Friday, 26 December 2008

Pole-axed in Poland?

The climate negotiations in Poznan, Poland were- as expected- a bit of a damp squib. A (very little) bit of money for adaptation in the developing world, but otherwise everyone's keeping their cards close to their chest, and waiting to see what Obama does. If you want to know more

a) we've blogged at greater length here and here (at


c) come along to the next Manchester Climate Forum event, on Tuesday February 10 2009. Dr Victoria Johnson, who attended the Poznan negotiations for New Economics Foundation, will give a presentation and lead a discussion.

MCFly 14- New Years' Resolutions

Meanwhile, several groups have let slip their New Year's Resolutions. The Green Party resolve to "improve our campaigning effectiveness and not let our temporary absence from the City Council hold us back."

Speaking of the Council, Richard Cowell, Executive Member for the Environment writes "My resolution is that I hope the Climate Change/CO2 Report going to the Council's Executive in the New Year is approved and acts as a catalyst for the delivery of CO2 reductions across Manchester."

The Environment Network for Manchester, producers of great email bulletins, say they'll "get people together in face-to-face meetings more often."

Lacking any ambition, Manchester Climate Action aim to "stop climate change and bring about a transition to a just & sustainable low-carbon economy." This will make MCFly's own ambition, "to keep going until April as a fortnightly. Then we'll see...", redundant. Huzzah!!

MCFly 14 - Xmas marks the spot

An elf, made redundant by “Santa's Workshop Solutions plc” just days before Christmas, has leaked highly sensitive information to Manchester Climate Fortnightly. The elf, whom we cannot name for reality reasons, reports sweated labour, melting factory floors and famished polar bears eating tardy staff. The elf's information that has into our lap landed is pure dynamite- namely a list of requests made to Santa by various climate campaign groups in Manchester...

Those flash Harrys and Harriets of Stop Expansion at Manchester Airport have two wishes- “a fully integrated, subsidised transport system for Europe which would make sustainable travelling a financially viable option for everyone in Europe and the world. We would also like a campaign strategist to burst through the ceiling like Batman - and help us develop a more comprehensive strategy.”

Meanwhile, the 100 Months Club, a “treetops” lobby group, wants the fat man to “bring us the sort of practically radical vision on low carbon action for Greater Mcr that could unite AGMA, the private and third sectors - a vision to quickly stamp down our carbon footprint, boost green collar jobs and have social justice at its heart. That's all.” Similarly, SERA, the Labour environmental campaign wants “Manchester Climate Change Agency/Foundation to encourage, fund and publicise carbon reduction initiatives from the community ... making a difference before 2009 is out.”

A Green Party ( email the elf leaked to MCFly reads "Dear Santa, please can I have for Christmas a ban on advertising cars as lifestyle accessories? You know, those adverts that imply that you're only a good "family man/woman" if you have an internal combustion attached to 4 wheels. Please ban these adverts, with bells on."

Chris Shearlock, Sustainable Development Manager of the Co-operative Group wants "more time as this is what we are running out of. The 'Global Deal', to be agreed in Copenhagen in 2009 really is the last throw of the dice...”

Always and rightly 'demanding the impossible,' Manchester Climate Action, want “a free convenient place to have meetings, not too noisy, central location. Really good, affordable and joined up public transport for Manchester. An end to airport expansion, open-cast coal mines, and coal-fired power stations in the UK.” Embarrassingly, MCFly itself has been caught writing letters to mythical wish-fulfilment figures (and we don't mean Barack Obama) “More people to help put it together, to help distribute it, but most of all, more cool action(s) by everyone that we can then report on.”

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Essay contest: What do we do next?

Short essay competition.

"What are the current problems/future opportunities for climate campaigners in Greater Manchester"

First Prize- £30
Runners Up- to be confirmed

Deadline Sunday 1st February 5pm
entries to

Winner announced on Tuesday February 10th at the "Climate Change: Global and Local" meeting hosted by Manchester Climate Forum. Friends Meeting House, 6 Mount St

Terms and conditions


Entries in English only.

Entries via email only.
Word limit 600 words. Our judge(s) will stop reading at that point.

Nothing libellous

Nothing that advocates violence against individuals.

All your own work please.

The winning entry and other entries will be published in a booklet available for a cost calculated at the production costs. They will also be posted on the Manchester Climate Forum website (

Except for this, copyright remains with authors. (it does anyway)

Winners and other entrants can choose to remain anonymous if they wish.

No details will be handed to any third parties.

With your entry:


Email address:

Phone number as back up:

If entry won the competition/was selected for the booklet, would you want your name published alongside it?

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Issue 13- It's official: Manchester STILL less green than 2007

Last MCFly we reported on the “Sustainable Cities Index,” in which Manchester had dropped from 12th place in 2007 to 15th. However, the whole report had been pulled while the judges - Forum for the Future - re-checked their maths. The report has now been re-released, and although some cities have gone up or down, Manchester is right where it was, 14 places away from its 2010 goal (First, not 29th, for any smart alecks who may have wandered in).
So, two questions need answering.
The first is one we fruitlessly asked the council in our first report: What has the Council actually implemented in the last 12 months that would give them a realistic expectation of having a better rating than the previous year.
The second is - what's the cunning plan for being the Greenest City in Britain by 2010?

Issue 13- Sustainable Energy

Two Manchester University academics have led work on a report about sustainable energy in the UK. Professor Simon Guy and Dr Patrick Devine-Wright have authored a study with the predictably cheesy title ‘Powering Our Lives: Sustainable Energy Management and the Built Environment'. Over 213 fun-packed pages, it looks at how the UK’s buildings and spaces will need to evolve to help cut carbon emissions and cheerfully concludes that the UK is ‘locked-in’ to using certain forms of energy not because they are better but because 'that's the way we've always done things around here...' i.e. It would cost too much to change the infrastructure and create and enforce the regulations to support it.
Professor John Beddington, the Government's Chief Scientific Adviser and Director of the Foresight Programme, the government think tank that co-sponsored the work with the Department for Communities and Local Government, said: “The energy used to power buildings is responsible for over 50% of UK carbon emissions.... We need to think again about how we produce and use energy and this report explores the link between the energy we use to power our lives and the places we use it in.”
The report says there is no ‘magic bullet’ to reduce carbon emissions or ‘decarbonise’ the energy we use. However, it does propose behavioural and regulatory changes which could be introduced over the next 50 years, to overcome this inertia. Three key areas for change are: Upgrading of buildings and spaces to be more carbon neutral, a move to decentralised energy systems and changed human behaviours in the built environment.

Issue 13- MERCi's future

In the latest MCFly (issue 13) we led with a story we called "Murky developments threaten MERCi".

The story was stitched together from information that we'd obtained from a public meeting, and we did our best to check it before running with it. Unfortunately, after we'd printed and published, we found out there was slightly less to the story (printed below) than we thought.

A source at MERCi tells us "It seems that the letter received was actually notice from a private firm that there will be an issuing of CPO's in the area The letter itself was not a CPO. According to the plans, MERCi is not a building to be demolished."

We will update this as we get more information, both on this blog and the paper edition.

Here's the story exactly as we ran it:

Manchester’s first centre for sustainability is reported to have received notice of a compulsory purchase order to make way for a new super-development to be named Holt Town. Cibitas - a consortium that includes private developers and an international investment bank- are leading the project and describe Holt Town Waterfront as a new quarter of Manchester.

The development will span an area of 38 hectares (around 38 football pitches) across East Manchester, including Ancoats where MERCi (Manchester Environmental Resource Centre iniative) is based. MERCi is a charity for sustainable living and established Bridge-5 Mill in 2001 to provide a space for debate and action. The old converted mill has been carefully renovated to high ethical standards, demonstrating the latest in green technology as well as some simple but effective measures. Key features include a living roof, compost toilet, the use of reclaimed timber, straw bale walls and a vegetable patch.

