Climate priorities in Manchester’s local elections? Things to find out

On Monday CEM’s  hustings meeting featured three candidates representing major parties standing in the local elections discussing Manchester’s response to the climate emergency and what should be done next. 

The recording is now available to watch online, so you can hear directly what the candidates – April Preston, Lib Dem candidate in Withington, Mandie Shilton Godwin, Labour candidate in Chorlton Park, and Alison Hawdale, Green candidate in Crumpsall – had to say about a range of issues. 

Gradually we are cleaning a transcript of the event. This is 20-pages long (!) so it is not fully ready, but at the bottom of this blog post we have released the answers given on two important questions: about the priorities for Manchester’s new environment and climate change scrutiny committee (which we campaigned for); and about Manchester airport. 

Of course, Alison, Mandie and April are only 3 of the 149 candidates standing for election to Manchester City Council. We think it’s important to get a sense of what the other 146 think about the climate emergency, too. 

To find out, we have begun asking candidates if they support three commitments we believe would improve climate action in Manchester (shown in the image). 


We need your help with identifying which candidates are supportive of these commitments, and which candidates are not. You can find out who is standing in the local election in your ward here https://whocanivotefor.co.uk/  and then you can ask them (if indeed you can track down their contact details – democratic deficit?). We are collecting the responses, so please let us know what you find out by emailing us at contact@climateemergencymanchester.net or by tweeting to us @ClimateEmergMcr. A short video about the commitments and how you can help is available here

So far, many candidates expressed their support, and some did not. Here are the responses so far (as of 22/04, Earth day). Please help us understand who else sits on one side or the other. 

 

 

Partial transcript of climate emergency hustings, 19th April 2021, on climate scrutiny committee priorities and on Manchester airport, with Mandie Shilton Godwin of Labour (Chorlton Park candidate), Alison Hawdale of the Greens (Crumpsall candidate), and April Preston of the Lib Dems (Withington Candidate), and Chloe Jeffries of CEM (hustings chair).

 

CHLOE – CEM (Chair’s Introduction)

 

I’m very pleased to be joined tonight by three candidates, representing three different parties in three different wards across the city. So in our vertical order, we have Alison Hawdale from the Green Party, who is standing as a candidate in Crumpsall ward (wave, so we can see). We also have April Preston from the Liberal Democrats who is standing as a candidate in Withington ward (wave April). And finally we have Mandy Shilton-Godwin, who’s a current labour and Cooperative Party councillor, who’s standing for re-election in Chorlton Park.

 So as is customary, I’ll just run through a very small amount of housekeeping rules, and a few notes on format. This meeting is being recorded. So if you don’t want to be recorded, just leave or you can turn your camera off, that’s fine with us. 

The format will be as follows, we’re going to go straight into questions. We circulated on Twitter a short series of videos, 2-minute sort of pitches from the councillors, so you can see there what they want. So we’ll go straight into questions. Some of these have been submitted in advance from you, so thanks to all those who sent the question in advance. But that’s not the extent of the questions, we’re very much going to encourage other questions posted here tonight. If you’d like to ask a question to the candidates, just pop it into the chat– so that we can get through as many questions as possible, we won’t have you asking the questions directly, I’ll feed them from the chat to our speakers, as well. The final point to add is that as well as this being a chance for you to hear what the candidates have to say, this is a chance to thicken our networks and get to know each other– please do feel free to use the chat to kind of say hello to someone you don’t know, or post something with a link. If you’re posting a hello, a note, or if you’re asking a question for the candidate, the usual rules that you might expect, about being courteous, respectful, polite, do apply. 

We will also kind of wrap up by asking all those present as well as the candidates just to think about what they felt was the most important thing they learned, so keep that in mind. Well with that housekeeping out of the way, without further ado, we’ll kick off with some questions. I’ll remind the speakers that we’d like to keep their answers relatively succinct, just so we can get, get through plenty, and I’ll give you the kind of customary wind up sign if, if your answers are getting a little bit on the long side. 

So, my first question to the speakers will be about the new environment and climate change scrutiny committee which as you know, CEM campaigned for. So the question is: what are the key issues that you think the environment and climate change scrutiny committee should address in its first year? And I’ll ask this question in that same alphabetical order that I went through– so Alison, then April, then Mandy. So Alison, what do you think is the key issue that the environment and climate change scrutiny should address in its first year?

ALISON HAWDALE – (Green – Crumpsall)

I think the first thing the new committee should do is really shift the centre of gravity of the whole issue about the climate emergency. Everybody talks about it being centre, centre stage, or at the heart or front and centre, whatever you want to call it, but to treat it as if it is an emergency. Because I think we all know what an emergency looks like now. And, you know, I think, 18 months ago we might have gone back to the Second World War, for what an emergency looked like. And now we know, we know what it sort of smells and feels and tastes like, we know what’s happening at a government level, and at a local authority level. If you look at the scrutiny committees they always have their sitrep on COVID. And I feel that that’s what we should be focusing on, is making sure that we are treating it as an emergency. Now, there are issues that obviously we want to be talking about, and we are talking and the council is talking about these issues at the moment, about active travel, public transport, retrofit, Green Jobs– Green Jobs is going to be a really big issue, and it’s it’s not that those things aren’t being talked about, but there’s such a huge gulf between where we are, and where we need to be to reach our climate targets that something really does need to shift. Thank you. 

CHLOE

Thanks, Alison. So moving on to April– April, what do you think are the key issues that the environment and climate change scrutiny committee should address in its first year?

