Agenda item

Update from Cabinet Member for Climate Action and the Environment

An update from Cabinet Member Councillor Bethia Thomas.


The Cabinet Member for Climate Action and the Environment updated the committee. She began by noting that this was the first time there had been a dedicated cabinet member for climate action and the environment as previously this had always been combined with other areas. The Cabinet Member highlighted this would support the committee in getting the serious focus they deserved.


The Cabinet Member reflected that the climate action team had been working hard on a number of projects since the committee last met including the electric vehicle community micro hub projects in partnership with Oxfordshire County Council. The project was aiming to deliver EV charging points in market towns and larger villages. The grant process for this was set to open in early 2024.


Decarbonisation assessments and reports had been completed for The Beacon and Abbey Meadows Pool and included recommendations for works to reduce carbon emissions. Officers would then look at options for implementation and obtaining external funding for this.


The Cabinet Member also informed the committee that the climate action team had been working with colleagues in the strategic property team to identify land owned by the council which might be used for the development of a solar farm. Work was at an early stage with further work under way to understand constraints with the sites and the costs associated.


The Cabinet Member noted that the Oxfordshire Local Nature Recovery Strategy was well under way and officers were involved in many of the associated working groups. She highlighted there would be workshops to allow members to have an input into defining the priorities for nature that would be included in the strategy.


The Cabinet Member informed the committee that the Annual Greenhouse Gas Emissions report for 2022/23 had been published on the council’s website. She went on to highlight that this was just a snapshot of the work the climate team had completed in recent months.


In questions to the Cabinet Member the committee commented that they had understood land was leased for the provision of solar farms and wondered if it would be more beneficial to site solar farms on Council owned land. The committee were advised that this would be the most beneficial arrangement and that options were being considered in sequential order with the most beneficial being considered first. The committee went on to comment that solar energy was one form of energy production and enquired if other options such as onshore wind farms or green waste had been looked at. Whilst these specific types of power generation had not been looked at officers went on to confirm that nothing was being ruled out. Officers went on to comment that previously government legislation had prevented wind farms but all options were being investigated as and when appropriate. The committee went on to query whether any consideration had been given to the logistics of utilising hydro power. The Climate and Biodiversity Team Leader advised that Thames structures were all owned by the Environment Agency and they had therefore been taking charge of any projects that they would allow investigation on for the installation of hydro energy production.