The building hosts a number of progressive projects and organisations, acting as a hub for Manchester-based activist and campaign groups. At the same time, MERCi prioritises the needs of the less privileged and more immediately local population. Although this can be a difficult balance to strike, the project has plenty of success stories to boast of. Local school children with special educational needs are regularly seen volunteering in the garden and the doors are often opened to the community for internet access, open days and fun days. One of the fastest expanding projects is Herbie fruit and veg van that delivers cost-price fruit and veg to streets that lack a local grocery store.

MCFly awaits news of this case as MERCi is soon to begin negotiations with the developers. An optimistic view would note that planners for the new district will be looking for ways to boost their green credentials, and the publicly available plans do not show Bridge-5 Mill as a building to be demolished. None the less, tenants of Bridge-5 Mill brace themselves for a battle.

Sunday, 7 December 2008

MEN, eh useless or what?

More laughter inspired by the Manchester Evening Newsance.

On Saturday 6th December we have- to my knowledge- only the second ever front page story on Climate Change from the Manchester Evening News (I may well be wrong- in the good old days I used to ignore the MEN).

David Ottewell, who's their star reporter, wrote up a piece that... well, you can read it here.

It's hard to over-emphasise just what a non-story this is. I have lost count of the number of times I've read “go local sustainable energy” pieces in magazines and newspapers that dissed wind turbines on your roof. At the time that David “I'm Green” Cameron got his, there was a spate of such stories, patiently explaining that wind speeds that close to earth make the whole proposition unfeasible, in built up areas.

So this is a Non-story of Epic proportions, though no doubt B& Q will be annoyed.

The story also all-but-conflates domestic wind power, on yer house with wind power more generally, before carefully including a carefully worded sentence- "There is no suggestion those fail to generate enough power to cover their environmental costs."

This may well not be Ottewell's intention or fault- sub-editing can strip away nuance and important distinctions. But even if this is the case, the MEN really should be more careful because

a) it aspires to being a proper newspaper

b) it doesn't exactly have a record to boast about on climate change. Its other- recent- front pager on the subject was a “wasteful junket” story. As a commenter on the MCFly blog said-

"I was pretty enraged by the front page story about the firemen - but mainly because I reckon it's the first time we've seen climate change on the front page, it just needed a bogus 'junket' news hook to get it there! In their defence I can see every reason for the fire service to attend this course: in the outlying reaches of Greater Manchester and up onto the moors, the risk of large-scale fires courtesy of climate change is very real and very dangerous."

MEN didn't cover Mini-Stern in any depth, and certainly not promptly (see MCFly 2), hasn't covered Manchester City Council lack of a climate strategy even though one was promised (MCFly 3), the missing million quid that the Council has yet to spend (MCFly 6: NB they may well have spent it by now, but they certainly haven't told us about it. Or anyone else, judging by their website.)

MEN seems to delight in publishing any old denialist crackpot letter, filled with unsubstantiated claims.

All this is surely unrelated to the fact that one of its associate editors has published denialist tosh in the guise of proper argument.

"For every scare-mongering scientist you'll find one who will tell you the current warming is purely a cyclical event. A thousand years ago, the planet went through a period of global warming, called the medieval warm period. Temperatures were higher than anything observed during the current warm period.
Where were the cars, aircraft or coal-burning electricity plants to blame it on then? And the same thing happened a thousand years before that, in the Roman warming period."

MEN seems to have taken the “if it bleeds it leads” ethos to heart. It's a pity. England's second city deserves better.

In other media self-lobotomy news, Peter Sissons interviewed Green Party leader Caroline Lucas about climate change on Saturday, and used the “there's still scientific debate about the issue” line.
Extraordinary; whoever the producer/researcher putting words in the mouth of that particular meat-puppet anchordroid really needs to look themselves in the mirror.

But then, since when did Manchester Climate Fortnightly have quite such high moral ground to stand on? We have, in the latest issue- 13, rushed to print with a story that seems now to have a lot less to it than we thought. The subject of a post tomorrow...

Dirty tactics from the 'No' campaign

I've got a horrible feeling that the No vote is going to win the TIF referendum, and we're going to lose out on billions in investment, and a great opportunity to cut cars and their pollution. And I've got a nasty feeling that that is partly because the 'Yes' campaign has largely been shackled by its ethics and by the need of local authorities to behave in a respectable, local-government-ish sort of way.
In the meantime, the MEN (yes, even they have managed to say something vaguely negative about the No campaign, despite their embarrassingly ill-informed and outdated views on climate change and related matters) have been reporting on some of the extremely unpleasant tactics of the No lobby:

"....Meanwhile a firm has had its membership of the anti-charge Greater Manchester Momentum Group suspended after posting on the internet a film depicting a young girl apparently being assaulted because her father is unable to pay the charge.
The movie, shot as a spoof of hit American drama 24, was billed `repugnant' and `beyond belief' by critics.
Shot at the Trafford Centre with the permission of owners Peel Holdings, the film shows a young girl ringing her dad after being followed by a menacing figure in a hood.
He refuses to come to pick her up, claiming he `can't afford' the charge, and instead urges her to make for the motorway, outside the proposed charging zone.

The footage ends with the sound of the girl screaming as the screen fades to black with the message `Stop this madness! Vote no'.
The company that posted it on YouTube, Manchester-based Sonassi Media, has had its membership of the anti-charge Greater Manchester Momentum Group suspended.
Lis Phelan, chairman of the `yes' campaign, said: "For members of the `no' campaign to use images of violence against women to promote their campaign is beyond belief."......

Sometimes it all seems like a horrible joke

So, we're in the midst of a credit crunch and general economic meltdown the likes of which have not, apparently, been seen since the Great Depression. And we're facing all the various entertainingly horrible effects of climate change. So, thinks Lloyds TSB, it must be a great idea to bring the two together with... The Airmiles Mortgage. Yep, collect Airmiles so you can jet off to all parts of the world (that haven't disappeared under any melting bits of Arctic), whilst making your sky-high interest payments.
Actually, this genius product was launched in May, but I' ve only just spotted the ads for it online...

Monday, 1 December 2008

Climate Change Committe- a Turner for the Worse?

So, the Climate Change Committee reported for the first time today. Its current boss is off to, er, greener pastures, and apparently the very short shortlist of possible replacements wasn't suitable and those who formulated it were told to go away and think harder. But I digress....

The key recommendations of the report, which I've not yet seen, are these-

* More aggressive targets for cutting gas emissions (“mitigation”) than the rest of Europe.
* (26% cut on 1990 levels by 2020. EU target is 20%, 30% if Uncle Sam plays along)
* Coal fired power stations need Carbon Capture and Storage
* 5 year carbon budgets
* Nukes are “cost-competitive with conventional fossil-fuel generation”

The Climate Change Committee seems to be one of those classic British arms-length things where our Lords and Masters can seem to be “taking independent advice”, so long as “taking” and “enacting” are not the same thing. As Tom Burke of e3g explained to Gerry Northam on tonight's Panorama (about the return of UK coal), this is a government that has talked a good green game, but has been stealthily moving the goalposts. (Anyone remember the promise to be 20% below 1990 levels by 2010? No, that was quietly dropped before Madame Beckett left DEFRA...).

So Ed Miliband, chief DECC-chair re-arranger, said ministers would “consider” the report.
Of course, Lord Adair Turner is an astute player of these games. A few days back he mumbled that a Third Runway at Heathrow wouldn't be altogether unthinkable.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Sustainable Cities Index: Manchester still 15th

In the latest MCFly we reported on the Forum for the Future's “Sustainable Cities Index.” Manchester came 15th, down three places on last year. We sought comment from various people about this, including Richard Cowell, Manchester's Executive Member for the Environment,

He defended the City Council's record, admitting “We're disappointed to have come 15th on the index this year, but we're currently awaiting the result of Forum For The Future's own review of its data.

