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Manchester Climate Change Conference 2017

Our annual conference this year took place in the Royal Exchange theatre, attended by businesses, academics, politicians, residents and more to learn about the challenges Manchester faces in tackling climate change, our progress so far and our plans for the future. The impressive venue is among those which sit at the heart of the city’s cultural sector, and so provided an ideal setting to bring together a diverse group of stakeholders. We gathered to mark the end of the Manchester: A Certain Future (MACF) strategy, which ran from 2010, and to formally begin the implementation of the new Manchester Climate Change Strategy for 2017-50. Both set out proposals for decreasing the city’s carbon emissions, but latest strategy has an ambitious target for the city to become zero carbon by 2050.

The evening was hosted by Michael Taylor from Manchester Metropolitan University who facilitated what was designed to be a forum for conversation between stakeholders to discuss progress to date and priorities going forward. Our first speaker was Councillor Angeliki Stogia, Executive Member for Environment at Manchester City Council and councillor of the Whalley Range ward. Councillor Stogia talked about our strong sense of citywide community by describing how a collective approach has been the key to our success in being a “proactive champion for climate change action”.

 

We then heard from our keynote speaker Allison Tickell, CEO of Julie’s Bicycle. Julie’s Bicycle is a charity which aims to empower the arts and culture sector to take action against climate change, believing that, at its heart, climate change is fundamentally a cultural challenge. Manchester’s arts and culture sector was one of the first parts of Manchester’s economy to respond to MACF, and so has been an integral exemplary force in the development of a low-carbon culture change within the city. The Manchester Arts Sustainability Team (MAST) is a network of arts and culture organisations committed to reducing their carbon emissions and engaging the public on climate change. The Royal Exchange Theatre is among them, and its production manager and MAST’s current chair, Simon Curtis, described MAST’s participatory and collaborative approach to tackling climate change. It was encouraging to hear a run-through of key achievements of many of the organisations, including tonnes CO2e saved per annum and the financial savings this brought.

 

Gavin Elliot, chair of the MACF Steering Group, then took the stage and gave us the opportunity to look back over the last 7 years. With the launch of the city’s climate change strategy for 2017-50, Gavin announced that the MACF Steering Group will now develop into a new Manchester Climate Change Board. The Board will be responsible for overseeing, championing and supporting the successful delivery of the strategy and its associated five-year implementation plans. The Board will consist of 16 members: the chair, six members of the current MACF steering group, 4 new members to broaden reach and influence, 2 members from the City Council (a senior officer and the Executive Member for the Environment) and 3 members of the public. The process for public applicants is now open (click here), and the new chair will be elected following the establishment of the new board in the Autumn.

 

Jonny Sadler, Programme Director for the Manchester Climate Change Agency (MCCA) provided an overview of the city’s progress since 2010, including our carbon emission reduction figures compared to our targets from MACF. We have seen a 33% reduction in CO2 emissions from 2005 to 2017, setting us on a trajectory to a 37% reduction by 2020, short of our 41% target.  From  2014, however, we have at least seen the performance gap between Manchester and other cities in the UK closed and hopefully the start of Manchester out-performing our UK neighbours. The city’s per capita emissions have decreased by 40% from 2005, suggesting (perhaps optimistically) that we are living less carbon-intensive lives. We are also on track to meet our low carbon economy targets by 2020, partly due to our thriving Low Carbon Environmental Goods and Services sector (LCEGS). Jonny also discussed the importance of progressing from reactive to proactive strategies when creating policy for adaptation and climate resilience, particularly as the flood and heat stress risks within the city increase. We’ve seen that the city has overall made progress against our targets, but we aren’t on track to achieve them by the 2020 deadline.

 

Michael then opened up the floor and encouraged everyone to participate in the discussion as the conference’s audience was composed of well-informed individuals with experiences in such a variety of sectors within Manchester and beyond. Several important local, national and global issues were called upon: green spaces and pollinators; speculation on the impact of Brexit on carbon emissions; a citywide renewables strategy; divestment from fossil fuels, particularly by the Greater Manchester Pension Fund, and; decreasing the number of unnecessary domestic flights. Ahmed Ali, Labour councillor for Rusholme, raised the importance of a prosperous voluntary sector to drive the city towards our zero carbon targets. We need behavioural change, public pressure and policy and infrastructure to work in tandem to progress as quickly and effectively as possible, and so we should all get involved in tackling climate change.

 

MCCA and the MACF steering group would like to thank everyone who participated in the stimulating discussion, and our informative speakers for taking the time to speak about their great work in helping Manchester to reach our goals of a 41% carbon emission reduction by 2020. We are now looking forward to becoming zero carbon by 2050, and to establishing the Manchester Climate Change Board, to bring yet more new ideas and audiences into the city’s climate change journey.