Back on target?  2030 zero-carbon date finally back on the agenda for #Manchester City Council

Councillors have dramatically pushed pack on attempts by the senior leadership of Manchester City Council to kick a 2030 target into the long grass.  In a spirited exchange at the new Climate Change Subgroup today, the chair of the group, Annette Wright, called for a report on the target to come to the next meeting of Neighbourhoods and Environment Scrutiny, to be held in November.

To understand why this matters, you need to know some history –  In late June of this year, Councillor Wright had released a climate emergency motion.  Its second element called on the council to “Continue working with partners across Manchester and GMCA to deliver the 2038 target, and determine if an earlier target can be possible, through a transparent and open review. ”

On the day that the motion was to be debated and voted upon (July 10th) it emerged that the small Liberal Democrat group on council (3 councillors, to Labour’s 93) had proposed an amendment.

“Explore the possibility of introducing a 2030 target in line with the IPCC report
and request that a report on its viability be brought back to the Executive before the end of the year.”

This amendment was accepted (this usually does not happen to Liberal Democrat amendments!) and the Council’s 96 councillors unanimously voted for the declaration.

In September Climate Emergency Manchester submitted a Freedom of Information Act request

“What actions have been taken to “explore the possibility of introducing a 2030 target” by the Executive Member for the Environment and other responsible actors within the Council? Has Tyndall Centre Manchester been asked to undertake work for the Council? What budget has been allocated? When is a report to be produced – if indeed it is. Please provide copies of correspondence between the Council and Tyndall Centre Manchester about this. Is there to be a public consultation on this, since a ‘transparent and open review’ is called for. When and how will this public consultation be undertaken?”

The reply we got was alarming in the extreme,

“Manchester City Council is aware, via its membership on the Manchester Climate Change Board, that the Manchester Climate Change Agency have asked the Tyndall Centre to provide their advice on whether or not Manchester needs to update its zero carbon target in light of the latest science and the city’s recent carbon reduction performance. The Tyndall Centre’s response will inform the development of the final Manchester Zero Carbon Framework, which the Manchester Climate Change Agency is currently developing. This work will be made publicly available once it is completed.”

So, the Council ignored the actual content of the amendment to the motion [which did not speak of “whether or not Manchester needs” but of possibility to reduce!], did not release the communications, and seemed not to be undertaking ANY PART of the promised “open and transparent review” with a report to Executive by December. Presenting the results as a fait accompli is not transparent and open.

In our latest report, released yesterday, With Love and Rockets, we made the point that the open and transparent review “cannot happen before Christmas, thanks to an appalling lack of action by the City Council. That does NOT mean that such and open and transparent review should not take place”  and suggested that before Xmas the Council  “Set up a dedicated website to explain what is being done, how, why, where, when, by who around changing the target date. Initiate public consultation on the process, with active engagement across the city by faith groups, trades unions, businesses, community groups and so on.”  We also suggested that between January and April “The process – open and transparent – by which the 2030 investigation is held must be communicated regularly and repeatedly by senior figures, including ALL members of the Executive, ALL Scrutiny Chairs and other public figures.”

It is in this context that Councillor Richard Kilpatrick (Liberal Democrat, Didsbury West) said that he was worried that  “we will be given an excuse at the end of this year in a report to Executive that won’t go to scrutiny. And I think that would be a poor decision, not just for this council, but also for the scrutiny process.”

The reply he got from the current Executive Member for the Environment, Councillor Angeliki Stogia was not at all specific, and talked about other processes and the difficulties of balancing competing priorities (see the bottom of this blog post for video and transcript).  There was a danger that the moment would pass, but then the chair of the Committee, Councillor Annette Wright, brought matters back on track.  She suggested that, given time constraints (the subgroup will not meet again until the new year) that Neighbourhoods and Environment Scrutiny receive a report – alongside a verbal presentation from the Tyndall Centre, at its next meeting, in early November.  This was agreed by the subgroup.

Why this matters

The commitment to look again at the target was a key part of the motion. The first element after ‘declare a climate emergency’. If that wasn’t safe, what else was?  Councillor Stogia had said, while campaigning to be re-elected as a councillor for Whalley Range, that

“However there is a strong argument that the target should be 2030, and
I would like to see Manchester aiming for this, but of course we need to
bring our partners in the economic activity of the city and above all the
people we represent along with us as well”

If the Council cannot keep those basic commitments, why should anyone take anything they say seriously? The fact that multiple backbench councillors had to push, tells you a lot of what you need to know about this Council, and what will be required in the coming months and years (yes, sorry, years.)

What happens next?

Depending on what answer the chair of Neighbourhoods and Environment Scrutiny Committee gives to Councillor Wright, there might or might not be a report, or presentation (or both) coming to the next Neighbourhoods and Environment Scrutiny Committee, on Weds 6th November at 2pm. We will have a better idea next Tuesday, when the agenda for it is released (though an application under ‘urgent business’ is possible.