Well the wait is over, and (drumroll please) Manchester's position is now... still 15th.

The following was sent to us by Forum for the Future:

Thanks to the Manchester Climate Fortnightly for the piece about our Sustainable Cities Index. Although we still waiting to take delivery of the amended report, we thought your readers would be interested to read our latest blog which contains the corrected rankings. Manchester remains at fifteen. It can be read here:

Monday, 24 November 2008

Manchester Carbon Co-op wins social innovation prize

Manchester Carbon Co-op has been awarded a place at a national event for social innovation in London in December. With nearly twice as many votes as its competitor proposals, the Carbon Co-op will benefit from SiCamp's efforts to unite “talented software developers and designers with social innovators to build effective web-based solutions to real social problems.”
The Carbon Co-op is a planned consumer co-operative, proposed for South Manchester, which will link up people who want to buy low carbon technologies like solar panels, insulation and energy meters, cutting the cost by achieving economies of scale in purchasing and installing the kit. It's hoped that as well as bringing individuals together, social housing providers may also be interested in rolling out the technology to low income households, helping to combat fuel poverty as well as climate change.
The Co-op was based on the solar clubs and environmental bulk-buying co-ops which have formed in the USA and Japan.
Jonathan from the Carbon Co-op will be attending the Social Innovation Camp and will be keeping a blog on his website. Other organisations involved include URBED.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

MCFly 012- Climate Change Foundation

MCFly spoke to one of its people with the Finger on the Pulse (or legume- we're not really sure) about the very new “Climate Change Foundation (CCF)”, a potential new source of money for climate change action in Greater Manchester.

What is the Climate Change Foundation and where is the money going to come from?
The CCF is conceived as a means by which investment can be generated for substantial and possibly radical work on climate change mitigation and adaptation in the city region. It will be independent of the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities (AGMA) and owned by its investors. This could give the body useful flexibility in terms of what it can fund – and how fast it can do it. It will most likely mix private sector funds with other sources such as endowments and possibly the European Investment Bank. It is possibly best viewed as a vital function of the new work on Climate Change in the city region - which may or may not be separate from the Manchester Climate Change Agency. So basically, it is an idea that is being explored but will not see light of day until well after the Environment Commission and the Manchester Climate Change Agency are open for business, and settled in, early next year. It's unlikely that public funds will be used for running the thing.

What is it supposed to achieve?
Cold Hard Cash for good and substantial Climate Change work - and cash that could be independent of the political processes of AGMA. It is also a way to get past the Town Hall credibility gap that is all too real to many sectors outside of the Town Halls of the region. It will also make real the 'investment proposition' on Climate Change -so the Foundation can say to organisations looking to reduce their emissions 'we enable you to cut your energy use/make your own low carbon energy and that will make you money - which you then use to pay us back.' An oversimplification for sure, but applicable to many circumstances - especially with a longish pay back period.

How might it go Horribly Wrong?

* If energy stays so cheap that the investment in saving it or generating it doesn't pay. At the moment, the Recession will ensure that even cheapish energy will be worth saving [MCFly notes that on Nov 21 oil was below $50 a barrel...] New regulation will also affect this – especially in the realms of planning and Carbon Trading.
* If AGMA don't realise how valuable the Foundation could be and don't engage in it, or don't allow it to be independent.
* If people get so confused about the proliferation of Climate Change bodies that they don't get the rationale.
Watch this space- MCFly will follow the story...

The Mystery of the Missing Ratings

This story was supposed to be about Manchester's poor rating in Forum for the Future's 'Sustainable Cities Index.' Released on November 10, the ratings proclaimed Bristol “the most sustainable city in Britain,” for its recycling, composting and waste collection programmes, open spaces and clean water.

Manchester rated only 15th in the listings, having dropped from 12th place in 2007, despite Council promises that we'd be the greenest city in Britain by 2010.

But when McFly tried to learn more about the ratings, we found that the 2008 list had vanished from the website. An enquiry was met with the information that “We're reviewing all the data in our Sustainable Cities Index after an error was brought to our attention and have taken it off our website in the meantime. It's important to have accurate figures which councils can use to benchmark their efforts and we will be reissuing these as soon as we have completed our review.”

Forum for the Future was set up in the 1990s to foster links between environmentalists, government and business, but was met with scepticism by greens for including the likes of BNFL and BP amongst its corporate members.

Its first Sustainable Cities Index put Brighton & Hove at the top of the pile, followed by Edinburgh and Bristol.

While the Council may be breathing a temporary sigh of relief, Manchester Green Party's Brian Candeland was less optimistic.

Whilst Forum for the Future have identified some inconsistencies in their data and removed their report from the website to check it, it is likely that the positions are broadly correct,” he said. “At least Manchester cannot have done worse than last year, unless a missing climate change strategy could incur minus points. The 2007 survey said that cities like Manchester that went for grand projects performed poorly. The indication is that “trophy-collecting” distracts from the broader criteria of what makes a sustainable and liveable city."

Martin Empson of Manchester Campaign Against Climate Change demanded that “the council should be

looking at radical solutions rather than relying on the goodwill of local businesses. In the current economic climate, the council should be using its powers to instigate major improvement works on housing and transport services to both reduce emissions and safeguard jobs and services."

Even Future ProManchester, a young professionals' organisation, called on Council Leadership to take a former stance, with chair Alex Solk commenting that: “Manchester has some great leaders, but who is there to deliver a sustainable strategy? We should be developing policies and business practices to generate revenue in the short term and develop a sustainable city for the future in the long term.”

Richard Cowell, Manchester's Executive Member for the Environment, defended the City Council's record, admitting “"We're disappointed to have come 15th on the index this year, but we're currently awaiting the result of Forum For The Future's own review of its data” but claiming that "Combating climate change is a major priority for the City Council and we're currently working on a detailed report to be launched in the near future, detailing how we're going to reach our target of reducing CO2 emissions by one million tonnes by 2020.”

Ultimately though, we get the leadership we deserve. Despite activist rhetoric about “think global act local”, Manchester City Council has not been criticised for its year of inaction. What will it take to get Manchester's environmentalists to engage critically with the Council? Will Howard Bernstein have to start commuting to work in a helicopter, tossing out free Easyjet vouchers as he goes, before anyone takes the blindest bit of notice?


Thursday, 20 November 2008

The Road to Copenhagen

Another news-packed MCFly will be hitting your email inboxes on Sunday 22nd November. In the meantime, when not sweating blood over Chomsky at 80, the upcoming one-day event in central Manchester, I've had a read of a couple of very interesting articles about the climate negotiations that are supposed to culminate with a Global Deal in December 2009.

Fiona Harvey, environment reporter for the Financial Times, wrote a piece published on September 15 entitled "Divided We Stand" The links are added by MCFly.

"The next major step in the UN negotiation process is a conference in December at Poznan, Poland. But although this conference will be the last major meeting before the climax of talks in Copenhagen, it is unlikely to produce any notable breakthrough.

"People are not going to give away their real negotiating position at this stage," says Eileen Claussen, president of the Washington-based Pew Centre on Global Climate Change. "The negotiations are hardly moving at all."

Ms Claussen is further quoted as saying "My own experience [as a Whitehouse adviser on climate change under Bill Clinton] suggsts that it takes at least six months for senior policy people to be confirmed in place.... Then they have to go through the policy process. The odds of a detailed US position before the fall of 2009 are pretty small."

However, since then, Obama has won t'election, and as Ed Luce of the FT points out, he isn't making the same sorts of foul-ups with his transition that Bubba did...

The second piece is also from a Pew Centre bod, and also from the pre-election period (October 22, to be precise). Eliot Diringer writes in "The US Election and Prospects for a New Climate Agreement"

"The new U.S. administration will likely not be in a position to agree to a specific emissions target when governments meet in Copenhagen. That can happen only when Congress has enacted (or is on the verge of enacting) legislation setting firm limits on U.S. emissions. Beyond the question of timing, however, is the level of effort the United States is likely to undertake. One quandary is that targets that appear quite ambitious from a U.S. perspective would still be far short of what Europe is calling for."

