Saturday, 28 February 2009

Educationally sub-normal sub-editor at MEN?

It's usually the sub-editors who write the headlines to newspaper pieces.

So rather than blame John and Anne Nuttall for "Icy peaks mock global warming" (Saturday 28 Feb, page 4 of Weekend pullout) above their piece on walking along the Pennine* Way [it contains a straightforward account of where they walked and how you can follow them], I'd take a pop at the dominant sub.

The obvious question to ask is ; which part of "global warming" are you having trouble with?
Did the recent Australian heatwaves and subsequent bushfires happen on another planet?

The follow-up question would be: "Why did you need to inflict your scientifically illiterate prejudices loose in a newspaper which has editorialised on the importance of climate change action in the (distant) past?"


* Not "Penine", as it originally appeared in this post (see comment 1 below)

P.S. Meeting up with my cartoonist friend Marc this morning, reminds me that he tackled this little-bit-of-local-snow-puts-paid-to-global-warming tosh in a cartoon last year.

MCFly 018- show me the money!

The Council Executive has tabled its budget for 2009/10, and its medium term financial strategy for three years. The next things that happen are that it goes to an Overview and Scrutiny Committee on February 23, and then to full council on March 4. There is no danger of it failing to pass, since Labour has a 2 to 1 majority over the Lib Dems in full council. The budget makes for fascinating reading.

On page 38 (of 166) we learn that the "Major corporate priorities" are “Waste and Recycling, Reflecting and managing the impact of the economic downturn, Children’s and Youth Services, Climate change /sustainability."

But kindly remove your thumbs from the cork of that bottle of 1990 Dom Perignon White Gold Jeroboam, because there's No New Money... “Specific provision for Climate Change / sustainability and Events was made in last years budget.”

Yes, that'd be the million quid that they still haven't spent from the infamous “Carbon Reduction of Innovation Fund” (see MCFly #6 passim ad nauseam). Sigh.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Update on AGMA's Environment Commission

MCFly has been reliably informed by AGMA bods that the Environment Commission's first meeting will now be on the 7th of April, NOT in 'February or early March' as they previously announced (see MCFly 17 for background info). By then, AGMA is hoping to have recruited the remaining 5 commissioners from areas such as business, academia, third sector, property and development, and communications. These 5 commissioners are being independently recruited and will be approved by the AGMA Chief Executive. Also overseeing the Environment Commission are six elected politicians, which brings the Environment Commission to a total of 11 commissioners.

The Environment Commission is part of a the Greater-Manchester attempt to streamline the response to climate change and to reduce any duplication of effort across council. The 'Environment Commission' is one of a total of seven commissions on areas such as 'Health', 'Economic Development, Employment and Skills', 'Housing and Infrastructure' and 'Public Protection'. All of the commission's will work across the region and report to the AGMA (Association of Greater Manchester Authorities).

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

MCFly 018- Social Clim(at)ing

MCFly's new gossip column!

Rumour reaches MCFly Towers that the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, young Ed Miliband- so fresh-faced that he still gets carded when he goes in his local boozer- will be heading up North sometime in the next month or so, to see how the provincials are coping with this climate change thingie.
So, there's a frantic scramble to shovel oodles of money out the door (it needed spending before the end of the financial year anyway). Then Ed, (who proclaimed the need for a grass-roots campaign to keep the government honest on climate change... the day before Plane Stupid shut down Stansted Airport!), can have his photo took in front of this or that funded wind turbine/CHP plant/cherubic tree-planting tot, and proclaim that HMG is Giving Us the Tools to Finish the Job.

And who will win the impending turf war within the AGMA commissions over climate change? The fingers-crossed punt is on the Environment Commission. The smart money is on the Economic Development, Skills and Employment Commission (the artists previously known as Manchester Enterprises, and producers of the mini-Stern, and purveyors of Carbon Trading schemes.) Of course, the really smart money is on shotguns, canned food and an island redoubt.

MCFly 018- Board Rigid?

This is from a new section we've got called "The Council Gritter"...

Board Rigid?

One outcome of the “Call to Action” report was an “Environmental Strategy Performance Board,” chaired by Sir Howard Bernstein (the Chief Executive Officer- top bureaucrat- of the Council). The Board is made up of [at least] 21 folks, mostly council officers, but also includes the Airport's top environment bod. It has already met twice and our saucy source says reports are being commissioned left right and centre, from both within the Council and also beyond into the private sector. MCFly don't know if it'll be able to get the minutes easily (we've asked sweetly) or with a bit of a tussle, but see them we shall. The ESPB might become an extremely effective tool for overcoming inertia and lack of co-ordination between council departments. Here's hoping...

But where's the oversight and transparency? As we asked in MCFly 16:

Who will be the external (outside of Greater Manchester) people on it be? Will these people be given access to all documentation, and the time and authority to audit/ask uncomfortable questions of the City Council's employees and elected members? Will the meetings of this Board be open to the public? Will the public be invited to give evidence to the Board?

MCFly has learnt that various individuals have been approached to be on some sort of “Environmental Strategy Advisory Board”. But would it be able to commission independent research, and have a secretariat that enabled it to hold the ESPB to account? If not, wouldn't they just be like non-executive directors at so many companies that have been hit by the credit crunch? Anyone worth asking is too smart to risk their reputation to be seen as a fig leaf or rubber stamp. If the Council is casting around for a model of how this all might work, they could do worse than look at what Sheffield has been up to- They've got a mixed board, and the minutes get published.

What's the plan-ning...

Last night about 30 people attended a rather good free event put on by "Planning Aid", a charity that aims to help community and voluntary groups understand (stay awake at the back) the planning system...

The event, entitled "Sustainability and the Built Environment" was at the Friends Meeting House, Mount St, and ran from 5.30 to 8pm. Care had been taken to create a good mix of people at each table, and volunteers were on hand to nudge the discussion if necessary and report back to the big group.

MCFly will let you know when the next such events are on.

Planning Aid's details are as follows.

North West Planning Aid
2nd Floor, Friars Court, Sibson Rd
Sale M33 7SF
t/f 0161 969 3672

MCFly 018- MMU-ving Out

Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) has released its plans to build a new £70m campus in Hulme. The site - named Birley Fields - also aims to be the greenest campus in Britain.

It will replace sites in Didsbury and Rusholme and aims to bring together training facilities for 5,000 teachers, nurses, social workers and other public sector professionals. This plan has been formed after plans to expand the Didsbury site were met with hostility from local residents last year.

A master plan for the Hulme site will be published soon before a full of public consultation begins in the late spring. MMU's press release on the matter expressed how enthusiastic the council are about this proposal, with Council leader Sir Richard Leese saying "this substantial investment in the area, and commitment to its continuing regeneration, is particularly welcome given the recession."