APRIL PRESTON (Lib Dem – Withington)

Hi everyone. So I suppose this kind of plays into the problems that you, that your group have correctly identified. It isn’t actually for a candidate to pick and choose what is, what is the emergency, and what isn’t the emergency, because in mainstream politics people get told what to do, a lot of the time. And that’s why we desperately need opposition on Manchester Council. So the first thing I would try and look at is the farcical nature of how this even came to be. And I would want to get experts on, I want evidence makers on. And I would also like voting rights for any, everyone that’s been elected as representative, because you can’t have a reasonable and rational way of looking at things that are just bread and butter statistical issues when you’re all in one party pocket, sort of marking each other’s homework. It’s going to be really really difficult too, as Alison says, to address these things in the.. We need an alarmist nature to a lot of, there’s a lot of patting on the back sort of approach that we get when we try to make a bit of progress–  we need to make radical progress. So the first thing I would say is that I would actually listen to experts to tell me where that alarm comes from. Thanks.

CHLOE  

Great. So Mandie, what do you think are the key issues that the environment and climate change scrutiny committee should address in its first year?

MANDIE SHILTON GODWIN (Labour – Chorlton Park)  [Audio issues]

I think that the committee should address itself with the same priorities that the whole council and the executive member for climate in the council should be addressing themselves. If we know, if we look at where the carbon emissions come from, roughly, it’s a third from travel, roughly, it’s a third from our domestic buildings, and roughly, it’s a third on commercial buildings and industry, and so on. So, that is a rough idea about where… Within that, obviously there are some real issues scrutinised… So for example when it comes to homes and buildings, I think we did talk about this actually at the subcommittee that we had for the pandemic…. On the role of planning for example, that’s pretty important because it’s how the city is planned and how homes and buildings… That gives the council, which gives the council, the power to make the changes that it might wish to make. And so, and I also think that a further area for more detailed scrutiny is probably about the mission related to consumption as well, because well, we all know that the consumption of the city and the consumption of… Form a large part of the overall total emissions. So, although the City Council might not actually be able to directly affect it, there are things that can be done and those kinds of things [rest is unintelligible]

CHLOE  

Great, thanks Mandie. So, when we asked for questions in advance, we got quite a few questions about the airport, so I think I should ask one of those whilst we’re still at the early point. And the question that I would like to put to the candidate is this: are you willing to constrain growth in air miles flown out of Manchester Airport, considering the expansion would not be aligned with the city’s climate goals? Okay, so we don’t always have people going in the same order, I’m just going to flip the order from last time– so we’ll go Mandie, then April, then Allison. So, Mandy, would you, are you willing to constrain growth in air miles flown out to Manchester Airport?

MANDIE SHILTON GODWIN

Thank you. You probably all are already aware that, obviously, the airport is very big [inaudible]. You’re probably already aware that the city council examined a report about the way that it should approach the airport and the way it did that was by categorising emissions from the airport in three different groups:  ones that can be attributable to the city, those that can be attributed to the combination [inaudible], and those that can be attributed to aviation. It’s very interesting what was discovered. If you look at the ones to do with aviation, then the carbon emissions of actual Manchester City residents and businesses is actually far smaller than it would be if we were looking at a carbon budget which was equal to the same carbon budget as all the other airports in the country. I’m not saying that that is the right approach but it is really important that the city is connected to the rest of the country, so if we’re not going to have the airport then we certainly need to have [inaudible – connections with other parts of the country?].

CHLOE 

Okay, thanks. April, are you willing to constrain growth in air miles flown out of Manchester Airport?

APRIL PRESTON

It’s already Lib Dem policy. We already, in our last manifesto, wanted to restrict the amount of flights but I know in the 2019 manifesto we actually put forward a higher taxation for frequent fliers and people that were travelling internationally. But just looking at Manchester airport in terms of local political people, what I’m worried about is this relationship between the airport, more generally, and the council because obviously the council is facing so many cuts that at the time where we get this sort of cash cow, this dividend, it means that it’s going to be very very difficult for the council to say with a straight face climate emergency, and then in the other hand go ‘well, we need the money’. So I think that I would really support the council in being a bit braver in how we recognise the fiscal gap in our budget, because I just don’t think it’s sustainable. Particularly with covid, we’re not going to be getting money for another three years anyway. So, it essentially created a cut in funding, so we need to look how the money is spent. But considering the council will not divest from the GM pension fund, I’m not entirely sure how we bring that around.

CHLOE

Alison, would you constrain growth in air miles coming out of Manchester airport? 

ALISON HAWDALE

Yes. Again, the Green Party’s policy is to be against expansion of airports. And so the answer to your question is a straight Yes. There is a great problem with the finances, given that the 10 stores of Greater Manchester own more than half the shareholdings in Manchester Airport Group. But I suppose what bothers me is as we’ve sort of scrutinised what the council’s done over the last year or so, and as we’ve responded to some of the consultations, there is this real, sort of, queasy dynamic between what April was talking about, where we’re going to get our money from, it’s growth in the city centre, and it’s the airport. And at the same time, we’re going to be this world-leading city in climate initiatives, and the two just don’t match up. I was looking at the Manchester climate change annual report, again, from last year, and it says the city’s carbon budget is based on the premise that emissions from flights departing the UK airports remain at 2018 levels. I mean, Manchester City Council has, I think quite rightly gone for science based budgets from the Tyndall Centre, that’s great, but if you’ve got a target you’ve got to stick to it, and the Tyndall Centre are saying that it’s not going to be possible for Manchester to stay within its carbon budgets, if the export of the airport expands, you know, as predicted, and as wished by the shareholders as Manchester Airport. So, I think that’s one of the things that has to happen with the new committee. I think we need a review of what’s going on with the airport. I think we need to talk very honestly about these issues, about the money. I mean, these are not easy issues, we know that it’s not easy, but we have to talk about the gulf between where we are and where we need to be, and we have to be honest about it.

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