Oxford University is the City’s Single Biggest Polluter

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The city council has revealed that 80% of Oxford’s emissions comes from buildings, with the University being the biggest contributor. The findings came from the council’s Climate Emergency Strategy Support report, released in September 2019.

Among the buildings sector, the institutional buildings sub-sector is responsible for over 25% of the city’s total emissions. This is in part due to the high energy requirements associated with them, such as libraries, halls of residence and event spaces. Transport is the next largest contributor to Oxford’s emissions at 17%.

Tom Hayes, cabinet member for Zero Carbon Oxford has said, “as a city council, we have crucial control over key causes of carbon emissions and, now that we’re armed with the latest evidence, we’ll look at the levers we can pull on directly to reduce emissions”.

He added, “we can’t tackle climate change alone and, critically, this report tells us the types of partnerships we need to build to tackle our climate emergency at a local level”.

The University is surely one such target of the council’s attention. Oxford University says on its website that, “Large organisations like our University, with hundreds of buildings and thousands of staff and students have a significant part to play in reducing carbon emissions and waste. Oxford takes this duty seriously and is committed to making more efficient use of resources and sourcing sustainable goods and services”.

One such project the University cites is The Hub, launched in 2017 by Kellogg College. The Hub is Oxford’s first Passivhaus certified building. Passivhaus is a low energy design standard, which seeks to reduce the need for additional heating.

More recently, Teddy Hall has announced the launch of its ‘hanging garden’. Principal Professor Katherine Willis, who was formerly the director of sciences at Kew Gardens, thought up the unique horticultural feature in an effort to make Teddy Hall “the greenest and most environmentally sustainable college in Oxford”.

The garden forms part of the college’s ten year strategy to reduce carbon emissions and produce all of its own energy by 2030 by implementing geothermal energy, solar panels, and biodigesters.

The installation of green walls is just one of the environmental strategies, as it also aims to reduce its energy usage by 5% in the next 5 years, decrease the use of single-use plastics and improve recycling.

This kind of innovative environmental thinking from the city council and some colleges signifies an ambitious response to the current climate crisis that has been brought to the forefront of public consciousness in recent years.

Image: Nikola Belopitov