Although it is claimed that the development will create jobs and services for residents in Hulme and neighbouring Moss Side, many residents will be angry to see one of their most valued green spaces disappear. The plans are particularly controversial with the Friends of Birley Fields who have campaigned for a long time to preserve the land.

Long-term member of the group Rob Squires explained that "the development is another form of economic growth and given current climate change issues all forms of economic growth should be stopped unless proven to be carbon neutral". Rob is doubtful that this development will be carbon neutral feels that the space should be used for "social and ecological purposes to the benefit of local residents, because even if the campus is green, it will still destroy the Birley Fields forever".

MCFly 018- Call to Real Action

Earlier this year- as readers of MCFly 15 to 17 will be aware- a report called "The Call to Action" was approved by Manchester City Council. The Council had commissioned a London-based consultancy called 'Beyond Green' to write it. It's fair to say that many Mancunians concerned about climate change had mixed feelings.

While they were happy that the long wait for a climate change statement from the Council was over, at the same time they were underwhelmed by this report. They were unhappy that the 50 page document cost so much (the phrase "70 to 100 thousand pounds" has not been denied), that it ducked important issues (not merely the Airport, but also consultation and engagement) and that it was so vague on targets for reducing greenhouse gases.

However, instead of shrugging shoulders and drowning sorrows, various Mancunians have come together with a shared determination to do better (and cheaper) work.

This "Call to Real Action" group, which includes people from various campaigns and also "first- timers" has already met twice. It has discussed exactly what it wants to produce (a report of similar length but superior detail and quality), and how, and what skills to learn and share on the way. Writing groups are being formed to tackle topics as diverse as aviation, engagement, energy production, transport, food, housing, social justice, resilience and the proverbial "many many more."

The group is asking (and plans to answer!) a set of questions about what actions the Council can and should take, what actions the people of Manchester can take to both reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prepare for the inevitable changes that are now 'locked in' because of the too-slow response to scientific warnings over the last twenty years.

Although work has already started, it is not too late to get involved, and there are lots of specific jobs that will need doing that do not take much time or specialised skills.

For more information about how to get involved and see the work as it unfolds, see If you've questions, suggestions, contacts, you can contact There is also conference on Saturday 7th March from 1.30pm to 5pm at the Central Hall, Oldham St, Manchester, where all the above questions will be discussed.

[Declaration of interest: MCFly editors are involved in the above group.]

Call to Real Action Conference on March 7th


Central Hall, Oldham St.

To talk about what Manchester SHOULD look like, what we want the Council- and ourselves- to do to make that vision happen. Topics include food, transport, energy, housing, resilience, the Airport. Includes Q & A

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Email bulletin 4, in its entirety

Between proper issues of MCFly, because we've got ten minutes we don't know what to do with, we knock out these email bulletins. Does anyone find them useful? Don't know. You can reply to that transparent bid for affirmation to the usual email address...

a) Local news

Cllr Richard Cowell and Dr Victoria Johnson spoke at a Manchester Climate Forum meeting on Tuesday. Cllr Cowell spoke about the Council's “Call to Action”, and Dr Johnson spoke about her experiences at Poznan and the international negotiations leading to Copenhagen.
A report can be fond here.

Arwa Aburawa won the MCForum essay contest, with an essay that highlighted how white the usual climate campaigning scene is, and giving a whole series of practical steps that should be taken. Congrats to her, and you can read her winning entry here-

The Sustainable Cities Institute (yes yes, the one sponsored by Tesco) hosted an interesting lecture on carbon emissions from production and consumption and who is really responsible for what. It was delivered by Dr John Barrett of the Stockholm Environment Institute, who travelled all the way from... York, to deliver it.
The next meeting is on Tuesday March 10, and details will appear in MCFly in due course.

On Saturday the “Call to Real Action” group, which is writing a report about what the Council and the people of Manchester could do about climate change, met for the first time. It meets again this Saturday Feb 21st, and is planning a half day conference on Saturday 7th March, on the way to launching their report in early April. For more information, and to get involved-

Council gossip

The Environmental Strategy Board, set up as part of the Council's “Call to Action” on climate change, and chaired by MCC's chief executive, Sir Howard Bernstein has already met twice. MCFly sources are well-impressed with the speed and vigour with which things are moving.

In unhappier council news, the post of Director of Environmental Strategy remains unfilled, despite interviews taking place. The job is, MCFly is told, to be re-advertised.

b) Upcoming local events

Tuesday February 17 at 7:00pm.
University of Manchester Students Union - Meeting Room 1Environmental Direct Action in Britain -
a Short History "a look back with academic Brian Doherty at our recent past including Reclaim the
Streets, the Anti-Roads movement, Mayday Protests, the Climate
Camps and more......"

Friday 20 February 6.30 for 7pm
Tar Sands: The Most Destructive Project on Earth?
CUBE, 113 Portland Street, Manchester M1 6FB

On Friday 20th Feb, Jack Woodward, Canada's top aboriginal lawyer and legal council to the
Beaver Lake Cree Nation, will be in Manchester to
talk about his fight against Canadian tar sands.

Tar sands are an unconventional source of fossil fuel which emit on average three times more
carbon emissions in their extraction and production than conventional oil. The processing
involved is highly polluting and if the planned expansion of tar sand developments goes ahead
unchallenged, it threatens to cause not only local ecological and social disaster, but also runaway
climate change - in comparison to a list of 207 nations ranked by greenhouse gas emissions,
Alberta's tar sands come out
higher than 145 of them.

Sat 21 Call to Real Action from 12 noon to 2.30pm. Forming writing groups, getting the questions right, brainstorming who to ask for answers/ideas. Mingling and meeting etc.
email for more info.

  1. international news stories of interest/importance

Dr Chris Field, one of the lead authors of the last Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, has told the American Association for the Advancement of Science that "We now have data showing that from 2000 to 2007, greenhouse gas emissions increased far more rapidly than we expected," and that- as some environmentalists said all along, the last (2007) report was too small c-conservative

The AFP story (see link below) concludes with the cheerful lines

'The 2007 fourth assessment presented at a "very conservative range of climate outcomes" but the next report will "include futures with a lot more warming," Field said. "We now know that, without effective action, climate change is going to be larger and more difficult to deal with than we thought."'

d) "other stuff"


Do you want to do something positive that benefits others?
Young people aged 16-25 who live in Manchester can apply to the Green Machine seed fund for up to £500 along with support and guidance to start up their project.

Deadline for applications:
Friday 27th February
For more information call 0161 228 0459, or email:

Please do forward these email bulletins to whoever you think wants them, and obviously, if you don't want to receive it, let us know.

MCFly 017- "Proud Of..." campaign

“the new 'Proud of Manchester' campaign... will engage people and communities in a range of activities and projects to improve their local environment and provide additional opportunities to pursue the themes in the Call to Action in every community in Manchester.”

(page 5, Call to Action.”)