Meanwhile It is up to environmental organisations in Manchester to explain what is at stake, and to explain why the carbon budgets are so slender on a global scale (hint – rich people have stopped any meaningful action for thirty years).

Climate Emergency Manchester will run an interview with Dr Joe Blakey of University of Manchester, conducted in July, and – if we have time and resources – other folks too. We will publicise and support (where we can) the activities of other groups and individuals.

 

Video and transcript

Kilpatrick: “So we’ve already heard that discussions are ongoing with the Tyndall Centre, which is good news. But what I want to try to avoid – which we should all try to avoid – is a situation in December whereby we are given a rationalisation of why things aren’t possible, instead of the ability to influence that process throughout and understand exactly how the decision process has been made around our targets. Because, again, to talk about the way we make our decisions, , we need to be able to [inaudible] scrutinise this. And if we are talking about possibly reducing the target to 2030 [from] 2038 then we need to not just align ourselves with the Greater Manchester local authorities that are also doing work that seem to be with different dates and at different stages of the process, but also we need to bring it a little bit back, scrutinise those decisions before they are made, and understand exactly the impact on the carbon budget as well. I’m sure that Annette would want to add on to the work that she did on the motion, but I am just very mindful that particularly in the original amendment that was accepted around the 2030 target, exactly what work has been done to date, to analyse the viability of that target. Because judging on this report and the next report, it doesn’t seem like that much has actually been done. And I am very mindful that we will be given an excuse at the end of this year in a report to Executive that won’t go to scrutiny. And I think that would be a poor decision, not just for this council, but also for the scrutiny process.”

Wright: So, somebody should be able to answer that.

Stogia: Just to reflect on what you said, Richard: when we brought the 2038 to to the council, we didn’t take it direct to Executive of council, we brought it to Neighbourhood scrutiny and every member had input, to have their say in terms of ‘do you like it, do you not like it?’, pick it to bits, ask us questions. And of course we will bring any suggestions back. This group provides another opportunity for further scrutiny of how we move forward, and also for us to share what is of interest to you in terms of how we are making progress in different areas. Now, this sheet that we have been going through, is something that we were reporting against from 2009 to 2019, and now we’ve done this or we are working on this. We are very very conscious about just what is it that we are doing in the next five years, how do we build on this and how actually do we accelerate, to put this agenda on speed, because that’s what we have really got to do. Reducing our emissions by 50% in the next five years is very very significant. And there’s lots of political decisions that need to be made. So if you look at a building and you want to put lots of money in, let’s say a leisure centre, that is a very very hard decision, and people are also worried about homelessness. People are also worried about adult health and social care. So, I just want to put it on perspective, chair, in terms of how decisions sort of are taken. I can see that you’re trying to…

Wright: Yeah, I understand what you’re saying, but what we are here to do is look at the climate emergency motion, and look at the issue of reducing our carbon emissions. That’s what this subgroup committee is for. So I’m not suggesting that the council doesn’t have to make these decisions, but what we are looking at here is a reduction in carbon emissions and how we’re going to measure that, and how we’re going to involve people in that process. So, the question that was asked is what’s happening with the Tyndall Centre and its view of the date, and we know the 2038 date went through the Neighbourhoods Scrutiny Committee, but since then we have had a motion to full Council, which was carried unanimously, saying firstly, in the original motion, that we should have an open and transparent review to identify the earliest possible date, and then subsequently amended to say that we should look at bringing that date forward, specifically to 2030, and that we should have a report on that by the end of the year. So, can anyone tell us what is going on with the Tyndall Centre, what review is being done, why is it not open and transparent, can we get a report by the end of the year. This is what we need to know, in respect to the motion we all carried.

Stogia: So in terms of that, discussions are ongoing between the Manchester Climate Change Agency and the Tyndall Foundation (sic) and the report will come to scrutiny as you have suggested, for you to have a look at, and ask questions and scrutinise. And we can bring the Tyndall Foundation as well, so they can tell you what is the rationale behind the suggestion that they are making. I don’t know currently what suggestion they are making, because I have asked them to look at it, so I can’t give you any further sort of information on that. In terms of what we have been doing since the motion, I think this paper states clearly what we have been doing

Wright: Can we just stick to one point at a time. We were just talking about the review of the date at the moment. So, we can invite the Tyndall Centre here. We have to discuss when we [the subgroup] are next meeting. This has to be looked at by the end of the year, so I think we will have to pass this back to the Neighbourhood and Environment Scrutiny Committee and ask that they [Tyndall] are invited to its next meeting, because we might not have another meeting of this committee before the end of the year. So we at least need to look at this end of the year question, and we also need to look at the ‘open and transparent’ question…
[then a question to the officer about how this could be done]
Wright: So [I] suggest we do, I will raise this with this with the chair of the Neighbourhoods and Environment Scrutiny Committee [Lee Ann Igbon] to get the report about the end-of-the-year 2030 date discussed there, and then also I think we need to invite them to this sub-committee to look at the open and transparent review aspect of it. Is that okay with everybody?
[Assent]

