Monday, 30 March 2009

email bulletin 7

Welcome to another “in-between” email bulletin of Manchester Climate Fortnightly.

The next MCFly will be published on Sunday April 5th

Dates for your diary-
Saturday April 4th
Chorlton Green Festival, St Clements Church

Launch of “Call to Real Action”
Monday 6th April from 7pm at Cafe Nexus, Dale St

a) Local news
Not a lot that we here at MCFly Towers are aware of. That's not to say
there isn't a lot going on though. If you know of something that's
happened in the last week on climate change, locally, then please email

b) Upcoming local events
Monday 30th March
6pm to 9pm, come for what bits you want.
Call to Real Action- final draft reading (well, your final chance to read
whatever draft we are up to!)
Friends Meeting House, 6 Mount St

Wednesday 1st April - Financial Fools' Day at 12 noon.
*MERCi Carrot Mobbing*
The *Co-operative* Bank, Balloon Street, Manchester.
“Many people of course will be in London's Square Mile on Financial
Fools' Day highlighting the horrors of the financial industry. Here at MERCi
we're always trying to focus on the good, and good deeds should be
MERCi staff and friends will be presenting The *Co-operative* Bank with
the first ever MERCi-Carrot. The MERCi-Carrot is a reward for continually
working towards improvements with respect for the environment and social
justice. The MERCi-Carrot will be presented to The *Co-operative* Bank in
the form of a MERCi Carrot Cake and Certificate.
For a successful carrot mobbing, we need a mob. A BIG mob. And it must
be a surprise!!! So please come down to the first ever MERCi Carrot
Mobbing and help us thank The *Co-operative* Bank for their efforts.

c)international news stories of interest/importance
G20 meeting coming up on April 2nd, in London. You'll be hearing about
it, unless you are in a coma. On Mars.

Sunday, 29 March 2009

Let there be light. Lots of it.

Was anyone in the city centre last night? According to an article in the Manchester Evening News, you couldn't really tell it was Earth Hour (as organised by that well-known radical grassroots group WWF).

The Big Wheel kept on turning, mostly lit up. The Palace Theatre was ablaze (figuratively), "as did the lights of signature buildings in the corporate Spinningfields district off Deansgate."

Hmm. The best comment (if you're a hopeless curmudgeon) was a tweet by the following chap, :
Just think turning lights off is a feeble gesture, like bailing the Titanic with a teaspoon. Detracts attention from more effective actions.

But I digress.
The MEN piece closes with the following -
City centre spokesman Coun Pat Karney said: "Poor marks for Manchester, we have let the side down. Most of us were probably more preoccupied with putting the clocks forward that with Earth Hour, which saw many other city centres across the world dramatically plunged into darkness.

"It's a possibility that it wasn't well enough publicised in the city. I only started reading about it about a day or two before it was happening and I'm sure the majority of people had no idea it was happening. We can only apologise to the rest of the world and make sure we make a better effort next year."

Sure. I feel safer already. How about having a monthly Council backed one? To get people into the swing of things...

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Lecture series on Conservation and Sustainability

Last night the second of a series of lectures on "Conservation and Sustainability" took place at Manchester University.

Zoe Garland and Leanne Rimmer of the Lancashire Wildlife Trust outlined their work, which is mostly with school children at present, under the title of "Inspiring change now: Making sustainable living second nature."

The next lecture is entitled "Buidling a low carbon-economy" and will be delivered by Mike Reardon, of Manchester City Council/AGMA. He is the lead on creating the "Environment Commission" (see MCFly's 17, 19 and 20).

His lecture will take place on Weds 22nd April, from 6 to 7pm, at the Michael Smith building at the University of Manchester (very close to the back of Jabez Clegg.)

More details will appear in next paper MCFly, out Sunday 5th April.

Further titles for lectures include "biodiversity loss and ecosystem change: consequences for people and the enviornment", "the return of the beaver" and 'forming an emissions inventory, energy scenarios and plans with stakeholders"

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Cultivate our gardens!