So, expect glossy flyers through your letterbox and banner ads on the council website exhorting you to be “Proud Of” Manchester. MCFly will find out how much this is costing and whether any of the money of it is coming out of money that should be spent on reducing emissions of hot air.

MCFly 017- Roads 1, Climate Sanity 0

Last week two unrelated but very related stories crossed our desk. Firstly, the Northwest Development Agency (based in Warrington, one of nine “development agencies”) had released £1.6 million for a charity called Groundwork to provide financing for local carbon emission-reducing projects. The catch is that Groundwork must find 3 million over the next three years from other sources.

Secondly, on February 5th, the Department for (new runways and) Transport has ponied up “an extra £13m to improve local roads in the North West.” On top of £285 million already allocated for highways maintenance in the region.

So, £13 million right now to encourage more transport-related carbon emissions, but charities have will have to scramble and hustle like mad to support climate change mitigation.... That thud you hear is satirists' bodies hitting the ground.

For more information see:

MCFly 017- Manchester Climate Change Agency

One of the key components of the Environment Commission will be the “Manchester Climate Change Agency,” due to open its doors later this year. The Agency, which is not modelled on the London Climate Change Agency (which reliable sources say is due to be drowned in a bathtub by Boris Johnson), will be a “delivery body”. It hopes to learn from the LCCA's mistakes, with “much closer links with the local authorities as well as improved private sector input.”

The budget is “likely to be in the region of £500,000 [in] year one, rising to £5million Year 3.” Staffing levels are not yet confirmed, but by its third year, it is expected it will employ as many as 10 people, including secondments from private and public sectors. A draft business plan will be available for consultation in March, and as we speak, an international law firm, Eversheds LLP, is putting together a report on proposed “governance structures.”

You can see more information here:

Manchester Climate Fortnightly will be be following developments closely.

In the meantime, for basic info about the Environment Commission, AGMA, MCCA, the Council etc, see:

MCFly 017- Environment Commission: a work in progress

A new Greater Manchester-wide body will be a key part of the political ecosystem that climate campaigners work in. The “Environment Commission” is one of seven such outfits that will work across the city region, and report to the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities (AGMA).

The idea is that the commissions will reduce duplication of effort and enable better co-ordination between local efforts. The seven areas are “Environment”, “Health,” “Transport,” “Economic Development, Employment and Skills” [the outfit previously known as 'Manchester Enterprises'], “Housing and Infrastructure,” “Improvement and Efficiency” and “Public Protection.”

The mission of the Environment Commission is [and we quote]

  • 1) To support the AGMA Executive Board in holding to account bodies which impact on the environmental well-being of the city region,
  • 2) to deliver strategies, plans and infrastructure that support their core environmental sustainability objectives,
  • 3) and to ensure that the wider work of the Executive Board reflects its environmental priorities.

Overseeing the Environment Commission's work will be 11 commissioners. Six are elected politicians from various local authorities. They are, in alphabetical order; Mark Alcock (Oldham), Richard Cowell (Exec. Member for the Environment of Manchester City Council), Dave Goddard, (leader of Stockport Council), David Molyneux, (Wigan Council's Cabinet Champion for the Environment), Catherine Piddington (Tameside) and James Wibberley (Trafford).

The hunt is on for five others, from business, academia, the third sector, property and development, and communications. The Environment Commission next meets late February or early March. There are many questions yet to be answered about the Environment Commission. MCFly has asked some of those questions, and should have the answers very soon. We'll blog them first, and print them in the next issue, space permitting. The Commission will have its own “web presence” in March. In the meantime, you'll have to make do with

MCFly 017- Consultation or consolation prize?

The Call to Action was discussed at a recent Council “Oversight and Scrutiny Committee” meeting. MCFly asked the committee why the six-months public consultation promised in February 2008 had been replaced by the as yet undefined “Proud Of” campaign.

Vicky Rosin, the Assistant Chief Executive stated that: “What we decided is to bring forward a number of actions and show real leadership from the council. Consulting on the actions we intend to take forward is not something that's part of our exercise as consultation means we are prepared to change it and we intent absolutely on taking this action forward.”

Richard Cowell, the Executive member for the Environment also added that: “Yes, we've set a firm direction of where we want to go, we're not going to carry on [sic] consulting getting nowhere.”

So, now that the nine “catalytic actions” have been decided, the Council appears unwilling to take onboard any genuine public input (including on the controversial Green Airport). However, in off-the-record discussions, councillors and officers said they were keen to talk to selected green groups. Cynics may infer a 'divide and conquer' strategy at work here. Time will tell...

To quote the Call to Action (p.4)- “the Council hopes that intensive work to get action under way in Spring 2009 will help to create a buzz around the Call to Action and generate a vigorous debate on the proposals.” They just haven't said how yet.

Addendum: If you want to get involved in writing the "Call to Real Action", click here for further info.

MCFly 017- two grand a page?!

[NB We still don't know what the total cost of the report was, or which budget the money came from. We're looking into it...]

The controversy around the “Call to Action” report (see MCFly issues 15 and 16) grows and grows. Last week Manchester City Council told us that the report cost “£28,000 plus VAT plus expenses.” That worked out, (excluding expenses), at around £650 per page, as we reported here.

But the devil is in the detail. The Liberal Democrats have been told by the treasurer of Manchester City Council, Richard Paver, that the total bill, including expenses, was “between 70 and a hundred thousand pounds.” This means that the report's creators, London-based consultancy “Beyond Green” were paid an eye-watering two thousand pounds a page.

MCFly presumes this money has come out of the million pounds set aside for the Carbon Reduction Innovation and Investment Fund. While it's good that the money is finally being spent (after promises of 'imminent announcement of future-proof projects' were made in response to MCFly enquiries last August, see issue 6), not everyone is impressed.

Cllr Lev Eakins, (Lib Dem, Northenden), was dismayed that the report's costs “had risen to the absurd level of £100k, 10% of the entire climate change budget, and as yet the only part of that budget that has been spent since it was created over a year ago.”

Brian Candeland, chair of Manchester Green Party, was similarly scathing. “It's absolutely appalling. The costs of Manchester's 'Call to Action', arguably the most vacuous statement in the history of climate change campaigning, appear to be mounting .”

On Tuesday February 10, Richard Cowell, Executive Member for the Environment, will speak on the “Call to Action” at the Friends Meeting House. 6 Mount St.

The meeting will also see the launch of a “Call to Real Action” process, sponsored by Manchester Climate Fortnightly, that will publish an alternative report by April 7th.

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Essay Contest another runner up

A Green New Deal for Manchester

The recession is already biting hard in Manchester. Even local councils are reducing their staff under the budget reductions still being forced on them by central government. The Labour government is obsessed with pouring money into the banks. It talks at times of protecting those suffering most by investing directly in job protection but does little in the way of action.