And further, "the U.S. target will be largely a function of the domestic debate, not international pressure, and is unlikely to deviate significantly from the numbers now before Congress."

So Diringer argues "developing countries will not be prepared to enter into such commitments before the United States assumes a binding international target, which, again, is highly unlikely in Copenhagen. Under these circumstances, the best plausible outcome for Copenhagen may be an intermediary agreement outlining the key elements of a post-2012 framework- for instance, binding economy-wide targets for developed coutnries, policy commitments for the major emerging economies, and support mechanisms for technology, finance, and adaptation in developing countries. This would then serve as the basis for further negotiations on details such as specific target and funding levels. An intermediary framework agreement will be most credible, and most likely to induce developing country commitments, if it includes an agreed range for developing country targets, making it imperative that the US-EU gap be bridged in Copenhagen.... Instead of a full and final deal in Copenhagen, we must aim for what is in fact feasible, and set expectations now so that it is received as a success. The risks and consequences of failure are otherwise far too great."

Obama is a smart guy, and he seems to know what is at stake. He has sent a video message to Ahnold Schwarzenegger's Climate Conference promising quick action.

One more FT quote, this time from Mike Scott on Monday 17 November:
"Clean energy is also proving to be a convenient policy tool, as it addresses four major issues that dominated the election campaign: energy security, the economy, employment and climate change," says Lord Stern, now vice-chairman of IdeaCarbon, the carbon ratings agency.
A little noticed aspect of the US Treasury's $700bn bail-out plan was the inclusion of a number of measures designed to boost clean energy including the extension of tax credits for the solar and wind industries and measures to boost carbon capture and storage."

There's a new Congressional House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman too, Henry Waxman, which informed commentators think is a Good Thing.

Things to remember- despite all this talk, or talking about talking, and all the "good intentions", emissions still climb, and we build the infrastructure to lock us into continued high emissions. Recent work by Manchester-based academics Kevin Anderson and Alice Bows has shown this to be a remarkably stupid thing for a species that bills itself as "sapiens" to do.

Contraction and Convergence
might actually have given us a chance to sort all this out, but we're now looking at accelerated sink failure and- as Margaret Atwood put it- a Pending Ecological Debacle. There is no such thing as a free lunch- someone, somewhere, always has to pay. Until now the West has been able to throw that bill at some Other. Not for much longer, not for much longer...

Thanks to Olive Heffernan of Nature Climate Feedbacks for bringing both of the Pew articles to my attention

See also
Climate Progress
Beyond Copenhagen Complete with pictures of the Little Mermaid before and after the icecaps melt...

Monday, 17 November 2008

News from London- Plane Stupid in court...

Last week, five Plane Stupid activists faced the judicial music for a "we've climbed onto the roof of the Houses of Parliament to highlight the Department for Transport being in bed with BAA" stunt.

The judge found 'em guilty, but also that it was reasonable for them to have concluded as they did.

One of the Plane Stupiders sent us this:

'We're delighted by the outcome of our trial. Our defence against the charge was 'the use of reasonable force to prevent a crime', but because we didn't use any violence in carrying out our action, the magistrate ruled that our defence did not apply, meaning we were guilty of trespass. But both the magistrate and the prosecution counsel accepted that it was reasonable for us to conclude that there was a criminal conspiracy going on at the Department for Transport during the Heathrow Consultation, given the facts we understood at the time.

Plane Stupid have now officially requested a police investigation into our allegations of criminal misconduct and conspiracy against at least two of the civil servants named in the Freedom of Information documents we relied on in our defence case. The judge awarded us small fines (£365 each) in explicit recognition of the fact that we honestly believed we were acting in the public interest, and that other democratic remedies had been closed off to us.

The same cannot possibly be said of the DfT officials who worked hand in hand with BAA, falsifying data in order to deceive the public about the environmental impact of the Heathrow expansion plans. Plane Stupid has very little faith in the ability of the police to bring Government officials to justice of course, so we will continue our campaign of responsible citizenship and civil disobedience until all plans for airport expansion in the UK are scrapped.'

MCFly will carry information shortly about any imminent Stop Expansion at Manchester Airport meeting.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Obama and Climate Change- initial thoughts

Well, at least we now have a POTUS with the requisite number of chromosomes, so that's a good start. And you'd have to have a heart of stone not to be swept up just a little bit...
He will have to, as the business press and everyone else has been saying, massage expectations downwards. David Rovics has a sensible take.

The blogosphere is, inevitably, awash with punditry. One of the best so far is Obama and Climate Change- does he have what it takes? which refers to Bill “The End of Nature” McKibben's column “President Obama's Big Climate Challenge

Another is Strategery 2.0 "What can greens expect from Obama?

For the Obama presidency, there are three biggies:

  1. Get out of Iraq.

  2. Do something about energy and carbon.

  3. Pass healthcare reform.

Based on precedent it's likely he'd be willing to negotiate or horse trade just about anything else in favor of tackling these three issues.

Now, how does that same strategy translate to climate/energy? The biggies in this area are:

  1. A declining cap on carbon -- the linchpin.

  2. Large investments in green R&D and infrastructure.

  3. Regulatory and tax support for clean electricity and alternative fuels.

The first two shape the foundation of the market and the third accelerates new industries within it.

Along the way, there are certain to be environmentalist-irritating concessions. There will be research and pilot-project funding for "clean coal," oil shale, and liquid coal. Ethanol subsidies are unlikely to be substantially curtailed. There will likely be more oil drilling. Horses will be traded.
Don't be ridiculous. Nothing will.

Will Obama's plan keep us below a 2 degree global average temperature rise above pre-Industrial levels?
Don't be ridiculous. Nothing will.
And here's an intelligent comment on a blog that lays out some of the reasons.

Obama has lots of eye-catching stuff about increasing renewables. You can expect a solar panel on the White House within a couple of weeks of inauguration. There's more eye-catching stuff about energy efficiency and “energy security.”

And Obama MAY show up at the Poznan Climate Talks- people want him to- but I suspect he won't.

What to watch for (i.e. how it could come unstuck, what the major stumbling blocks are)
He has to work with the Democrats in Congress, led by Nancy Pelosi
He has to tell Americans that their long love affair with fossil fuels and NO LIMITS is over.
The Europeans have their bluff called- making promises you don't think you'll have to keep is easy, after all...

Where can I find out more information?
His own website's Energy and Climate pages
Climate Progress- a rather excellent blog by Joseph Romm

Council on Foreign Relations
Pew Centre

Carbon offsetting - what does it mean?

