When Councillor Bev Craig became Leader on 1st December, she gave a speech to the full Council, part of which addressed the climate emergency. Here are some notes on the good, bad, and contradictory elements of the speech, followed by the transcript.
The good: lots of general points about ambition, the imminent challenge, the need for leadership, for social justice, highlighting the importance of getting ideas from outside the chamber, and making a point of personal connection with the issues.
The bad: nothing new has been announced, it’s a general statement. Moreover, the words climate change, climate action, climate emergency, and net zero, don’t mean ‘exactly the same’ thing, that’s an odd thing to say. They have specific, different meanings. Additionally Craig’s emphasis on 2050 was strange because Manchester has pledged to be zero carbon by 2038. Let’s hope it’s just an oversight rather than a sign that the goalposts are about to be shifted.
The contradictory: if Bev Craig is so keen to show leadership, taking on ideas from outside the chamber, then why no comment about a policy proposal for tackling emissions from the airport when asked just afterwards? And why did she not respond to our questions on whether she supported honesty about the city’s carbon budget blow-out during her 2021 re-election bid? (Because then maybe she’d have had to have made mention of the failed track record in her speech …awkward… ) Why no support for simple pledges on the climate emergency being dealt with in scrutiny committees and at the Council Executive meetings? We asked several times, even sent her a registered letter, but Bev Craig blanked us. Now that Councillor Craig is the Leader, she can hardly say that her hands are tied.
Extract of new Leader Cllr Bev Craig’s speech about climate change, Available to view here from 1:20:00.*
And finally, I want to turn to the priority and emphasis that Manchester people put on our planet. Climate change, climate action, climate emergency, net zero. All words that mean exactly the same thing: the imminent challenges that face our planet, locally, nationally and internationally. Now, 2050 sounds a long way off. I won’t even be at state pension age by that point. I mean, who knows what state pension age will be at that point, but I’ve got to have something, I think, to work towards. So, we all have an invested interest in our planet’s future. And it’s vitally important that Manchester, that we, that I, show leadership on the action we can take, not just that we can do as a council, but what we can see in the city. And, of course, call out where government is not meeting their promise of the investment that we need to rise to the scale of the challenge. But for me, at the heart of this is a connection of climate action with social justice. A sustainable solution for our economy, for our city, must be a socially just one. When people are struggling to fill their cupboards with food, or struggling to heat their homes, we must connect with them on the issues that matter. So, from the council investing in renewable energy, to retrofitting homes, to empowering our communities, we must do things with people, bring people with this. After all, the ideas to fix the future that we’ve heard this morning from our children and young people aren’t just in this chamber, they’re out there in our city. And working with Councillor Rawlins, you’ll see some more ambitious plans as to how we do that. Because our ambition defines us. And it’s never been more important.
*The transcript was produced via Otter.ai and edited for accuracy but it may not be 100% accurate.
Robbie is a core member of Climate Emergency Manchester.