Action to stem the tide of unemployment has to be local, it has to be immediate and it has to work to protect us from the dangers of global warming. If the immediate threat to our children is that they will be unable to find jobs and end up as long-term unemployed then the long-term threat is that they will live as adults in a world blighted by climate change. In Manchester, we have the opportunity to press for a local Green New Deal based upon the needs of our communities.

Public transport

In December, the people of Greater Manchester rejected the TIF plan. We believe that this vote was based upon a justified suspicion of the complex financing plan proposed and doubts that local politicians would make good their promises. It was claimed in the referendum campaign that 10,000 jobs would be created by the public transport plans. These jobs are urgently required and the plan to provide them waits on the shelf. This last factor is particularly important. Many infrastructure projects have a long lead time in terms of planning and public consultation whilst the Greater Manchester transport plan can be implemented immediately.

We demand that Greater Manchester councils join together to obtain the funds to begin the plan proposed under TIF. We discuss possible funding sources below but it should be emphasised now that only inertia prevents the money from being found. At a time when literally hundreds of billions of pounds are being poured into private banks it is ludicrous to suggest that the necessary millions cannot be found to provide Manchester with new jobs and a decent public transport system.

Unfinished and empty buildings

Manchester council alone has a waiting list for social housing which approaches 30,000. Meanwhile, the recession has left the city littered with empty and half-finished building schemes which have been simply abandoned by property developers. The housing policy of Manchester Council has, for many years, been little more than reliance on the private sector either to take over council property or to provide a little ‘social’ housing as a sop for more over-crowded private blocks. This policy has now come crashing down.

However, this parlous situation also contains opportunity. The government announced in its Pre-Budget Report (PBR) that £775 million in funds for housing and regeneration would be brought forward into the current year’s budget and made available to local authorities. We demand that Manchester councils begin immediately the process of purchasing suitable properties. In particular, we demand that empty council property should be developed immediately for family occupation. It is a social as well as an economic crime that housing should stand empty of half-finished whilst building workers receive the dole and families wait for years on housing lists.

An Energy Efficiency Programme

In January, Manchester Council published its Climate Change Call to Action but it is very short indeed on any kind of actual action to limit emissions apart from a proposal to ‘analyse’ its own emissions and come up with proposals as to how to reduce them. The fact that in 2008, the Council has still not undertaken a comprehensive energy audit of its own [word limit breached]

Essay Contest runner up

Current problems

The main problem is we've gone backward in numbers and energy in the last 18 months. The opportunities to get new people engaged and involved when climate change was a 'hot' issue have been wasted. Several groups that held regular meetings/had websites exist in name only nowadays. Others have folded altogether. (That's not necessarily a bad thing. Crap groups do the 'movement' no favours.)

There's various causes for all this:

  • Cliquy behaviour: if you don't wear the right clothes, the right opinions, you're not really welcome

  • Tired old formats of meetings. Either dominated by unthinking dogmatic macho schmucks or- worse – terribly facilitated by people who claim to be non-hierarchical.

  • Tired old formats of 'action' (petitions, marches etc)

  • No accountability, so when some people's hard work is rendered useless by others' laziness, it's not discussed and (re)solved.

  • The lack of anything from the Council to respond to throughout 2008.

  • The lack of a social space. There is a “Basement” shaped hole in Manchester's activism.

Lousy and depressing meetings
One-off meetings and “actions” that don't lead to any further action, partly because they are organised in such a way that all attention goes towards the front of the room (speakers, organisers) and links between those attending are not nurtured. Feeds the egos of those organising, but doesn't grow the movement.

First time tragedy, second time farce
An unwillingness, or even inability, to reflect on previous failures and learn from those mistakes.

The focus is elsewhere
The focus of Mancunian climate activism has often been a march in London, a camp in Kent or a summit in Copenhagen. “Think global”, fine, but what about “act local”?

The focus is limited to the “sexy” stuff.
Aviation matters. But so does domestic power use, transport, food. Where are the systematic analyses, drawing upon the work of the Tyndall Centre etc? The focus on the Airport lets everything else off the hook.

Haphazard internal communications in and between groups. Email bulletins that ramble, or don't appear as scheduled. No systematic linking between groups, to communicate and maybe occasionally co-ordinate.

How many of the campaigning groups/parties/social movements have made serious systematic efforts to educate themselves and each other about climate science, national climate policy, local political realities? How many produced policy documents regularly, hosted on their own websites?

Lousy external communications
Look at the various groups' websites. They're boring, they're out-of-date, they don't link through to useful information about what they are campaigning on. They don't link to other campaigning groups!

How many use social media tools like Facebook or Twitter effectively- or at all?

How many are blogging regularly and systematically about things that matter?

How many produce short, attractive bulletins of what they are doing?

How many use YouTube video regularly?

Future Opportunities

Fixing the problems named above would be a start.

A monthly meeting, well-facilitated, for all groups and unaffiliated individuals to network, listen and share experiences. Skills-share and training could be organised.

Make sure new people are welcomed, but not overwhelmed. Find out what they can do, what they want to know.

The comic terribleness of the Council's “Call to Action” is actually a gift to climate campaigners.

If we can't propose better than that, in writing, by the end of March, then we should all just pack up, go home, and start booking weekend breaks in Barcelona and Prague.

Maybe we should anyway.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Essay Contest winner

Congratulations to Arwa Aburawa, who won the recent essay contest organised by Manchester Climate Forum. The question people were asked to address is "What are the current problems/future opportunities for climate campaigners in Greater Manchester." The judge was Dr Brian Doherty of Keele University.

All the entries can be seen at

Here is Arwa's entry:

Looking around at the participants of any climate change meeting, one thing sticks out for me: they are racially unrepresentative. It is widely acknowledged that environmentalism and climate change in the UK attracts far more people from white, middle-class backgrounds than people from Asian, Black, Muslim or Jewish backgrounds. Whilst there is nothing wrong with this in itself, climate change is the biggest threat that this earth has faced and we need everyone on board to have a real chance of tackling it and avoiding the worst effects. So we can introduce more diverse people in Manchester's environmental scene, I think it's important to consider the following issues:

A. The history of the movement has set-up stereotypes about who is/isn't involved that need to be actively tackled

British environmentalism originated from an interest in natural history, specimen collection and conservation. As the movement grew its predominantly white, middle-class supporters continued to focus on countryside issues and wildlife preservation at the expense of working class and ethnic minorities whose experiences centred around an urban environment. This historical background set-up clear stereotypes about what an environmentalist looks like, their demographic, their gender and what their interests are. These stereotypes not only excludes a vast amount of people who experienced the environment and climate change in an entirely different ways but it has also marginalised the contributions made by minorities in tackling climate change.

Clearly, the movement has come a long way from these beginnings but there needs to be a more active attempt to break from these powerful stereotypes. Actively and loudly acknowledging the contributions made by 'poor' environmentalists such as environmental justice activists in India and minority activists in America who emerged after major environmental disasters, even local minorities (Hulme/Moss Side) who are taking control of their impact on climate change is a really positive way to open up what climate change it about, who it affects and why we all need to be involved. It takes it out of 'white' hands and makes it a wider global issue in which everyone's ideas are heard and respected.

