Manchester voted, now we *really* need to see some action

Another year, another election. One third of the seats in Manchester City Council went to the vote this month, and once again the city is overwhelmingly represented by Labour, with a few notable exceptions

In Longsight, Cllr Rahman (Deputy Leader) lost his seat to Shabaz Sarwar of George Galloway’s Workers Party of Britain (WPB). In Hulme, Cllr Bayunu, who defected from Labour to the Greens in 2022, lost her seat to Labour’s Lee Glover. The Lib Dems are now the largest opposition party with 4 councillors. The Greens have 3, the Workers Party 1, and an independent.

Congratulations and commiserations in equal measure, but to those councilllors who won their seats, this blog post is for you.

You inherit an almighty challenge.

In 2019, Manchester City Council declared a Climate Emergency. This followed a decade of talking about climate change, and setting “science-based targets” to decarbonise the city and reach zero-carbon by 2038.

On this we have all failed. MCC failed to lead and we failed to elect anyone else who would.

Annual emissions reports showed we were burning up our carbon budget, and missing the decarbonising targets by miles (except for 2020 when we all locked down). Each year of missed targets required bigger savings in subsequent years, leading up to 2038.








A “last ditch” effort to save the carbon budget was outlined in 2022 with the update of the Manchester Climate Change Framework. The update noted the divergence from the original decarbonisation pathway and set out 2 scenarios for the city to remain within its carbon budget; otherwise it will be gone by 2027.

In 2023 MCC was told that 63% of the city’s carbon budget had been used. Time was running out and the message was clear. Go big, or go home.

How about those big ideas? How have they gone? Have there even been any?

Since 2019 MCC (supporting Greater Manchester Combined Authority) approved and proposed a Clean Air Zone, paused after they realised they’d bungled the consultation, and retreated. Now on offer is an “Investment-led” plan that will bring air pollution “a hair’s breadth below the legal limit”, and do little to reduce carbon emissions through the reduction in vehicles on our roads.

Manchester’s most visible “climate policy” therefore remains the laughably milquetoast “In Our Nature”. To be clear – repairing your home appliances, swapping clothes and growing some veggies in your garden are all worthwhile activities, in and of themselves. However, they remain wholly inadequate to the scale of what is needed, and the In Our Nature campaign does nothing to persuade people otherwise.

In March 2024, Labour councillors rejected a ban on high carbon advertising simply because it was proposed in an opposition motion from the Green Party – a classic example of the toxic culture where left-of-centre politicians choose their own party interest over those of their constituents.

You may be wondering why we at Climate Emergency Manchester are telling you all this. It’s a reasonable question to ask. You’re a new councillor, or about to start a new municipal year, and have lots to get your head around (even if your formal inductions are scant).

We think it important for you to understand the culture you’re about to experience. You may be a veteran Labour councillor who helped build it, or a new Labour or opposition councillor who is about to come up against it.

Manchester City Council has acknowledged that big changes are needed to meet its own target to be zero carbon by 2038, as well as the need for its own leadership role in getting the city there. Over many years MCC have shown an occasional understanding of the scale of the challenge, despite failing (dismally, and repeatedly) to convey that to the wider public, or do much of anything about it. The Council funds an Agency that doesn’t do very much, is part of a Partnership that basically exists on paper and little more, and even when given an easy way to do something itself, will refuse based on little more than naked tribalism.

The most recent example of this was the “Badverts” debacle in spring this year; Labour councillors made clear that any non-Labour colleagues in the council are effectively wasting their time. They don’t care what opposition councillors put forward. Party politics and bare faced ambition mean it won’t be supported.

So if you’re a Labour councillor, reading this at the start of your municipal year, the message is clear.

It’s all on you.

Good luck (we’re all going to need it) – and don’t fuck it up

PS – looking for policies that are proportionate and appropriate to the predicaments we face? You could start here.

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