Issue 11 of Manchester Climate Fortnightly includes the story that parts of the Piccadilly Basin development have been awarded 'carbon neutral status.' While this is partly down to a BREEAM rating of 'excellent' for the energy efficiency of the buildings and eco-measures such as a 'living roof,' this seems to mainly be based on the development's purchase of carbon offsets.
Carbon offsets are still a highly controversial means of claiming environmental impact reductions for buildings, flying, driving, heating buildings and homes and other polluting activities.
The negative impacts of some offset projects, especially reforestation projects which have planted monocultures or inappropriate tree species on land from which indigenous people and peasants have been evicted, is well documented. The name 'Future Forests' was dropped by one of the industry's first big players after the associations became too negative - it's now the almost-ubiquitous 'Carbon Neutral Company.'
Some critics of offsets have wider objections, focusing not on the ills of specific projects but seeing the entire idea as dubious - an opportunity for us to continue living environmentally profligate lifestyles and make us feel better about massive overconsumption by buying our way out of guilt - not dissimilar to the 'indulgences' peddled by the Roman Catholic church during the Medieval period.
For those interested in offsets, though, the difficulty is in finding offset services which offer projects which don't abuse human rights, are environmentally sustainable in other ways, such as respecting biodiversity and water resources, and which support projects which are genuinely 'additional' - ie they wouldn't happen if those offset payments weren't coming in. For more discussion on this kind of issue, see the Carbon Offsets product report in Ethical Consumer magazine or the debate between Paul Monaghan of the Co-op Group and Dan Welch of Ethical Consumer in Enterprising magazine.
And this, to cut to the chase (yep, I'm finally getting there!), is what worries me about the Piccadilly Basin statement of 'carbon neutrality.' One of the offset investments it lists is the Sichuan Hydro Power Project in China. Now, I know nothing about this project specifically, and I haven't got time to go and investigate it at this moment. But I do know that Chinese hydropower projects have a diabolical environmental and human rights history. The notorious Three Gorges Dam, for instance, included the (in many cases forced) displacement of over a million people, the flooding of priceless archaeological heritage and huge environmental damage. Other Chinese massive hydropower projects have had similar impacts, if not on quite such a vast scale. And while China's huge population deserves all the comforts that the affluent West has awarded itself over the years, how much of the power from some of these projects is actually going to Chinese homes, and how much to an economy predicated to a substantial extent on manufacturing stuff for export to us, and to the rest of Europe and the USA, to feed our apparently inexhaustible appetite for things we don't need? And is this a suitable destination for funds which then allow developments in our own backyard to call themselves 'carbon neutral'?

Friday, 7 November 2008

Journal Review- The Fourth World Review, Oct 2008

The Fourth World Review: A Transition Journal
No 147
October 2008
32 A5 pages, stapled

The Fourth World Review has been going more than forty years “as a response to the ongoing global crises to assert the supremacy of local community power and the moral control of public affairs on the basis of that power.
The editorial for this issue implies that it's had a bit of a second wind from the recent upsurge in activity- or preparation for activity- that goes under the banner of “Transition Towns.”
Articles here include “GM crops and eugenics,” “Why we should care about ecosystems,” “Quid pro co-production” and “Alternative Currencies.” There are also book reviews and an entertaining collection of observations at the back, the “Fourth World Spectator.”
All the articles are “bite-sized”- easy to read while waiting for a bus or in the smallest room. Only one of the articles (by Rob “Transition Towns” Hopkins) has further reading lists. Most- though not all- are clearly written, though all could have done with a little spicing up.

There are no pictures or cartoons, making it intimidating for some, and less engaging than it needs to be. Most seriously, there is no reference to the recent (and in this reviewer's opinion) telling criticisms of the “Transition” model by various folks, including the SchNews crew down in Brighton. Perhaps this was already alluded to in a previous issue, or will be soon.

Still, definitely one to watch, and who can argue with their mantra- “The one to act is me. The place to act is here. And the time to act is now.
MCFly will review future issues as and when appropriate.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Three excellent presentations about carbon, design and climate

Three rapid-fire presentations, three lots of food for thought at the latest (and best this MCFly reporter has been to) “Green Drinks”- which is essentially a montly business-card-swapping opportunity for professionals in the regeneration/sustainability game.
First up was Charlie Baker of URBED, giving an overview of what needs to be done and why (he pointed out how small-c conservative the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change actually was.
He was followed by Kate Brown, a consultant engineer with Faber Maunsell, a consultancy specialising in the planning, design and engineering of buildings, transport systems and environmental services. She looked at the different ways her company designs out waste and aims at zero carbon buildings.
Greg Keeffe, Principal Lecturer at the Manchester Metropolitan University's Faculty of Art and Design closed out with a look at how smart nature is, and how dumb we humans can be when they refuse to accept the subtle design hints on offer. (Cuttlefish can say so much without words- they use colours!) Worth googling bio-mimicry and industrial ecology. He also recommended a book called "Out of Control" by Kevin Kelly. Subtitle is "The New Biology of Machines, Social Systems, and the Economic World."

On the plus side, it was free and really engaging- MCFly will nag the three speakers to post their presentations somewhere for all to see.
On the negatives, it was a downstairs venue and the drinks were expensive.
MCFly will let you know when the next Green Drinks is happening- definitely worth going, even if you don't have a business card to swap...

Monday, 3 November 2008

Shouting fire on a crowded planet.

The Manchester Evening News leads today with something that ... isn't bleeding!
The headline reads “Firmen sent to Greece for 'climate change' training.

The story, and the comments on the website, all focus on it being a junket/a waste of money.

No-one seems to be focussing on the hypocrisy angle. These guys go off on a climate change- related course and get to where they're going by, er, flying. It's not mentioned whether they bought carbon offsets, but so what, those things are largely a scam anyhow.


The MEN is owned by the Guardian Media Group. It, and other newspapers, are dependent upon advertising for their operating costs and profits. The most reliable advertisers are often the most carbon-intensive- airlines and car-makers. But to say there's any self-censorship would be pure conspiracy-theory....

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Issue 10- The End of the World is "NI"?

Despite warnings of dire consequences if carbon dioxide (C02) emissions aren't cut, local authorities (LAs) throughout Greater Manchester are still not taking the problem seriously. Figures obtained (see table) by Manchester Climate Fortnightly (MCFly) from official DEFRA data show that most LAs are either standing still or even getting worse. The main offender is Manchester City Council, with a 2.9% increase between 2005 and 2006, the last year for which figures were available.
Only seven of the ten Greater Manchester LAs- Manchester, Oldham, Rochdale, Salford, Stockport, Tameside and Trafford- have agreed to adopt a “National Indicator” (number 186) aimed at reducing emissions within their borders. The three who haven't- Bolton, Bury and Wigan- are still obliged to cut CO2 emissions. When asked why they hadn't, Bolton and Bury Councils did not even bother to respond to MCFly. Wigan council replied “we did not adopt NI 186 for a number of reasons. We have adopted NI 188 (adaptation) as a priority indicator related to Climate Change.” National Indicator 188 is designed to ensure that LAs are 'prepared to manage risks' from a 'changing climate' and so is basically a reactive policy, albeit a necessary one.
Your local authority should have set a target for reducing CO2 emissions. For example, Trafford have set a target “of 9.4% reduction by 2010/11 based on figures gathered in 2005/6.”
It would be worth writing to your Council and ask what target they have set and perhaps encourage them to be a little bolder, given what is at stake.
"The Ferret"
For more information on National Indicators-

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Climate Bill. YOU can make it stronger, if you phone NOW.

Manchester Climate Fortnightly will NOT normally endorse campaigns, or post stuff on the blog asking you to do things. But Friends of the Earth have worked so hard on this campaign, and it is so important that the Climate Bill includes international aviation and shipping, that we beg you to do what the FOE email below asks you to do.

Dear Friend,

As someone who has signed up to and been closely involved in these final stages of the Big Ask campaign for the Climate Change Bill we wanted to tell you of our recent success, and ask you to take a quick action.

The Report Stage votes on the Bill – i.e. THE big votes we've been waiting for all summer – will happen on *Tuesday 28 October*. That's /this /coming Tuesday! At these votes, MPs will vote on a list of amendments to the Bill.

The Government will be suggesting an amendment that will be to raise the 2050 emissions reduction target from 60% to 80%. This follows the advice of the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) two weeks ago. But it is also, to a huge extent, a result of the pressure you have put on
MPs over the last few months. Well done! We are sure that this amendment, with Government support, will pass. So we have won on our 80% ask!

The Government still opposes one crucial improvement we are tabling, calling for international aviation and shipping emissions to be included in the Bill. This is despite the advice from the CCC that these emissions should be included.

Thanks to your efforts we know that all the opposition parties as well as significant numbers of backbench Labour MPs support the inclusion of international aviation and shipping emissions in the Bill. But the Government will try its best to stop MPs from voting for this amendment. So...