B. Making links with wider issues which have a direct connection to ethnic minorities.

Environmentalism is a really broad topic and certain aspects can be highlighted to appeal to pre-existing interest. For example certain groups will already understand the importance of regeneration and so it makes sense to link up these aspects of environmentalism. Others topics could include religion, conservation and environmental justice. Here are some suggested steps for action:

  • Contact diverse groups on their ground, where they feel comfortable and open to debate

  • Spark their interest by making direct links to them, their religion, culture, history, families

  • Raise profile of campaigners, famous figures, national heroes, religious figures who espoused environmental respect

  • Eg. Gandhi, India's vibrant environmental movement, Prophet Muhammed and Hadith, Jewish festivals such as Tu B'Shvat (Festival of Trees) etc

These steps makes it easier for diverse groups to relate to environmentalism, gives them pride in the issue and stops the issue from being alien to them/their culture. For this involvement to be sustainable in the long-term, people also need to be empowered, confident with their input and given ownership and responsibility of the issue. This means giving diverse people the skills, knowledge and expertise to take the movement forward in a truly representative way.

  • Empower them and provide a space for them to take their own ideas forward

  • Give them ownership over the issue and respect their ideas

  • Allow them to see the issues from a perspective which brings together different issues such as environmental justice, regeneration, environmental inequality and poverty.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Local and Global: Manchester Climate Meeting Update

Manchester Climate Forum organised a meeting last night at the Friends Meeting House and Dr. Victoria Johnson of the New Economics Foundation and Cllr Richard Cowell, the Executive member for the Environment were the invited speakers. On the agenda was the climate change issues facing us locally and globally. This is a brief summary of some of the questions that were asked, responses and issues that were brought up. Please feel free to add your comments, further questions or anything that has been missed out.

Global and Copenhagen

Dr. Johnson was at the Poznan meeting which is the run-up to the Copenhagen agreement and talked about the real possibility of international agreement amongst the major players such as the US, Europe, India and China.

“There is the possibility of international agreement but we will probably end up with a weaker agreement at Copenhagen. With the US's New Green Deal and other process there have been some good proposals for greening the economy. All that government's care about is jobs and the economy and if you can show that you can effectively green your way out of recession, then that will gather more support.”

Questions from the audience to Victoria also included why carbon emission trading schemes were still being used when they were clearly fail to reduce CO2. She replied that:

“Well , I don't think that carbon trading doesn't work rather the cap has been set too high and the prices too low. You have to get those right and I don't think they are and so they aren't actually having any effect.”

Local and Call to Action

Cllr Richard Cowell who attracted most of the questions, was eager to highlight the 'Call to Action'- Manchester council's latest climate strategy report.

“In terms of the Call to Action, I would say that it is very much a target driven report for a one million tonnes of CO2 reduction by 2020.

“In terms of the council's response I feel that the work that they do has to be absolutely embedded with the principles and the aims of what we want to do as a council, not as a sort of an add-on, not a bolt-on but something we could value across the different parts of the council.” [Emphasis added]

In response to questions of whether the Principles Document released in February 2008 is still binding -especially Principle 2 which states that the council will go above and beyond the government targets if the science dictates so and that it can be done without harming the poorest in Manchester- Cowell states:

“In terms of the government's increase to 80% reduction, I am hopeful that that will mean our targets will stand. But of course we will keep things under review.

“The concepts of the principle two were under the old target, so targets could essentially have increased and we will keep that under review.”

'Engagement' without Consultation

“Now, I can't continue to have consultation consultation of these bodies and issues, as I do think that really we have to start implementing. We have million's of reductions to make and we have to implement to reach them.

“I feel that the call to action is a way we can bring together and bring along a big variety of businesses, community groups, residents etc.”

“If there are ideas that can be achieved that we think are really good, that will work and bring about reductions and are in line with our strategy, then we will seek to implement those. It's not going to be a closed engagement but it's very much an open engagement.” [Emphasis added]

See previous blog posts on the analysis of the council's consultation and targets within the Call to Action.

Monday, 9 February 2009

Future Ethics: Climate Change, Political Action and the Future of the Human, Manchester 2008-2009

-guest blog post by Stefan Skrimshire, who is not a member of the MCFly group (so can't be held responsible for our views!)-

This January saw the last of three workshops, organised and sponsored by the Lincoln Theological Institute who are based at The University of Manchester. The aim of Future Ethics was to bring together thinkers and practitioners engaged in the broad topic of “political responses to climate change”. The motivation might be (crudely) summarised as the suspicion that whilst academics are typically too disengaged from real life to get their hands dirty, activists and practitioners typically give too little time to testing, critiquing, communicating and exchanging the ideas, theories, and beliefs that underlie their actions.

And so, in a fairly unique experiment, it was possible for a professor of philosophy to engage with a eco-village designer; a DEFRA employee with a member of Plane Stupid activist; or an Anglican vicar with a permaculture expert. Confining ourselves to a manageable number for open exchange (2- to 30 people) dialogue was facilitated with a mixture of interactive debate and discussion of pre-written ‘starter papers’ on a variety of themes:

Workshop 1: ‘What is to be Done? Apocalyptic Rhetoric and Political Action’ focussed on the topics of direct action; sustainable land use; science discourse in environmentalism; prophetic voice in climate discourse; theological metaphors of climate crisis; and the role of state authority in climate change mitigation. It attracted a diversity of perspectives, from civil disobedience, to social networking and campaigning, to the discussion of governmental and corporate responses.

Workshop 2: ‘What Price Security? New Issues in the Ethics of Risk’ attracted a number of experts in the field of international security (such as Professor Paul Rogers and Frank Barnaby from the Oxford Research Group), Risk Theory and social policy. Disciplines represented were once again diverse: from urban planning, to feminism, to philosophy of religion. Starter papers were presented on theoretical orientation in the morning - risk theory; the value of empathy; virtue ethics – and practical applications in the afternoon: nuclear energy; ecological art; spatial design.

Workshop 3: ‘A World Without Us? Imagining the End of the Human’ engaged with this heaviest of topics from its various perspectives in culture: from exploring philosophical and religious beliefs about ‘the end’, to post-apocalyptic films, to the rhetoric emerging from climate science itself at humanity’s diminishing chances of survival. The group addressed the complex ethical question of a responsibility to the future as well as its practical application in society and politics: what action can we recommend to other people when the diagnosis given to us is of a terminal condition? What ethical imperatives lie beyond ‘the tipping point’?

Reporting, recording, and communicating the findings of the workshops has been central to the aims of the project. All of these can be seen on our website: : film footage of select interviews; photo archives; notes from discussions; and ‘brainstorming’ flipchart notes reproduced. These reports have already attracted a huge interest. The website provides not only information and reports from the workshops, but also contains regularly updates bibliographical pages, links to organisations, upcoming events both domestic and international, published reports, and a page dedicated to further resources connected to each workshops, from documentaries to chapters from books.

