Manchester has a stated aim of becoming Britain’s greenest city, and many moons back announced that it was introducing a climate change strategy. A ‘statement of principles’ was produced, which were actually not bad thanks to lots of input from environment groups in the City, and a relatively well-informed and forward-looking executive member for environment (Neil Swannick). It called for a reduction of a million tons of carbon dioxide annually from current levels of 3.3 million.
There then followed a long period of quiet; Neil Swannick took on the lead Greater Manchester Waste role and his place was taken by Councillor Richard Cowell. Meanwhile Manchester dropped 3 places in the Sustainable index from mid-table to a lowly 15th out of 20.
But as a new year dawns, fresh shoots of activity have appeared with the release of the Manchester Climate Change Call to Action. A summary was released on the 7th Jan and the report is to be debated on the 14th. A summary of the summary, plus comments, now follows:
The first bit of real substance is the timescale – the final action plan is not due to be published until late 2009. Given earlier delays as well any talk of the urgency of climate change in the document may raise eyebrows. But let’s be generous and say that this gives several months of good ‘consultation’ time for Manchester activists.
The summary then lists 5 elements. Unsurprisingly the first concerns business competitiveness. The document states that commitment to a low carbon economy will have a major influence in future investment decisions’ but there are no examples or indeed any substance in the rest of the paragraph.
The remaining 4 elements concern ‘Education and Employment’, ‘Neighbourhoods of Choice’ ‘a Fairer Manchester’, and ‘A higher quality of City Life’. Motherhood and Apple Pie could easily make up elements 6 and 7.
Moving on through the document the most detail is in the catalytic actions starting at the bottom of page 10 (of 13 pages). However it still varies from the totally vague to the slightly specific ‘green’ the Oxford Road corridor, to the surreal (the airport bit, which is effectively ‘air expansion isn’t sustainable but we won’t stop till everyone else does').
Frankly the only action I feel called to carry out by this document is to put it in the recycling bin. Even making constructive criticism is like nailing blancmange to the wall of a shed.
Maybe I am doing them an injustice and the full document will be wonderful but I doubt it. There is no conviction that they have any real plans, or sense of urgency. There is no joined up thinking with Manchester’s other strategies, e.g. the Local Development framework. And in the light of the economic crisis, which has hit since the Principles were issued a year ago, there is no vision for solving the combined economic, climate and resource crisis along the lines of the ‘Green New Deal’ advocated by the Green Party.
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