*Urgent Action:*

A few more minutes of your time will make a real difference to the way MPs vote. Please call your MP and ask them to:

"Please vote for the amendments that include international aviation and shipping emissions in the Climate Change Bill."

You can contact your MP by calling the House of Commons switchboard on 020 7219 3000 and asking to be put through to your MP's Westminster office.

Please do try to find the time to make this call if you can – you will be making a /huge/ difference.

Thanks and congratulations on your efforts to win this amazing Bill. We're nearly there.

Best wishes,

Julian Kirby
Parliamentary Unit

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Sombre reminder of climate disarray

Yet another reminder of the perilous disequilibrium of earth's climate
has come our way, via the Royal Society and the Tyndall Centre for
Climate Change Research. Two of the sharpest brains at Tyndall, Dr Alice
Bows and Prof Kevin Anderson (both at Tyndall North here in
Manchester), have put together an assessment of the politically driven
aim to restrict global average temperature increase to 2 degrees
centigrade. They find this aim to be seriously defective, and in a
closely argued and densely referenced 20 page paper they offer their

Their assessment of our capacity to restrain temperature to bearable
limits focuses on (a) the recent acceleration of 21st century CO2
emissions, well beyond the bounds of the working assumptions of the IPCC
4th Assessment Report (AR4) (2007) and of the Stern Report (2006); (b)
the neglect in current political thinking of the powerful role played by
deforestation and by other greenhouse gases; (c) the implied naivety of
the generalised (and politically useful?) belief that the route to a
stable atmospheric concentration of CO2 (and the other greenhouse gases)
can be attained without detailed attention being paid to the emission
"route" through which this supposedly ideal, or at least tolerable,
concentration will be attained. This route necessitates defining a peak
year for emissions, and then defining a steeply decreasing year-by-year
curve in emissions down to a near-zero "no-regrets" minimum.
They show with rigorous argument and calculation that it will be much
much harder - and possibly politically impossible - to hold the
anticipated temperature increase below 2 degrees, and show that a more
honest assessment of the way things industrial and political are going
is that an increase of the order of 4 degrees is likely - and that
society should plan for the appropriate adaptation.
The politically possible and the physically necessary demands in carbon
emissions are thus in unreconcilable conflict. The extremely steep
annual drops in emissions needed by the biosphere and its human
inhabitants do not seem to be achievable.

"Reframing the climate change challenge in light of post-2000 emission
trends" by Kevin Anderson and Alice Bows.

Phil. Trans. R. Soc. A
Published online

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

News flash- delay in UK Climate Projections

This just arrived in MCFly's inbox-

"Defra, Met Office Hadley Centre and UK Climate Impacts Programme have taken a decision to delay the launch of the UK 21st Century Climate Change Projections (2008) project (UKCIP08). This decision has been taken based on information provided by the Met Office Hadley Centre which needs more time to consolidate the climate projections. The Met Office is using ground-breaking science to produce the new climate projections – combining information from the widest possible range of global climate models. This complex process requires further analysis which will unfortunately take more time than initially expected. The projections are now likely to be published in Spring 2009. Further information will be available as soon as possible."

This is really, really interesting. The UK Climate Impacts Programme was set up in April 1997 ( Its work has been used by local authorities, insurers etc who want/need to know what sorts of weather patterns will be happening in 2020, 2050 and 2080 and their implications for "construction, working practices, demand for goods and services, biodiversity, service delivery, health" among others.

David Attenborough relied on these projections heavily in his BBC documentaries last year.

The last projections were in 2002, and the 2008 ones have been very eagerly awaited. The more pessimistic commentators may be inclined to point to the recent conference at Exeter as the reason for the delay- that conference heard lots of evidence that the impacts are coming faster than harder than thought. (this I overheard at a "Climate Clinic" event at Labour Party conference- the link below is merely about the conference itself

We live in interesting times

MCFly 8- hundreds attend green events

The Labour Party's annual conference was held in Manchester between the 20th and 24th of September. Internal strife, low poll-ratings and economic turmoil over-shadowed environmental issues inside the conference, but campaigners from Manchester and across the UK met at fringe events to formulate responses to the climate crisis.

A stones throw from Labour's maximum security fortress, The Convention of the Left met over the course of the conference, bringing together a wide variety of Leftist activists for a series of free public seminars and debates. Monday 22nd was 'Planet Day', which involved well attended events tackling subjects such as the link between environmental destruction and the economic system, whether climate change can be solved without nuclear, and how to build strong grassroots environmental movements. The Convention was followed by the launch of the Manchester Campaign for Free Public Transport on Thusrday 24th, an initiative greeted with enthusiasm at the convention.

Meanwhile on Portland street the Climate Clinic created, in the words of the organizers, “a forum where party leaders, ministers, renowned scientists, opinion formers, environmentalists, low-carbon associations, business leaders and the public come together to debate the issues, spotlight the solutions and press for urgent action and vigorous political leadership.” Seminars covered topics including fuel poverty, moving beyond growth based economies, the feasibility of 'eco-towns', and the future of renewable energy in the UK. The event was organised and sponsored by a 20 strong coalition of environmental and development NGOs and think tanks. Sources close to MCFly report that government Ministers were less than confidence-inspiring (and occasionally absent), but the free buffet food was of exceptional quality.

It wasn't all talk though. On Tuesday 23rd over 100 people converged on Albert Square to reveal red t-shirts emblazoned with 'STOP AIRPORT EXPANSION'. The protesters lay on the ground to spell out 'Take the Train' with their bodies, referring to the 29% of flights from Manchester that are domestic.

Almost as many police supervised the 15 minute stunt, which was hailed a success by orgainsers. Robbie Gillet commented, "we got the message across with a great photo opportunity for the local press".

The event also launched a new campaign group- Stop Expansion of Manchester Airport (SEMA), an umbrella organisation linking local environmentalists with wider anti-aviation campaigns. SEMA are holding an open meeting at 7pm on Thursday 16th October at the Green Fish Resource Centre to form a plan of action.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Review of "Muslim Green Guide to Reducing Climate Change"

“Corruption has flourished on land and sea as a result of people’s actions and He will make them taste the consequences of some of their actions so that they may turn back.”
(Qur’an 30:41)

A Muslim Environmental group has joined forces with anther two charities to publish a green guide which gives Muslims practical advice on how to reduce climate change.
The Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Sciences (IFEES), founded in the mid-80s, states that since Muslims comprise one fifth of the world’s population, any positive change in attitudes towards the environment could have dramatic results.

The Green Guide is a basic introduction which explains what causes climate change and utilizes Islamic references to explain why Muslims need to do their bit for the environment. For example it states that ‘Islam teaches Muslims to respect Allah’s creation and maintain the balance He created’ and so they must reduce their consumption of fossil fuels. The booklet is split into four sections which tackle issues of waste, transport, household consumption and the final section which gives some useful information and a ‘How green is my family?’ checklist.

Each topic such as air travel or electricity use is explained clearly and an action list is suggested as ways to tackle the issue. Nothing ground-breaking just simple and practical advice which everyone can do. The guide works really well as an introductory booklet for Muslim families who may have not really understood the issues behind climate change and want practical advice on what they can do. It’s a good balance between Islamic references which support the need for change and facts/figures (e.g. the majority of car journeys in the UK average only 2 miles).

However, for Muslims who are quite aware of environmental issues, it may be too basic and not really offer anything substantively new. It would also be good to have the booklet available in a couple of languages so that it could be an effective resource to a wider community.

Monday, 22 September 2008

Universities and Climate Change- more information

Further Information- continuing the student guide
Points of reference

HEEPI have a guide to assess the sustainability of your University under 'Good Campus:

The Environmental association for Universities and Colleges.