The success of the project led to its directors increasing funding for an additional year, and plans are afoot for producing a longer, more finished collection of film archives from the events, as well as another Future Ethics gathering aimed specifically at practical applications at both grassroots and policy levels. In addition, we have just secured a contract with an international publisher to produce the book, Future Ethics: Climate Change and Political Action, which should be hitting the shelves at the end of 2009.

Stefan Skrimshire is Postdoctoral Research Associate in Religion and Politics at The University of Manchester, where he teaches and researches apocalyptic belief and crisis rhetoric in political cultures. Future Ethics is part of a research project on Religion and Climate Change and continues until September 2010.

Cars are bad for your social life (not just the planet)

At the end of January, Greater Manchester Public Transport Executive hosted a talk by Josh Hart, a researcher from the University of the West of England whose recent work has updated Donald Appleyard's San Francisco work on the social impacts of car traffic.
The report, which measured the effects of living on streets with low, medium or high levels of road traffic, confirms that cars have major impacts on human society and health, as well as our environment.
Hart's study, which is available to download in full or summary from the Living Streets website, found that people living on busy roads have fewer local friendships and acquaintances. They don't talk as often to their neighbours, and are put off using their front rooms and gardens by noise and pollution. As a result, they're less likely to know people who live around them, and therefore have fewer people to turn to when they're sick or lonely, with implications for issues such as childcare and non-government support for the elderly. Fear of accidents also dissuades people from cycling, walking and jogging, contributing to the obesity epidemic and general poor fitness throughout the British population.
One young couple with children, living on a road with daily traffic of over 21,000 cars, were quoted as saying that "The street is quite anonymous, we only know our immediate neighbours."
People on busy streets, Hart found, also felt less sense of responsibility for their neighbours and surroundings, leading to greater problems with litter and less willingness to get involved in activities such as Neighbourhood Watch or projects to green urban streets.
And, despite claims by the car-driving middle-classes of Manchester's left that their privilege-protecting opposition to the TIF bid was actually aimed at preserving the rights of working-class car users, it is of course the less well-off (who are much less likely to drive) who suffer most from the effects of traffic - as Hart's study amply demonstrates.
People living on busy roads are likely to have lower incomes and are less able to move away. The repercussions of this, according to the research, include poor health and worse school results for children. Noise and air pollution can lead to heart attacks, respiratory illness and strokes, and reduce attention levels in children, which reduces their ability to concentrate in lessons and, it has been suggested by some surveys, is even serious enough to cause higher rates of road deaths due to inattention.
Children from lower-income families are also more likely to be killed by cars – whether because of tiredness, or because they have nowhere safe to play. According to a Bristol Quality of Life report cited by Hart, for every one child killed or seriously injured by a car in Clifton, an affluent area of Bristol, 24 are killed or hurt in lower-income neighbourhoods like Easton.
But, says Hart, many European cities are far exceeding Britain's record at cutting traffic. UK councils, he says, don't have the political will to reduce car use. Measures such as prioritising pedestrians and cyclists in road planning, cutting speeds and access with bollards and pedestrianised areas, and creating residential areas where housing are cheaper because land isn't used up by parking spaces are sacrificed to continued cult of the car.
As the results of the TIF referendum show, although the British public claims that it wants better air quality, improved safety and healthier environments, it is still suckered by aggressive corporate campaigns, and politicians whose priorities don't include bike lanes and traffic controls will continue to get away with their failure to act responsibly.

Sunday, 8 February 2009

No Country for Old MEN

Below is a section of the minutes from the AGMA Executive Board meeting of 30th January 2009, held at the Town Hall, Bury. (What's 'AGMA'?- see below.)

“The meeting received a presentation from Paul Horrocks and Mark Dobson of Manchester Evening News. Paul and Mark gave an overview of the media industry and the severe challenges that MEN media faced in the current economic climate. New ways of interacting with GM. Local Authorities and their communities had to be found and constructive commercial relationships were required.
"Paul and Mark offered/wished to meet and talk to individual Councils and Council Leaders."

Translation: "We can't give our paper away. No, seriously, we can't. Advertisers are deserting us. How about we just reprint your press releases under our own by-line? And if you could see your way to upping your advertising spend, that'd be nice too."

So, gentle reader, don't go expecting any vigorous and rigorous exposes of Council waste or malfeasance anytime soon, eh...

("The Association of Greater Manchester Authorities was formed after the abolition of the Greater Manchester County Council in 1986. The 1985 Local Government Act devolved power to local areas but also recognised that there were some functions that needed to be co-ordinated at a metropolitan level. AGMA was formed to undertake these functions." see

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Roads 1, Climate Sanity 0

Last week two unrelated but very related stories crossed our desk.

Firstly, the Northwest Development Agency (based in Warrington, one of seven English “development agencies”) had released £1.6 million for a charity called Groundwork to provide financing for local carbon emission-reducing projects. The catch is that Groundwork must find 3 million over the next three years from other sources.

Secondly, on February 5th, the Department for (new runways and) Transport has ponied up “an extra £13m to improve local roads in the North West.” On top of £285 million already allocated for highways maintenance in the region.

So, £13 million right now to encourage more transport-related carbon emissions, but charities have will have to scramble and hustle like mad to support climate change mitigation.... That thud you hear is satirists' bodies hitting the ground.

PS And you have to wonder, will Groundwork be chasing the same finite pot of private-sector money that the Manchester Climate Change Agency wants to get hold of?

Thursday, 5 February 2009

In defence of Manchester Airport. Sort of.

I'm a climate activist and I'm sick of people banging on about aviation.

I'm sick of the use of Manchester Airport as a convenient whipping boy and lightning rod for all our frustrations and concerns.

Climate change is a bastard of a thing to campaign about. Bypasses, GM food, Globalisation, they were all solid concrete objects, or had easy symbols. Climate change is a lot more slippery because it- or its cause, the burning of fossil fuels- is EVERYWHERE. We eat oil, we drink oil, we wear coal, we cook with gas. Fossil fuels give us the lifestyle we have today.

And that's the dirty little inconvenient truth that dare not speak its name.

Look at the current response to Manchester City Council's "Call to Action." This is a flawed document, by any sane individual's reckoning. There's huge gaps, there's huge silences. And the danger is that our focus on airports is going to distract us from all the other problems.

What about all the other principles? What about the lack of consultation? What about the lack of mention of food, reducing consumption (not just energy demand). I could go on, and at a later date I will.

But for now a few basic points:

  • Manchester Airport, in its ground operations, is actually pretty good. Not good enough, but pretty good. The problem is that the Airport's sole reason for existing is to service the dirty great big metal birds that take off and land there.

