No Going Back Published


Leaders of Manchester-based charities have shared their experiences of the Covid-19 crisis and their thoughts for the future in a new report produced by Macc, Manchester’s local voluntary and community sector support organisation. 


Titled No Going Back, the report brings together the experiences of 22 local voluntary sector leaders who shine a light on the critical role that the voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) sector has played during the response to the Covid-19 crisis. As well as reflecting on the lessons learned during the crisis, the leaders make the case for change going forward and highlight the unique opportunity society has to make things better in the future.


The report includes a chapter from Jonny Sadler, Programme Director at Manchester Climate Change Agency, setting out why now is the time to place ambitious and urgent action on climate change at the heart of the city's recovery. Plus, five actions Manchester needs to take to help get us there. The full chapter is below.


'“You’re kind of like a salesman, aren’t you Jonny?” 


As a man not hugely taken by the idea of buying and selling lots of stuff, the suggestion I might be in the sales business took me a little by surprise. I hadn’t thought of it quite like that but my colleague was right, that’s exactly what working in sustainability and climate change is all about. ‘Selling’ ideas to people ensure that what we do as a city delivers positive benefits for our citizens, the environment and our economy.  


That was five years ago.  


My job, and the job of the Climate Change Agency, has been evolving since then, particularly over the last four months. We now spend some of our time selling sustainability and climate change-related ideas, but more and more we are working with organisations and groups who have already bought-in and committed to making a positive impact, in Manchester, and beyond. We have now reached a point where Manchester’s residents and businesses increasingly want their city’s projects, policies, operations and individual behaviours to be about making the city – and the world – a better place.  


This desire has always been here but it’s been thrown into even sharper relief through the COVID pandemic. This period has given many people the opportunity to ask the questions ‘What’s important to me? What kind of life do I want? What kind of city will enable me to live that way?’ 


The answers to these questions have been clear. People want Manchester to be a healthier, greener, fairer, inclusive, liveable city with good jobs for all. And herein comes the moment that everybody in the sustainability and climate change field has been waiting for. 


There is a growing demand for the kind of action that will create the city people want, at the same time as making a positive contribution to tackling the global climate emergency. 


A growing demand for improving the energy efficiency of our homes to help the 38,000 households currently living in fuel poverty, at the same time as reducing CO2 emissions. 


A growing demand for helping people to shift from the private car to walk and cycle more; improving air quality and health whilst addressing our transport emissions.  


A growing demand for buying from local businesses to keep more money and jobs in the local economy, at the same time as reducing the emissions embedded in the products and services we consume.  


These and many other actions are what we need to simultaneously deliver the social, environmental and economic benefits that are fast-becoming the hallmarks of a successful 21st century city. 


So, where do we go next?  


I believe there are five steps we need to take get our new post-COVID vision in place and start working quickly towards it: 


  1. Agree on our shared vision and priorities for action 


We need to build a shared vision for the city we all want to be part of creating. Manchester’s overarching strategy, the Our Manchester Strategy, is being reset this year. We have to ensure it captures the desires that we have heard expressed during the lockdown and since. Including the need for ambitious action on climate change. 


  1. Measure what matters 


Levels of health and wellbeing, the numbers of workers and businesses delivering socially and environmentally positive products and services, access to high quality and wildlife friendly green spaces, and others are much more likely to be in-keeping with the vision we can expect to emerge. 


  1. Expand our ‘bottom-up’ and ‘top-down’ approach to developing and implementing the Our Manchester Strategy 


There’s a good reason why policy-makers involve citizens and businesses in developing policies and strategies; it helps to build ownership and responsibility to contribute towards their delivery. We need to continue to do more of this; building responsibility for ‘bottom-up’ action right across the city. We also need the City Council and other local strategic partners to continue to fulfil their part of the deal. We need partners to be on-hand when help is needed to remove barriers that are limiting action. We need to expand the number of mechanisms for these ‘bottom-up’ and ‘top-down’ conversations, into every Manchester community and sector. 


  1. Strengthen our partnership-based approach to action 


There will be many occasions where the ‘top-down’ interventions we need won’t be possible with the City Council’s existing powers and funding. On that basis we also need to extend our partnership-based approach to working with Greater Manchester and Government. The run-up to the next UN Climate Change Conference (COP 26) in November 2021 gives us a major opportunity to put this in place to help deliver our climate change commitments.  


  1. Equality, diversity and inclusion 


The groups that the Agency currently convenes and engages are far from representative of the city’s diverse communities. We need to work much harder to get this right. Across the city we need to challenge ourselves to ensure that those most in need and those currently underrepresented in our work are top of the list for any new engagement and support activities. 



In combination, these five actions will help to bring about the systemic changes that we need to transform our city for the better. A number of them are based on the approach set out in the Manchester Climate Change Framework 2020-25 and our recent letter to Manchester City Council on the city’s green recovery in June 2020.  


To a point, they build on the approach already in-train in the city. However, when fully implemented they will expose some difficult challenges. They will expose the fact that the current consumption-based economic model serves neither our people nor our planet in the way they deserve. They will expose that some of our priorities in previous years, whilst seemingly the right ones at the time, have made our tasks more difficult going forward, particularly when it comes to reducing carbon emissions to zero. 


We need to have the bravery to accept and confront these challenges, acknowledging that systemic change is difficult. But also knowing that when we get it right we’ll have championed a new model of kinder, fairer, greener, healthier, zero carbon and inclusive city growth. The timing has never been better to put it in place.'


Jonny Sadler

Programme Director

Manchester Climate Change Agency