The first of Manchester City Council’s Environment and Climate Change Scrutiny Committee met yesterday. Re-scoped to focus on the climate emergency, and following local elections earlier this month, there was a sense of a new beginning.
Yet another one.
On the agenda were Jonny Sadler (Deputy Director of Manchester Climate Change Agency) and Mike Wilton’s (Chair of Manchester Climate Change Partnership) latest progress and priorities report. Between them they brought the new committee up to speed. Following 6 years of strategic frameworks, consultations and a partnership between hospitals, businesses, faith organisations and volunteers, we are still way off track.
Newly elected Cllr Linda Foley (Didsbury East) was suitably horrified, asking why we need an arms-length agency with 3 employees when the council has 7,000 staff. Cllr Annette Wright (Hulme) tapped into the theme of the day, how best to hold the agency to account and track the city’s progress towards net zero.
Jonny Sadler asked councillors to hold their nerve. Outside the confines of the council, he could get far more done. You have to wonder, how much worse could it have been?
It’s difficult to argue with collaboration as the way forward. Large organisations do need time to get to grips with their emissions – except this is just what they do not have.
As residents, we have a role to play too. Cllr Rabnawaz Akbar (Executive Member for Neighbourhoods, Rusholme) called for every ward to have a climate change plan. Cllr Naeem Hassan (Cheetham) highlighted the need for more information on renewables and financial support, accessible to all communities.
First things first stressed Cllr John Flanagan. In his ward (Miles Platting and Newton Heath) he said, Climate resilience is irrelevant. Residents struggle to buy food and cannot afford bikes. We should focus less on the same 4 wards in the south of the city.
Though at times it felt like treading water, I am willing to suspend my inner critic for now. We have a new committee, staffed with councillors asking all the right questions. In September, we will have another report on emissions from the last 12 months. If we miss the target a third year in a row, it will be much harder to hide the fact things are not working. What then?
We’ll need the kind of radical thinking that Manchester was once known for.