I am NOT saying the airport can expand, or that the City Council should be allowed to fudge this issue.

I am NOT saying people should stop campaigning on aviation. Airports ARE a big factor in our emissions, despite the BAA/MAG propaganda, and- crucially- they are something that we could "easily" give up in a way that we can't stop heating our houses. It's a quick win and we need some quick wins at this late late stage in the game that we've been losing for 20 years.

[Deep breath] I AM saying that right now I think I would rather see the Manchester Airport stay the same size and everything else that's wrong with the Council's Climate plans and wrong with Manchester and Climate Change sorted out. The stuff to do with resilience, social justice, consultation. The stuff to do with non-existent or counter-productive campaigning and ghetto-pathologies.

  • The airport may or may not be our biggest challenge in reducing our emissions- I don't know, but it is NOT our only big problem. Surely we can all agree on that?
  • Bashing the Airport lets us sub-contract out our thinking and our politics. We can just evade all the things that would make it harder for us to build coalitions. If we focus on the Airport, we don't have to focus on the need to radically reduce meat consumption. To challenge consumerism. Or the very nature of capitalist growthmanship and wealth inequalities. If we focus on the Airport we can pal up with the Liberal Democrats and the Tories and so forth. We need to do that, IMHO, but with Eyes Open.
  • This is lazy politics, and our children will not thank us for focussing so exclusively on reducing aviation emissions (though they won't thank us if we don't get real swinge-ing cuts either. Basically, our children are going to be very very pissed off with us)

PS *We MUST shrink the airports, providing a just transition for ALL the workers whose livelihoods would be affected. But we're not even having THAT discussion. We're not even offering a positive alternative vision. Because it should be union-based intellectuals and policy wonks doing that, and folks in the universities. But they don't seem to exist. Or am I wrong? I hope so.

PPS This cartoon never got the distribution it deserved...

Catalytic Action 9: A Green Airport

The Executive of Manchester City Council- in effect the “Cabinet” of the 96 seat elected body, has recently accepted a report called the “Call to Action.”

A London-based consultancy called “Beyond Green” wrote the report, (for £32,000 plus expenses), which commits the Council to nine “catalytic actions.”

They are:

  1. World-leading neighbourhood regeneration

  2. Retrofitting Manchester's civic heritage

  3. A business alliance for climate change

  4. Low carbon energy infrastructure

  5. Low Carbon Communities

  6. A climate-ready Local Development Framework

  7. The Manchester Prize

  8. Greening the City: i-Trees

  9. A green airport

We here at MCFly Towers think that these sorts of things go better with consultation. While we are waiting for the Council to announce just what it is going to do on this question, we will be posting one “catalytic action” per day on the MCFly blog, with a brief analysis. We invite the people of Manchester (and heck, why not beyond) to comment on these. We will pass on your comments to the Council.

That's not to say the other parts of the report aren't worthy of comment too- it's just that we have to start somewhere, and here is as good a place as any...

Catalytic Action 9: A green airport

"Aviation is one of the most controversial factors in climate change. Although currently accounting for a relatively small share of the UK’s carbon footprint, a Tyndall Centre analysis has shown that if air travel continues to grow at the expected rate, with realistic improvements in efficiency, then by 2050 air traffic alone will contribute the entirety of the carbon emissions the UK is likely to be able to allow.

"Manchester Airport is one of the principal components of economic growth in Manchester. The City Council’s agrees that global rates of air traffic growth are unsustainable in the long term but believes that it is not a realistic option for individual airports or cities to suppress their growth unilaterally ahead of international agreements that lead to orderly, market-based reductions in overall emissions and the contraction in air travel that they may bring about.

"For this reason, the City Council will continue to support the Airport’s growth plans while strongly advocating the inclusion of aviation and shipping emissions within the scope of a comprehensive international carbon cap-and-trade mechanism. The City Council will also press for the increased investment in major rail capacity that is likely to be an essential, practical substitute for reduced levels of air travel within the UK and northern Europe.

"Manchester Airport has committed to becoming carbon neutral in its site energy use and vehicle fuel – including major improvements in the way people access the airport from the surrounding area. This is a very stretching commitment, and the City Council will do everything it can to help the Airport achieve its aims – including involving the Airport in all the major actions identified in this plan."

OK, deep breath.

Surely this is not an "action", it is a process. It's going to take years to completely go carbon neutral, and I don't see quite what it is going to catalyse. Most of the people jetting off for various reasons won't notice, really, will they? So who else is this aimed at?

Surely "a green airport" is in any meaningful sense an oxymoron. Like "friendly fire" or a"healthy cigarette" (I'm old enough to remember cigarettes being advertised on television as 'low-tar'). Surely this late in the game we should be admitting this?

Surely the Call to Action could have mentioned that Manchester City Council owns 55% of the airport?

All that said, the airport is a convenient whipping boy...

Hopefully "Stop Expansion at Manchester Airport" will soon get its website updated to inform its readers of this "catalytic action" and produce its own analysis...

And also hopefully, Manchester Friends of the Earth will dust off its plans to write an alternative Master Plan for the Airport...

Catalytic Action 8: Greening the City: i-Trees

The Executive of Manchester City Council- in effect the “Cabinet” of the 96 seat elected body, has recently accepted a report called the “Call to Action.”

A London-based consultancy called “Beyond Green” wrote the report, (for £32,000 plus expenses), which commits the Council to nine “catalytic actions.”

They are:

  1. World-leading neighbourhood regeneration

  2. Retrofitting Manchester's civic heritage

  3. A business alliance for climate change

  4. Low carbon energy infrastructure

  5. Low Carbon Communities

  6. A climate-ready Local Development Framework

  7. The Manchester Prize

  8. Greening the City: i-Trees

  9. A green airport

We here at MCFly Towers think that these sorts of things go better with consultation. While we are waiting for the Council to announce just what it is going to do on this question, we will be posting one “catalytic action” per day on the MCFly blog, with a brief analysis. We invite the people of Manchester (and heck, why not beyond) to comment on these. We will pass on your comments to the Council.

That's not to say the other parts of the report aren't worthy of comment too- it's just that we have to start somewhere, and here is as good a place as any...

Catalytic Action 8: Greening the City i-Trees

"Climate change adaptation – ensuring that Manchester enjoys a high quality of life with the advent of already inevitable climate change – is a critical aspect of the City’s plan. Key elements of this include making sure that buildings and public transport can be comfortable at higher temperatures, that the way streets and public spaces are laid out and furnished provide shade and shelter from extremes of weather, and that Manchester can cope with increased frequency of storm events. These will become especially important as the need to mitigate further climate change encourages more people to walk and cycle and supports a culture of being out-and-about in the city.

"The Manchester City South Partnership with Red Rose Forest has developed the “i-Trees” proposal for long-term investment in greening in the City South area which centres on Oxford Road, the busiest road corridor in the North West and a major gateway to the City Centre."


