high and not quite achieving the target than from easily achieving an unambitious target.”

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Deputy growth and infrastructure director Martin Tugwell told the meeting there were “reasons to be optimistic”.

He said a Government target set in 1990 required councils to cut 28 per cent of their carbon dioxide emissions from buildings, transport and street lighting by 2017.

He said the authority had achieved that target with five years ahead of the deadline.

Labour’s John Tanner said: “For the past couple of years the county council has done very well with this.”

Cabinet member for growth and infrastructure Hilary Hibbert-Biles said: “I think everybody, districts and county, are actually going all out to achieve what we need to do.”

The council is exploring a project called ‘How low can you go?’ in February to encourage employees to switch equipment off at night to save energy.

Energy savings were achieved by making buildings more efficient and reducing the mileage of council staff, among other initiatives.

The comments come after schools were urged by the council to cut their carbon emissions in order to help decrease its energy tax bill.

As revealed in the Oxford Mail last week, the council is passing on the estimated £360,000 annual bill to schools for the first time.

In March 2010, an Oxford Mail survey revealed that 18 out of 43 shops in Cornmarket Street were leaving their lights on overnight. The survey did not include any local government buildings.

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