Council’s response to HDQ#02 and our clarifications
On Wednesday 14th January an article appeared on the Manchester Evening News website about our “Hung Drawn and Quarterly 02” report, which used Freedom of Information Act requests to assess the Council’s actual actions (as opposed to its promises and rhetoric) on turning the Climate Emergency Declaration of July 2019 into words. Below you will find the claims by the council and our responses.
Claim in MEN article
|1||Town hall bosses point to their decision to bring forward their zero-carbon pledge date by 12 years – from 2050 to 2038.||That decision was taken in November 2018 – the city was due to make a 13% annual cut in its emissions to hit that target. It made a 2% reduction. Council’s response? A shoulder shrug.|
|2||short-haul flights are booked only in exceptional circumstances when no viable alternative option is available.||In an emergency, you make changes, not excuses.|
|3||A separate freedom of information response suggests that no carbon literacy training took place towards the end of 2019. It’s now understood that a number of council teams have undertaken this training.||No, they have undertaken PART of this training, not all of it.
Also, there is no denial here that for 3 months, no training was undertaken. How is this leadership?
|4||While we understand and welcome the passion people have about the issue of climate change, it simply isn’t true to say that the council doesn’t share their sense of urgency. We do.||We haven’t provided “passion” and a “sense of urgency” but a series of concrete policy ideas. We produced, with other citizens a report called “With Love & Rockets”, full of concrete ideas about what could be done, supplied by citizens across Manchester. The response from the council leadership? Absolute silence.|
|5||And that’s why a huge amount of work is being done to establish how this radical reduction in the city’s carbon emissions will be achieved.”||That’s not what the Freedom of Information Act requests showed. A certain amount of talk will not achieve anything radical.|
|6||The council has reduced its own carbon emissions by almost 50 per cent since 2010 – exceeding our 41 per cent reduction target,”||As the Council well knows, because of Tory austerity its staff levels have gone from 10,000 to 6.000 in the last ten years, it has sold many buildings and cut services. Of COURSE its emissions have gone down.|
|7||“We’ve already got a huge range of relevant initiatives underway, from replacing street lights with lower emission LED ones to tackling single-use plastic at events in the city and powering our buildings with cleaner energy through the Civic Quarter Heat Network.”||Sure, great. But those are about it, and all were underway BEFORE the Climate Emergency Declaration. Our report was about what you have done against that Declaration. That the Council is having to point to other things is instructive.|
|8||but we are determined to show real leadership. This means putting the push for zero carbon at the heart of everything we do – both our day-to-day operations and our decision-making.||The Council is widening roads, giving planning permission for new car parks on Great Ancoats Street and at the airport.
Meanwhile, no speeches on climate change by Richard Leese or Joanne Roney since July (or indeed long before).
|9||Realistically, the scale of change we are trying to achieve cannot be achieved overnight and needs to be carefully thought through rather than a knee-jerk reaction||Who said anything about overnight? That’s a strawman. The council has been promising and failing to deliver on climate change for well over ten years. Stop trying to smear your critics as “unrealistic” or a “knee-jerk”- it makes you look petty and brittle. The only “unrealistic” thing is continuing to build roads and expand airports.|
|10||“It should be remembered that everyone in Manchester, both inside and outside the council, has a role to play if the city is to meet its ambitious zero-carbon goal.”||Yes, yes they do. That’s what we are doing. And leaders need to lead by word and deed. That is simply not happening yet.|
The Council appears to be in dire need of originality and boldness of thought. To achieve radical goals, one must act radically:
- They could follow the example of Nottingham, and enact a workplace parking levy to reduce private motor vehicles traffic into the city during workdays.
- They could run an energy efficiency refit of some of the City’s social housing, and use that experience to inform a wider rollout.
- They could consult on a Greater Manchester wide travel card, modelled on the hugely successful system in London.
- They could place a moratorium on new roads.
- They could look at weekend pedestrianisation trials for different parts of the city.
- They could put a passenger levy on flights passing through Manchester, explicitly linked to the carbon footprint of the flight.
- They could look at the cycling infrastructure and culture in places like Utrecht and how they could most quickly achieve something similar here – perhaps with say, a bold target of 50% modal share by bicycle by 2026.
None of these ideas are remotely original, and yet any one of them might indicate a local government prepared to tackle the hegemony of the internal combustion engine, and the glittering yet tainted allure of airport expansion.
The Council is at pains to stress how it’s own direct emissions are a small part of Manchester’s overall, and they are correct. However they are in a unique position, with both the (theoretical) ability, and the responsibility, to demonstrate thought leadership; or at least, to lift up the voices of those who are, and thereby enable real change, rather than stifling it.
Instead we see a focus on recycling and reuse – of the same tired messaging that things cannot change over night, and that nothing should be done as a knee jerk reaction. Such thinking cannot, and must not be allowed to, excuse the current inaction and abdication of responsibility.
(Opinions expressed are those of the author and do not constitute a formal position by Climate Emergency Manchester).