"A detailed feasibility study has been completed and implementation of the early stages of the project are commencing. In incorporating the project into this Call to
Action, the City Council’s aim is to:
Help accelerate delivery of the programme, corralling a wider body of capacity, expertise and resources to ensure that visible change in the environment is realised as early as possible..."
So, who can argue with planting trees? It's like motherhood and apple pie. Who could be AGAINST it? And Red Rose Forest has done some very useful work, which should be championed.

But why "i-Tree".? Was this dreamt up by Beyond Green? Or by RRF? And what IS an 'i-Tree'? And why on earth should anyone restrain themselves from bursting out laughing as such tosh? Imagine you're a climate skeptic and you hear someone wittering on about i-Trees? Is that going to confirm all your prejudices or what?

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Catalytic Action 7: The Manchester Prize

The Executive of Manchester City Council- in effect the “Cabinet” of the 96 seat elected body, has recently accepted a report called the “Call to Action.”

A London-based consultancy called “Beyond Green” wrote the report, (for £32,000 plus expenses), which commits the Council to nine “catalytic actions.”

They are:

  1. World-leading neighbourhood regeneration

  2. Retrofitting Manchester's civic heritage

  3. A business alliance for climate change

  4. Low carbon energy infrastructure

  5. Low Carbon Communities

  6. A climate-ready Local Development Framework

  7. The Manchester Prize

  8. Greening the City: i-Trees

  9. A green airport

We here at MCFly Towers think that these sorts of things go better with consultation. While we are waiting for the Council to announce just what it is going to do on this question, we will be posting one “catalytic action” per day on the MCFly blog, with a brief analysis. We invite the people of Manchester (and heck, why not beyond) to comment on these. We will pass on your comments to the Council.

That's not to say the other parts of the report aren't worthy of comment too- it's just that we have to start somewhere, and here is as good a place as any...

Catalytic Action 7: The Manchester Prize

"The City Council proposes the introduction of a Manchester Prize with the aim of establishing the City as a centre of design for sustainability and a place in which good ideas from around the world, connected with the creation of low carbon, environmentally beneficial ways of living, are demonstrated.

"Through the Manchester Prize, Manchester will become a living laboratory for applied climate change solutions and networks among those involved in making it happen.

"The Prize, which has been under consideration for some time, offers several strategic advantages, including a reinforced reputation as an ambitious City, evidence to governments and investors that the City is serious about climate change and the opportunity to bring the best thinking and design from around the world to bear in Manchester and create transferable reference points for future common practice.

"Private sponsorship will be sought for the Prize, pump-primed by a proposed allocation from the Innovation Fund, and the City Council will seek the support of AGMA in organising the first Prize for 2011."

Hang on. First Prize won't be awarded until... 2011? And then how long till implemented?
And then how long until it starts to reduce carbon levels? By how much? What resilience impacts?

When MCFly editor Arwa Aburawa went to the recent Overview and Scrutiny Committee, she asked why there was no consultation. Twice she was told, in effect 'because we're so determined to act NOW, and we don't want to be distracted from ACTING NOW'.


This is terrible. This is just a frigging gimmick.

OK, deep breath.

We already KNOW lots of the things that need doing. This search for new "transferable reference points for future common practice" is just like a smoker waiting for a new less addictive fag to come on the market to make it easier to quit, and puffing away merrily in the meantime.

They cannot be serious. Can they?

Catalytic Action 6: A climate ready LDF

The Executive of Manchester City Council- in effect the “Cabinet” of the 96 seat elected body, has recently accepted a report called the “Call to Action.”

A London-based consultancy called “Beyond Green” wrote the report, (for £32,000 plus expenses), which commits the Council to nine “catalytic actions.”

They are:

  1. World-leading neighbourhood regeneration

  2. Retrofitting Manchester's civic heritage

  3. A business alliance for climate change

  4. Low carbon energy infrastructure

  5. Low Carbon Communities

  6. A climate-ready Local Development Framework

  7. The Manchester Prize

  8. Greening the City: i-Trees

  9. A green airport

We here at MCFly Towers think that these sorts of things go better with consultation. While we are waiting for the Council to announce just what it is going to do on this question, we will be posting one “catalytic action” per day on the MCFly blog, with a brief analysis. We invite the people of Manchester (and heck, why not beyond) to comment on these. We will pass on your comments to the Council.

That's not to say the other parts of the report aren't worthy of comment too- it's just that we have to start somewhere, and here is as good a place as any...

Catalytic Action 6: A climate-ready LDF

"In the City of Manchester the key vehicle for achieving these aims is the Local Development Framework (LDF). The LDF is the spatial expression of the Community Strategy and as such climate change activity needs to be embedded within LDF, as in the Community Strategy and the Local Area Agreement. There will be several different parts to the LDF and as such several opportunities to embed low carbon planning and design requirements into the City’s future architecture.

"In April 2009 the City Council will publish the ‘Refining Options’ stage of its LDF Core Strategy, the principal statement of Manchester’s spatial planning objectives and principles.

"During consultation on Issues and Options earlier this year, some respondents argued that climate change imperatives mean Manchester should not seek to grow its population further and should place greater constraints on development than hitherto.

"The City Council recognises that development adds to Manchester’s carbon footprint, both in the ‘embodied energy’ that is used simply in the process of constructing buildings and infrastructure and in the additional emissions generated by extra residents. However, it rejects the suggestion that this argues for reducing the pace or quantum of development in Manchester. That would run counter to the City’s regeneration goals, but on a broader perspective is also the least sustainable course of action: continued population growth in and around Manchester is a welcome and unavoidable consequence of the City’s rising prosperity and demographic change; and development in and around urban cores offers the most economically, socially and environmentally beneficial way of absorbing this growth."

Well, again, isn't this something the council was going to have to be doing anyway?? So isn't this "money for old rope?" There is no, in the terrible jargon of carbon offsetting " additionality."

So, during the previous consultation, various greens went "er, how are you going to square the circle of continued growth and reducing carbon emissions?" (this is- another jargon word- known as 'decoupling'. Like two train carriages are 'de-coupled' from each other, the idea is that if you make your production processes much much more efficient, you can still have growth. Critics would say it's like someone on a diet thinking they can lose weight while eating twice as much of the "low-fat" option...)

And how does the council respond? Does it respond with the sort of 'radical new thinking' that the Call to Action is supposed to represent.

Er. "However, it rejects the suggestion that this argues for reducing the pace or quantum of development in Manchester. That would run counter to the City’s regeneration goals..."

So, in effect, the Council is sticking its fingers in its ears, shutting its eyes so hard their retinas are detaching and shouting "La la la" very loudly.

We live in la-la land...

What is to be done? Be ready, really ready for the LDF Refining Options consultation. If they're not going to consult on the Climate Strategy (they promised they would, but it is now a safe bet they won't), then Manchester's "green" activists need to be ready to rock and roll in April.