Teaching and Learning for a Sustainable Future; multimedia education programme

Education for Sustainable Development by The Higher Education Academy

The National Union of Students (NUS) and NUS Services Limited- the trading arm of the NUS- have strict ethical and environmental statements which they follow when engaging in policy and commerce. They operate the Sound Impact scheme and the Carbon Academy Project which develops and promotes green practice- such as reducing carbon emissions and reducing waste- among student unions.
National Union of Student Ethical and Environmental Policy

The University and Colleges Union ("the largest trade union and professional association for academics, lecturers, trainers, researchers and academic-related staff working in further and higher education throughout the UK") has recognised the importance of climate change and has made a commitment to playing a part in 'greening the campus' and 'greening the curriculum. It aims to achieve these encouraging health and safety reps and others to train as 'environment reps' who would negotiate locally greener workplace practices.
Pressing employers in every college and university to develop local carbon reduction strategies in conjunction with staff and students the union has also pledged to support other unions- such as NUJ and the TUC- in campaigns for secure greener government policies. UCU has also stated that it is still awaiting recognition from DIUS that they they alongside other FE/HE unions are key partners and should be involved in college/university carbon reduction strategy.

"Solar Power to the People" follow-up info

After further digging, MCFly has been able to pin down more info about the scheme by
Northwards Housing to fit solar panel on tower blocks across North Manchester.
Here's what we know:

The quarter of a million which was fronted by central governments 'Low Carbon
Buildings Programme' is a grant which will not be paid back. The solar panels scheme
will however save around 43,000kgs of CO2 per year and so contribute to reducing
climate change. The tower blocks will be measured up for the solar panels over the
next two weeks, and once installed they will generate clean, green leccy.

Worryingly, there is no legal obligations that the future savings are spent on these
specific tower blocks as the revenue savings are Northwards. The housing company is
however "committed to spend some of the revenue savings on improvements for

The nine rejected tower blocks were deemed unsuitable on the grounds of insufficient
space, overshadowing and capped roofs which would be too expensive to change. A
council source has stated that Northwards Housing are nonetheless "committed to
improving the environmental sustainability of all homes managed, so although nine
blocks will not benefit directly from this scheme, we will be looking at other
renewable energy technology projects which these blocks could benefit from in

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Scoop! Government minister ducks climate debate

Last night a standing-room only audience heard a debate about climate change at a Labour Party Conference fringe meeting.

There was the scientist (Dr Kevin Anderson, of Manchester Tyndall Centre).
There was the businessman (Chris Shearlock, environment manager of the Co-op)
There was the journalist (Larry Elliot, economics bod of the Guardian).
And there was the think-tanker- Andrew Simms of the New Economics Foundation, a London think tank.

And who wasn't there, who said she would be? Yvette Cooper, the chief secretary of the Treasury.

And this is a government that says it's listening, that it wants to do better?

On last night's (no)-showing, not bloody likely.

MCFly will post an in-depth report soon. For now- Elliott said the current crisis has been 30 years brewing, since the New Right used the first Oil Shock (1973) to deregulate everything it could and the left largely went along with it. Anderson did a quick skim through his latest paper (reported last MCFly), saying we're unlikely to stabilise the atmospheric concentrations anything below 650 parts per million of carbon dioxide [that's a Very Bad Idea, but there you go], and Shearlock listed what the Co-op is doing.

Lots of good questions and contributions from the floor.

Monday, 15 September 2008

MCFly's cartoonist in the New York Times!

Marc Roberts, provider of cartoons to MCFly, has been interviewed by the New York Times about his work, which has started popping up on, and in Nature.
Marc is very quick, very prolific, very very funny and- crucially for MCFly- willing to work for praise.

The NYT's article is on their environment correspondent's blog-



Manchester Airport to expand its freight terminal?

Interesting article in today's Crain's Manchester Business entitled "Airport in talks with council over super freight terminal"

Here's the link-

The whole thing is worth reading.

The final lines state-

A Manchester City Council spokeswoman said: “There is a super freight terminal idea in very tentative discussions at the moment. It is at a very early stage.”

The planning application will be submitted to the Planning and Highways Committee in October.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

MCFly- cheerful animation from Brad Pitt

And finally- cheer up with a funny and stress-free toon by Leo “Brad Pitt” Murray-

MCFly 007- Manchester academics publish gloomy climate report

Two eminent researchers at the Manchester outpost of t'Tyndall Centre have a gloomy paper in the Royal Society's latest “Philosophical Transactions.” Kevin Anderson and Alice Bows crunched the carbon emission numbers from 2000 onwards, and conclude there's no likelihood of keeping below a global temperature rise of well over 2 degrees, the oft-cited “danger” zone.

MCFly 007- Car versus bike versus bus in Manchester

Greater Manchester Cycling Campaign is gambling that the bike is quicker than the car from Heaton Chapel to Albert Square. On Weds 16 Sept they host a five mile race between bus, bike, car and train over the “quickest legal route” into the waiting arms of Environment Councillor Richard Cowell. If the car wins, the motorist faction of the anti-TIF crowd will go beserk(er).

MCFly 007- Green web hosting from ecohost

Manchester-based web services co-operative Ecohost has recently launched its UK-based wind-powered hosting services. 10% of total UK electricity is consumed by the ICT sector, and its carbon emissions are overtaking those from aviation. Ecohost provides web hosting with a lower climate impact, both by using renewable power and by using Linux, a more energy-efficient operating system than Windows, on its servers.

MCFly 007- Greenpeace 6 acquitted

Last year six Greenpeace activists painted most of "Gordon Bin it" in big big letters on a coal-fired power station chimney, as part of a climate protest. Last week they were acquitted of causing £30,000 of criminal damage to E.On property. The jury had heard evidence from top scientist James Hansen about the damage caused by carbon emissions, and accepted the unprecedented defence argument that they were legally justified because they were trying to prevent climate change causing greater damage to property around the world.

MCFly 007- Launch of Only Planet

A book of articles about the airport, food, transport, waste, water, religion, gender, activism, the council, low carbon communities and much much more... written by and for Mancunians, with MCFly folk at its core. £5. It's launched on Weds 17th Sept at 8pm, at the Sandbar, 120 Grosvenor St. Come get involved in making its sequel!

MCFly 007- Solar Power to the People

Half a million quid has been spent solar-panelling ten tower blocks across North Manchester. Half of that came from Northwards Housing, which is a not-for-profit company set up by Manchester City Council to manage thousands of its properties. The other £250,000 came from central government's “Low Carbon Buildings Programme.” The panels were supplied by Solarcentury, “the UK's leading solar energy provider.”

The tower blocks, in Charleston, Moston and Higher Blackley are guinea pigs for a retro-fitting scheme. The generated leccy will be fed back into the landlord's supply, and savings spent on 'future investment'. As such, residents, who were consulted but not asked to contribute to the scheme, will not benefit directly via decreased energy bills.

The project is an effort by Northwards to go beyond the obligations imposed upon it by central government's “Decent Housing Standard”, whereby 95% of social housing is supposed to be “wind and weather tight, warm and with modern facilities” by 2010. Northwards plan to spread 'lessons learned' to other social housing providers and beyond.

Relevant Websites
Solarcentury's mission is to “make a big difference in the fight against climate change. Our aim is to revolutionise the global energy market.”
Decent Homes Standard

Sunday, 31 August 2008

MCFly 6- thanks a million?

First the bad news. A million pounds that Manchester City Council has earmarked for its “Carbon Reduction Innovation and Investment Fund” has sat for almost six months gathering... well, interest (we hope).

The money was announced as part of the Council's 'Climate Change Principles document' in February 2008, and the council hoped that these funds would be matched by 'stakeholders' and partners. That hasn't (yet) happened, and barely a penny has been spent. Meanwhile, CO2 continues to pour into the atmosphere.

Now the good news: The Council has told MCFly that it is within days - or at most weeks - of announcing a series of specific projects that will be funded with that money. These projects are 'commercially-robust' and 'future-proof'. These 'council-ese' words mean that rather than giving away the money via a two week spasm of “come get yer free solar panels,” the money will be spent in ways that are a) self-sustaining, and b) measurable.

