One year on from OxLEP’s official COP26 roadshow event – delivered in partnership with the Greater South East Energy Hub – the organisation is reflecting on how far the county has come in its drive towards a zero-carbon future and how Oxfordshire’s innovation ecosystem continues to be poised to ‘do more’.
Focused around a ‘Billion Tonne Drop’ (in carbon emissions) theme, the COP26 event showcased how the county’s world-leading innovation ecosystem can generate major global carbon emission savings through the significant capabilities generated within Oxfordshire, including in the fields of fusion energy, solar power, construction, electric vehicles and aviation.
The COP26 event also explored how the county’s expertise could be scaled-up, at pace, and ultimately benefit the global fight against climate change.
It comes as this year’s COP27 continues with the fortnight of official activity taking place from 6-18 November in Sharm-el-Sheikh, Egypt set to build on the outcomes of COP26 to deliver action on an array of issues critical to tackling the climate emergency – from urgently reducing greenhouse gas emissions, building resilience and adapting to the inevitable impacts of climate change, to delivering on the commitments to finance climate action in developing countries.
Over the last year Oxfordshire has continued to ‘set the tone’ in advancing zero-carbon ambitions and back in September, OxLEP joined forces with the University of Oxford, Harwell Campus and the Culham Science Centre-based UKAEA to host the inaugural ‘OX to ZERO’ conference, with thought leaders showcasing how Oxfordshire leads the global charge in addressing the climate emergency, though key sectors including the following: fusion energy, transport, storage, low-carbon systems, CO2 removal and innovation.
In October, Oxfordshire also had a strong presence at the inaugural ‘Fusion 22’ national conference, which took place in London. The major event highlighted the potential of fusion energy, with numerous high-profile Oxfordshire names – who also happen to be some of the world’s most-influential representatives in the development of the green energy source – featuring across the programme of activity.
Examples of the county’s leading presence in accelerating fusion technology were further showcased earlier in the year, with results recorded at the Culham Science Centre’s Joint European Torus (JET) facility showing 59 megajoules of sustained fusion energy were achieved over a five-second period, with JET saying that this level more than doubled previous records dating back to 1997.
Other fusion companies calling Oxfordshire ‘home’ include Tokamak Energy and First Light Fusion, with Canadian industry-leader General Fusion also announcing it is set to build a ‘Fusion Demonstration Plant’ at Culham.
OxLEP is working with the government and the county’s fusion businesses to promote the investment and trade opportunities that the growing cluster and expertise in Oxfordshire and the UK offers – with inward investment crucial to scaling-up the county’s clean energy offering.
In Oxfordshire – prior to the pandemic – the low-carbon energy sector generated £1.15bn a year and over the past half-decade, the county has attracted £2bn in foreign direct investment in this area.
The Oxfordshire Energy Strategy – which was launched in November 2019 and led by OxLEP, with support from both the private and public sectors – backs a drive towards zero-carbon growth by 2050 with the aim of spearheading a further £1.35bn annually to the county’s economy, creating at least 11,000 new jobs in the low-carbon sector by 2030.
Sebastian Johnson – Head of Innovation and Inward Investment at OxLEP – said: “Oxfordshire has a history of delivering pioneering solutions to the world’s greatest challenges and we believe that the expertise and desire that exists in the county can be a critical driver to delivering the answers that can tackle the climate emergency head-on, and at pace too.
“Since our official COP26 roadshow event last year, Oxfordshire has continued to accelerate innovation in the drive towards net-zero ambitions and we – as the Local Enterprise Partnership for the county – continue to convene our world-leading innovators and collaborators to further these advancements.
“As this year’s COP27 fortnight continues, we want to highlight how – with the right level of investment – Oxfordshire is well-set to ‘do more’ and create further solutions that can lead the global charge towards a zero-carbon future.”