Last week Manchester City Council released a report on what has done on climate change since declaring a “climate emergency” in July was released. The report will be discussed at the next meeting of the City Council’s Executive, this Thursday, 19th December at 10am. The meeting, to be held in the Town Hall Extension, is open to the public, and will also be livestreamed.
This blog post below is the response of Climate Emergency Manchester to the Council’s report. We released a publication on the three month anniversary of the declaration (“Hung, Drawn and Quarterly 01: The Dead Tortoise Society“) and will be releasing another one on the six month anniversary.
The first thing to say about this report is that it is not the report that was unanimously agreed on 10th July by all 96 Councillors. The report that was promised was – well, to quote the declaration-
“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 report even acknowledges this, in section 3.6, but offers but offers no explanation for the failure to produce the work.
Two other things about the summary are particularly galling.
1) The Summary makes no mention of the City Council’s 2009 Climate Change Action Plan which says it would lead a process of creating a low carbon culture, to be complete by… 2020. i.e. now.
2) The Summary repeats the Council’s habit of boasting a 48 per cent reduction in its own emissions since 2010. This is technically accurate, but neglects to mention the reason for this drop is the loss of 4000 staff, sale of many buildings and cuts to many services, due to reductions in funding received from central government. So of course its carbon footprint is markedly lower. Meanwhile, it is still flying staff to Edinburgh and Exeter, even after declaring a “climate emergency.” If the council wants to have any credibility with stakeholders, it should drop this fantasy straight away.
In the report itself, there are also very serious omissions. The report says (1.1) that it “summarises the action taking place at a citywide level to implement the city’s zero carbon ambitions, alongside the approach that is being taken to develop and deliver the Council’s new 5 year Climate Change Action Plan.”
However, is silent on the inconvenient fact that last year, instead of achieving a 13 percent reduction in emissions, the city achieved a 2% reduction (and that aviation emissions are not included – even though the City Council owns 35.5 percent of Manchester, Stansted and East Midlands airports via its stake in MAG – and receives £45M (1) a year in revenue).
In section 3.1 it mentions a Climate Stakeholder Steering Group, without mentioning that this group was supposed to have elected members (elections were promised, and never held). The Steering Group was also supposed to organise an annual daylong stakeholder conference was supposed to happen. One such conference was held. Then two half-day ones, then nothing but a 90 minute AGM of the “independent” company funded by the Council to the tune of £400k over the last 4 years.
The report 3.4 mentions the arts centre HOME, which has been proclaiming its carbon literacy credentials, while simultaneously running ads for airlines.
I’m short, for the last ten years, very little has been done on climate change by the City Council or its partners (with a few honourable exceptions – Northwards Housing, MMU, but let’s not talk about Ryebank Fields.). There have been lots of glossy documents, and fine promises, but very little action.
Let’s remember the promise made by the Executive in November 2009 when it agreed the Climate Change Action Plan, also known as “Manchester – A Certain Future”. With a 2020 target, the City Council was going
“To engage all individuals, neighbourhoods and organisations in Manchester in a process of cultural change that embeds ‘low carbon thinking’ into the lifestyles and operations of the city. To create a ‘low carbon culture’ we need to build a common understanding of the causes and implications of climate change, and to develop programmes of ‘carbon literacy’ and ‘carbon accounting’ so that new culture can become part of the daily lives of all individuals and organisations…. Enabling a low carbon culture in the city will be particularly important if the challenge of meeting even more demanding carbon reduction targets between 2020 and 2050 is to be met.”
There’s one very simple question we would like the members of the Executive to ask themselves. Has this happened? If not, is it sensible to continue as we have been?
(1) Figure from Freedom of Information Request submitted by CEM