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.