Climate Lockdowns?

Published on 22 January 2023 at 23:08

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Climate Lockdowns?

Countries around the world ordered lockdowns throughout the course of the COVID-19 pandemic in an attempt to contain the rapid spread of the disease. 

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The claim: Oxfordshire government voted to test 'climate lockdown' in 2024

Countries around the world ordered lockdowns throughout the course of the COVID-19 pandemic in an attempt to contain the rapid spread of the disease. 

Now, some claim a city in the United Kingdom is working to impose new "climate lockdowns" on residents. 

"Oxfordshire Council to Trial a Climate Lockdown Starting 2024," reads the headline of a Dec. 4 story published by the website Watts Up With That.  

"Oxfordshire County Council yesterday approved plans to lock residents into one of six zones to ‘save the planet’ from global warming. The latest stage in the ’15 minute city’ agenda is to place electronic gates on key roads in and out of the city, confining residents to their own neighborhoods," reads part of the article.

The story was shared more than 3,000 times on Facebook, according to the social media analytics tool CrowdTangle. Other versions of the claim have spread widely on Facebook and Instagram

But the claim is false. 

The article misconstrues the facts around a new traffic reduction plan approved by the Oxford County Council in Oxfordshire, U.K., in November. The new traffic reduction system will restrict drivers from accessing certain main roads during daytime hours through the use of "traffic filters."

The city will utilize traffic cameras to track and fine drivers who drive in certain areas at certain times, but no physical barriers will be added to roads. Residents will be free to move around the city and utilize other streets and modes of transportation.  

USA TODAY reached out to Watts Up With That? and several Facebook and Instagram users who shared the claim for comment.


UK County Council votes to approve traffic filters, not 'climate lockdown'

A joint statement from the Oxfordshire County and City Councils acknowledged the barrage of erroneous posts circulating online and said the claims were incorrect.

“Staff and counselors at both councils have been subjected to abuse due to inaccurate information, being circulated online, about traffic filters,” the statement reads. “The traffic filters are not physical barriers of any kind and will not be physical road closures. They are simply traffic cameras that can read number plates.”

Councillor Liam Walker, who opposed the traffic filters plan, called the claims of a climate lockdown "completely untrue."

"Residents aren’t on lockdown & traffic can enter/exit the different zones," he said in a tweet. "Attack them on the facts not on conspiracy theories."

Traffic congestion has been a notable issue in Oxford for years

Drivers who choose to ignore the traffic filters and drive on these roads will be fined £70, roughly the equivalent of $85. 

Vehicles such as buses, taxis, motorcycles and emergency vehicles, as well as bicycles and pedestrians, will still have free access to these roads. Car owners will be able to apply for daylong permits to bypass the new traffic filters without being fined. 

Tom Jennings, a communication manager at Oxford City Council, said the city will remain accessible to all residents by car regardless if they've applied for a permit or not. 

"Residents will still be able to drive to every part of the city at any time," he told Australia Associated Press. "But in the future, during certain times of the day, you may need to take a different route – e.g. using the ring road – if you want to travel by car.”

Jennings did not respond to a request for comment from USA TODAY.

These kinds of traffic filters have been previously utilized by the county and other cities across the U.K. in a bid to manage congestion and support public transport. 

Fact check: 'Rockefeller Playbook' and 'Operation Lockstep' are hoaxes

Traffic filters don't confine residents to their neighborhoods

The Watts Up With That? article claims the traffic plan is part of a conspiracy to confine residents to their neighborhoods, which they call the "15 minute city agenda." 

But those claims conflate the new traffic plan and another proposal made by the Oxfordshire City Council that seeks to promote access to essential services so they are within a 15-minute walk of all residents.

Avni Gupta, a senior communications officer at Oxfordshire County Council, confirmed the plans were unrelated in a statement to the Australia Associated Press

The posts misstate the aim of the Council proposal, which was based in part on the 15-Minute City concept coined by Carlos Moreno of Pantheon Sorbonne University.

"The 15-minute neighborhoods proposal aims to ensure that every resident has all the essentials (shops, healthcare, parks) within a 15-minute walk of their home," the Oxfordshire County and City Councils said in a joint statement. "They aim to support and add services, not restrict them."

There's no mention of confining residents to their communities or splitting cities up into sectors on the 15-Minute City website or in either Council proposal. 

Other outlets, including PolitiFact and Reuters, also debunked this claim. 

Fact check: The coronavirus pandemic isn’t slowing climate change

Our rating: False 

Based on our research, we rate FALSE the claim the Oxfordshire government voted to test a "climate lockdown" in 2024. The action in question is a traffic congestion plan to reduce overcrowding and improve public safety. The new plan will utilize “traffic filters” on some main roads, penalizing some drivers for accessing these roads during daytime hours if they don't have a permit. None of the roads will be physically blocked, and everywhere within the city will remain accessible by car. 

Our sources

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