The specific criteria for success - whether a reduction in absolute emissions, or 'energy intensity' (amount of carbon per unit of economic activity) - have not been disclosed. Not all the expertise needed for these projects is available 'in-house'. The Council has confirmed that some of the million will be spent on hiring the 'right' consultants, but was not in a position to name names. MCFly speculates that Deloitte,who recently completed the 'mini-Stern' review of Climate Change costs and policies for Manchester Enterprises, may well be in the running.

The Council is also keen that the work it does with the money from the Innovation and Investment Fund fits in with what is happening at the Greater Manchester level. Manchester City Council is only one of ten local authorities within “AGMA”, the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities.” In March 2009 the city-wide “Manchester Climate Change Agency”, part of the new Environment Commission, will be opening its doors.

The Council states that it has been learning from other cities that have engaged in low carbon projects, such as Southampton, Birmingham and Aberdeen. Manchester, along with Bristol and Leeds, was also part of central government's “Low Carbon Cities Partnership”

MCFly will keep tabs on this story as it unfolds.

MCFly 6- Hydro-power to the people

Here is the full version of the story that appears in the dead-tree format version of MCFly #6. Comments welcome

An active community in New Mills, Derbyshire has demonstrated what can be achieved with a little innovation and a lot of dedication by launching the UK's first community-funded hydro electric scheme. The basic idea behind the project is to generate green electricity from water running down the local Torr weir (a low dam built across a river to divert/direct flow) on the Goyt river. Torrs Hydro New Mills Limited was also set-up to allow the local community to own the hydro electric scheme which will help regenerate the area and also promote environmental sustainability.

The total cost of the project – around £226,000- was raised through various grants and by selling shares at the cost of £1 with a minimum shareholding of 250. All the four directors are dedicated locals and over 50% of the shareholders are form the New Mills area. Even better, the scheme will have paid for itself in a couple of years as the turbine has a lifespan of around 40years.

Water Power Enterprise- a small social enterprise which encourages the set-up of small-scale hydro plants to reduce carbon emissions- helped to launch the project in 2006 by highlighting the potential of the the Torr weir in the region. The scheme is part of an idea to reclaim and utilise weirs which were built across British rivers in the 18th and 19th centuries to control water flows and drive wheels for nearby mills.

The community-owned Archimedean Screw, which generates electricity from water flowing downhill will produce an estimated 70Kw 45% of the time and will just turn off when river levels are low. Using this calculation, approximately 260,000 Kilowatt hours of electricity will be generated annually through clean and sustainable means- that's enough electricity to power 70 houses. The scheme hopes to eventually supply power to around 18,000 homes. Steve Welsh of Water Power Enterprises stated; “This scheme will save the equivalent of 13 million car miles in its lifetime. It will be a tremendous local resource.”

Torrs Hydro New Mills is also lobbying parliament to change the current legislation around renewable energy and to raise awareness of the current financial imbalance for renewable energy schemes which produce more than 50KWh. They want the changes to encourage a network of communities to embrace hydro-power and tap into renewable resources available through weirs across the North of England. Check this link for more information and to sign the petition:

'Preserve the Torrs' is a website which is campaigning against the development, stating that the “Torrs Riverside Park is a unique asset that makes New Mills distinctive. Yet it is threatened at its heart by a large industrial development in the picnic area. We need to protect this valuable waterfall attraction and preserve it for future generations and the benefit of our town and its visitors.”. For further information see their website:

MCFly 6- Bury Council Warm Front success

MCFly wanted to publish some good news, and saw in the wonderful Crain's Manchester Business that Bury Council had increased the numbers of people taking advantage of free heating/insulation schemes. We contacted Bury, and they very kindly sent us more info-

Warm Front, the Government grant that makes homes warmer, healthier and more energy efficient, helped more people than ever in Bury last year. Figures recently announced showed that 1453 local households received free heating and insulation measures which cost the scheme over £1.5 million, that’s 11% more people receiving help than the previous year.

The Energy Team at Bury Council attribute this to a variety of initiatives, such as promotion specifically targeted towards people who are likely to be eligible for the grant by including energy information in correspondence to those in receipt of council tax benefit or a disability benefit.

An aim of Bury’s affordable warmth strategy is to train front line staff, within the Council and in external agencies, who visit people in their own homes to give them the expertise to recognise vulnerable people living in cold, damp homes and give them a simple means of referring them for energy improvements.

A very successful initiative was undertaken in partnership with Bury PCT whereby people who had been invited for a flu vaccination received a follow up letter offering advice about making energy improvements to their homes using various funding, including Warm Front.

To help Warm Front clients who are unable to pay a client contribution, (the shortfall between the cost of the work and the grant available) Bury Council can, in certain circumstances, fund the contribution on their behalf. Last year, 177 householders received financial help to meet their client contribution at a cost of £83,202 to the Council, grants that may not have gone ahead without this additional assistance.

Gwyn McCarthy
Energy Officer
Bury MBC Energy Show House
150 Willow Street
Bury. BL9 7PS
0161 253 6366

When we get a spare minute, we'll contact Manchester City Council and see how they're doing on this issue...

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Manchester Climate Change Agency Bulletin, and the curse of apostrophe's

Too much information, and not enough time, as ever.
One of the reasons we set up Manchester Climate Fortnightly was to deal with just this problem- how to keep track of what matters, and ferret it out, and then present it in useful format.
We're hard at work on issue 6 now, running with three different lead stories, and encountering useful other bits on the way.

One of these is the second bulletin of the "Manchester Climate Change Agency", which is part of the Environment Commission, that will operate at a "Greater Manchester" level.

Here's a quote from that bulletin

A considerable amount of work has been undertaken in the last 12 months covering low carbon activity. Much of this gives a strong starting point for developing a work programme for the agency. This work includes; technical reports, (e.g. Low Carbon Cities Programmes ( LCCP) and Mini-Stern), Consultation (e.g. Mini-Stern, face-to-face meetings with local authority officers and knowledge exchange meetings with the London Development Agency and London Climate Change Agency), and Good Practice Research, (e.g. London Energy Partnership and successful EU funded projects over the last five years through the Energie-Cities network).

We will be pulling this work into a consultation document that we aim to consult on following a meeting of the CCA project board on 20 August. Following consultation on the work programme the board will be prioritising these projects on 25 September in readiness for ratification by AGMA on 31 October.

And you can read the whole thing by going to

PS I was scanning MCFly #5 during a longeur at tonight's rather good debate on the TIF (organised by Manchester Junior Chamber of Commerce. I noticed- to my abject dismay and horror- a stray apostrophe in the lead story. "Arm tube device's" indeed. My father, the sub-editor from Hell, will never ever let me forget that!

Sunday, 17 August 2008

It's done! Possibly the best one so far?

But then, we've only done 5, so that's maybe not saying so much.

There are short pieces on four (count 'em- 4!) different stories of interest to Manchester people who are concerned about CC.
1) A report on the biofuels action that took place during Climate Camp
2) The fact that University of Manchester is appointing a "green guru"
3) Manchester Enterprises looking into making MCR a carbon trading hub
4) A chance to respond to the recent "Mini-Stern"

Various people wrote these stories, and the issue was put together by the oldest (in every sense) and newest member of the editorial collective. Much learned about wikis, blogs, scribus etc. Obstacles overcome etc etc, lessons learned...

Would very much appreciate if people took the time to comment on Issue 5, and what should be done to improve it.

PS Thanks to Marc Roberts, for speed above and beyond the call of duty, and of belief...

MCFly 5- out today

My favourite bit of the whole process- stitching together the stories we've got, the cartoon from the wonderful (and absurdly speedy) Marc Roberts, the bet bits of the wikifeed. Sending the pdf off for proofing, then posting and facebooking...

Today I'll be doing this with the newest member of the collective, who has also written one of the stories...