Getting started at the Low Carbon Communities conference

January 14th, 2012 by Kate Griffin Leave a reply »

When a national low-carbon event happens just a short bus ride away, it would be rude not to pop along. That’s why Sustainable Witney sent two delegates to the Low Carbon Communities conference today.

The opening presentations made it obvious why Oxford had been chosen as this year’s location: it’s a place where all sorts of exciting low-carbon projects happen. Barbara Hammond, wearing her Low Carbon West Oxford hat, told us about the schemes happening within a short walk of the conference centre itself: a micro-hydro scheme at Osney Mill as well as plenty of solar projects. She spoke about the need to celebrate Oxford’s industrial heritage, because industrial innovation is an important part of the fight against climate change. For example, did you know that one of the world’s first power stations was in Oxford?

The city as a whole has reduced its per capita emissions by 14% since 2005 – but we really need to know how, so that we can build on the more effective strategies. (It’s important to note, though this wasn’t raised during the speech, that if per capita emissions are reduced through deindustrialisation then that’s just pushing the carbon emissions elsewhere rather than a genuine reduction to be proud of.)

Widening the focus to Oxfordshire as a whole, we learnt that the county has 67 active low-carbon community groups. That’s a far cry from the early 1980s when there were just a handful.

We then heard from Becky Willis of The Co-operative. She spoke about the Co-op’s work with community energy groups and how they’re hard to “put in a box”. She described them as a whole new way of getting investment into the energy system, but explained that central government has trouble coping with the concept because it potentially cuts across so many different departments: energy, education, local government and so on. She said that on the Continent, energy co-operatives work with local authorities, energy companies and other bodies whereas UK energy co-ops tend to exhibit “heroic amateurism” and try to “reinvent the wheel” rather than linking together to share experience.

The final speaker at the opening session was Baroness Worthington, environmental campaigner and Labour peer. She later spoke at a dedicated session on European carbon allowances.

That concluded the opening session. Sustainable Witney will have more write-ups from the conference over the next few days.

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