Kilpatrick: “So we’ve already heard that discussions are ongoing with the Tyndall Centre, which is good news. But what I want to try to avoid – which we should all try to avoid – is a situation in December whereby we are given a rationalisation of why things aren’t possible, instead of the ability to influence that process throughout and understand exactly how the decision process has been made around our targets.  Because, again, to talk about the way we make our decisions, , we need to be able to [inaudible] scrutinise this. And if we are talking about possibly reducing the target to 2030 [from] 2038 then we need to not just align ourselves with the Greater Manchester local authorities that are also doing work that seem to be with different dates and at different stages of the process, but also we need to bring it a little bit back, scrutinise those decisions before they are made, and understand exactly the impact on the carbon budget as well.  I’m sure that Annette would want to add on to the work that she did on the motion, but I am just very mindful that particularly in the original amendment that was accepted around the 2030 target, exactly what work has been done to date, to analyse the viability of that target. Because judging on this report and the next report, it doesn’t seem like that much has actually been done. And I am very mindful that we will be given an excuse at the end of this year in a report to Executive that won’t go to scrutiny. And I think that would be a poor decision, not just for this council, but also for the scrutiny process.”

Wright: So, somebody should be able to answer that.

Stogia: Just to reflect on what you said, Richard: when we brought the 2038 to to the council, we didn’t take it direct to Executive of council, we brought it to Neighbourhood scrutiny and every member had input, to have their say in terms of ‘do you like it, do you not like it?’, pick it to bits, ask us questions. And of course we will bring any suggestions back. This group provides another opportunity for further scrutiny of how we move forward, and also for us to share what is of interest to you in terms of how we are making progress in different areas. Now, this sheet that we have been going through, is something that we were reporting against from 2009 to 2019, and now we’ve done this or we are working on this. We are very very conscious about just what is it that we are doing in the next five years, how do we build on this and how actually do we accelerate, to put this agenda on speed, because that’s what we have really got to do. Reducing our emissions by 50% in the next five years is very very significant. And there’s lots of political decisions that need to be made. So if you look at a building and you want to put lots of money in, let’s say a leisure centre, that is a very very hard decision, and people are also worried about homelessness. People are also worried about adult health and social care. So, I just want to put it on perspective, chair, in terms of how decisions sort of are taken. I can see that you’re trying to…

Wright: Yeah, I understand what you’re saying, but what we are here to do is look at the climate emergency motion, and look at the issue of reducing our carbon emissions. That’s what this subgroup committee is for. So I’m not suggesting that the council doesn’t have to make these decisions, but what we are looking at here is a reduction in carbon emissions and how we’re going to measure that, and how we’re going to involve people in that process.  So, the question that was asked is what’s happening with the Tyndall Centre and its view of the date, and we know the 2038 date went through the Neighbourhoods Scrutiny Committee, but since then we have had a motion to full Council, which was carried unanimously, saying firstly, in the original motion, that we should have an open and transparent review to identify the earliest possible date, and then subsequently amended to say that we should look at bringing that date forward, specifically to 2030, and that we should have a report on that by the end of the year. So, can anyone tell us what is going on with the Tyndall Centre, what review is being done, why is it not open and transparent, can we get a report by the end of the year. This is what we need to know, in respect to the motion we all carried.

Stogia: So in terms of that, discussions are ongoing between the Manchester Climate Change Agency and the Tyndall Foundation (sic) and the report will come to scrutiny as you have suggested, for you to have a look at, and ask questions and scrutinise. And we can bring the Tyndall Foundation as well, so they can tell you what is the rationale behind the suggestion that they are making.  I don’t know currently what suggestion they are making, because I have asked them to look at it, so I can’t give you any further sort of information on that.  In terms of what we have been doing since the motion, I think this paper states clearly what we have been doing

Wright: Can we just stick to one point at a time. We were just talking about the review of the date at the moment.  So, we can invite the Tyndall Centre here. We have to discuss when we [the subgroup] are next meeting. This has to be looked at by the end of the year, so I think we will have to pass this back to the Neighbourhood and Environment Scrutiny Committee and ask that they [Tyndall] are invited to its next meeting, because we might not have another meeting of this committee before the end of the year. So we at least need to look at this end of the year question, and we also need to look at the ‘open and transparent’ question…

[then a question to the officer about how this could be done]

Wright: So [I] suggest we do, I will raise this with this with the chair of the Neighbourhoods and Environment Scrutiny Committee [Lee Ann Igbon] to get the report about the end-of-the-year 2030 date discussed there, and then also I think we need to invite them to this sub-committee to look at the open and transparent review aspect of it. Is that okay with everybody?

[Assent]