4 years of climate emergency – a serious business

To mark the 4th anniversary of Manchester’s climate emergency, We are looking back at climate inaction in the city and what still needs to change, broken down by our three main emission areas: businesses, homes, and transport.

Manchester’s businesses make up around one third of the city’s direct emissions. You would expect a UK council that leads on sustainability and decarbonising would want a firm grip on what business gets up to locally.

Their answer?

Manchester Climate Change Partnership (MCCP) or “the Partnership”.  It was established in 2018 to bring together the city’s civic, private and community businesses and organisations “to limit  greenhouse gas emissions and build resilience to a changing climate”. 

 An admirable yet flawed plan.

The Partnership has a number of large corporations on the books (Bruntwood, Deloitte, Manchester City Football Club)  but is heavily led by civic organisations like the Council, social housing providers etc.  Its governing board meets monthly and, according to their own terms of reference,  any decisions can be quorate with just one of its 6 business members being present. The partnership gives a high level annual report but no other meeting records are publicly available.

It almost seems like the Council, the Agency and the Partnership are all one and the same thing. Is it any surprise then, that with more than 22,000 enterprises in Manchester* just 52 have signed their “Commitment to Act” , to help Manchester reach zero carbon by 2038.

*(2020, UK Business Count – Office National Statistics)

If the Partnership/Agency model isn’t working, the Council should take a more direct interest in scrutinising business emissions. For starters, how much of these emissions are related to lighting and heating offices compared to industrial manufacturers? How are the Council holding heavy emitters to account for their decarbonisation plans? With all the commercial towers popping up in the city centre, what is the Council doing to ensure the most sustainable materials and processes are used for our new “landmarks”?

As for a reformed Partnership? Perhaps a more dynamic culture could be created with a more business-led partnership. A rotating chair position could mean one month everyone benefits from the experience of a large corporation while the next is shaken up by the dynamic owner of a zero waste store. The Partnership should be represented by actual change makers in the city’s business community, not just their sustainability manager (if they’re lucky enough to have one).

Manchester City Council can then take the role of setting a vision and asking, what can it do to remove the obstacles to radical climate action in the city.

We are burning through our carbon budget at a frightening rate. The city needs the most radical action to stay in line with our international commitments. One thing we cannot permit to exist any longer, is the idea that this is business as usual.


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