Manchester's 2038 zero Carbon Proposal

By Matthew Babic on 18.06.2018

The 17th July saw the fifth meeting of the Manchester Climate Change Conference, with a record number of delegates coming together for an inspiring evening of presentations, panel discussion and ‘pies’. This year’s Conference was once again hosted at the Royal Exchange Theatre, coincidentally on the set of a play written about the staunch protest of a coal pit closure. A diverse and youthful audience was warmly welcomed by BBC presenter Lindsey Chapman, alongside a panel of industry experts and representatives.


Following a welcome from Chair of the Climate Change Board, Gavin Elliott, keynote speaker Sir Richard Leese, Leader of Manchester City Council, offered his thoughts on progress over the last 12 months. Sir Richard recognised the progress made in many areas but called on accelerated change and increased engagement from the city’s partners, residents and local communities. “Changes in our personal and collective behaviours are as crucial to success as any new technology. We need to add a few zeroes to the number of people engaged” he remarked, highlighting the importance of collective action and responsibility such that Manchester “does it's bit” to contribute to the Paris Agreement.


Jonny Sadler, Programme Director of the Manchester Climate Change Agency (MCCA), followed with an update on a busy year, as well as launching the 2018 Annual Report, setting out Manchester’s citywide progress over the last 12 months. The strength of the low carbon sector and its growing influence on the Manchester economy was an important message: “this sector is growing at four times the rate of the wider economy, worth nearly 40,000 jobs and over £5bn to Greater Manchester.” Gavin Elliott echoed this sentiment in his closing speech: “cities are beginning to shift their focus away from simply ‘jobs and growth’ and towards ‘good jobs and inclusive, sustainable growth.’”


The investment in green and blue infrastructure was also highlighted as a key objective; improving and growing the city’s green spaces, biodiversity and waterways. Sadler concluded: “this infrastructure is a key part of our response to creating resilience to climate change. ‘Greening the city’ is an important objective for us.”


The audience then heard Dr. Jaise Kuriakose from the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research describe how to calculate the ‘science-based carbon budget’ for Manchester. In order to avoid increasing temperatures beyond 2oC, the atmosphere’s carbon dioxide concentrations must remain below a given threshold. If we want to stay below 2oC of warming, this limits the amount of carbon emissions that we as a planet can emit. Dr. Kuriakose uses the analogy of a pie to describe this global carbon budget. By assigning slices of the pie to given nations based on their size and previous emissions it is possible to quantitively define national carbon budgets. The UK receives a slice of the larger global pie, which can subsequently be divided to reflect budgets for specific cities. 


The key message from Tyndall Centre’s research was clear: we will exceed Manchester’s carbon budget before 2028 if we continue to emit at the rate we do today. The carbon budget must last until 2100. In order that we have enough emissions left to last that long, we must achieve a 13% year on year reduction from 2018, before being almost fully decarbonised (with the exception of a few sources of emissions) by 2038.


Dr. Kuriakose also stressed the importance of using our existing green infrastructure and creating new areas as “natural and easy ways to sequester carbon from the atmosphere. There are so many more health and wellbeing benefits to improved green spaces than just carbon emissions reduction.”


The diverse environmental, health and economic benefits that will come from Manchester adopting a sustainable path was a theme common from all presentations and panellists. By embracing active transport, improving green spaces and adopting more sustainable diets, not only can we help reduce Manchester’s (and the planet’s) carbon emissions, but we will also become a healthier and more prosperous city; precisely the vision set out in the Our Manchester strategy for 2016-25.


Brad Blundell, director at the Anthesis Consultancy Group, offered a quantitative explanation as to how Manchester can take action to stay within the required budget – at the same as reducing fuel poverty, creating jobs, improving air quality and other benefits. Using the SCATTER forecasting tool, the effects of different levels of action in specific areas can be modelled. SCATTER explores 45 different potential areas which contribute to decarbonisation, from solar PV installations to domestic energy efficiency to electrification of vehicles. It is possible to predict the amount of carbon emitted by the city based on the levels of ambition in the interventions of each area.


Brad and the team at Anthesis have offered a potential route to minimising the city’s emissions and the work we need to do collectively to reach the 13% target for year-on-year carbon reductions.


These presentations were followed by an engaging panel discussion. Brad and Jaise were joined by Councillor Angeliki Stogia, Executive Member for Environment, Planning and Transport at Manchester City Council, Ash Farrah, Manchester Climate Change Youth Board, and Helen Seagrave Community Energy Manager for Electricity North West and Climate Change Board member.


Chaired by Lindsey Chapman, the panel fielded a broad spectrum of questions from the audience. Topics varied from the potential for improving the energy efficiency of Manchester’s buildings to emissions from Manchester Airport. A stimulating and inclusive discussion followed; with Councillor Stogia encouraging community involvement: “As a council, we need to develop emission reduction policies that are mandated by the public. That starts with hearing what you think about the targets we’ve heard tonight.”


Gavin Elliott concluded the evening with an outline of the Board’s plans for the next 9 months.


Firstly, the publication of the work by the Tyndall Centre and a proposal to the City Council and key partners that Manchester adopts the science-based carbon budget.


Secondly, the Board and Agency will work different sectors and key partners across the city to develop emission reduction pledges by October 2018, leading to formal action plans which can be launched ahead of the second GM Green Summit in March 2019.


Thirdly, the City Council will deliver a 6-month programme of public communication to engage local residents and set out how climate change action can also help us to realise the vision and objectives.


And fourthly, to work with the City Council to formally adopt the carbon budget on behalf of the city as formal policy by the end of 2018.


The latest news and updates can be found on the MCCA's website and on Twitter @McrClimate.


Presentations, Annual Review and Tyndall Report available to download below.