This below is a few clippings from a very long press release put out by the Department of Communities and Local Government just now...

A £1 million fund to recruit a new generation of green-fingered apprentices to keep England's parks and green spaces growing, is being announced today by Housing Minister Margaret Beckett

Local councils will invite budding horticulturalists of all ages to apply for a traineeship scheme that will offer them the opportunity to improve their green skills and make sure our towns' and cities' green spaces stay green.

In the North West councils in Blackburn... Liverpool, Manchester, Oldham, Pendle, Preston, Rochdale, Salford, St Helens, Tameside and Wigan will be looking for people who can prove their gardening prowess...

Margaret Beckett will announce the new funding in a speech to leading experts in the green space sector as well as planners, developers and health officials at the ParkCity conference in London.

Mrs Beckett will say:

"These new apprentices will be green ambassadors in their communities, taking responsibility for our parks and open spaces and making sure they are of the highest quality for everyone to enjoy.

"Green spaces and green infrastructure should not be an added luxury. If we really are to tackle climate change, protect both our environment and our health, green spaces need to be at the heart of our communities.

"We will work closely with planners, developers and experts in the green sector to ensure we have the skills and resources we need to make this happen."

With the public health, environmental and social benefits of green spaces widely known, the new funding comes as part of the Government's drive for more top quality green spaces through programmes such as the Green Flag Scheme, as well as putting the green agenda at the centre of planning policy and housing growth.

The apprenticeships are open to people of all ages and the 47 Local Authorities will be managing recruitment to each of their posts.

Monday, 23 March 2009

MCFly 020- Carbon Co-op

The Carbon Co-op has been set up to help small-scale renewable energy projects get going. It is being funded by North West Climate Fund to run a series of feasibility workshops. "Testing the model of a co-operative made up of units of 5-10 individuals, we've used social networks to recruit two test groups, one in Hulme in new build housing and one in new build flats in the city centre. We'll be using the workshops to look at how participants can reduce energy usage and carbon emissions and crucially how people can work together as supportive units to do this. Participants will use energy monitors too, as a way for Carbon Co-op to evaluate ongoing savings and we hope these groups will continue to work together in the future." or

MCFly 020- Council swaps food for your opinions!!

The Local Development Framework is a framework. About development. Locally. No, but seriously, it's a big ol' set of planning documents that take years (and years) to produce. Exciting, eh? Well, the Council hopes so, since they've made it one of their “Catalytic Actions” in the “Call to Action” document (see MCFly 15 etc).

The next stage of consultation on the Core Strategy - Refining Options - will begin on April 14 and finish on May 29. The Council is taking an exhibition bus on tour around Manchester. It's mostly daytimes, but there are some evening dates (Wythenshawe Tues April 7, and Rusholme Thurs April 16). Those evening bashes include a buffet for pre-registered participants, and MCFly will be at the Rusholme one, with its snout in the trough and its pen on t'notepad. Hope to see you there: you register by contacting Collette Holt on 0161 234 4579 or saying which evening and if you've any special dietary requirements.

You register as a consultee by going here:

More info about the LDF here:, but it's written in Council-ese and so MCFly will try to get an English language bluffer's guide written...

The draft document was recently discussed at a "Communities and Neighbourhoods Oversight Committee" and can be dowloaded from here:

The relevant pages are 7-9 (out of an eye-watering 62).

For help and advice on Planning Issues, there's always Planning Aid

MCFly 020- Sustainable Communities Act

Manchester City Council is inviting individuals and groups to submit ideas for how their local neighbourhoods could be improved. Stuck for ideas? Surely you have opinions on at least one category:

Economic (provision of local services, the number of local jobs, planning policies that help achieve the aims of the Act).

Social (ending fuel poverty, promoting local food and ending food poverty, increasing social inclusion, measures to increase community health and well-being).

Environmental well-being (promoting local energy and energy efficiency, helping the environment, measures to reduce the level of road traffic).

Participation in civic or political activity (promoting greater participation in decision-making).

The deadline is Friday April 24. More details here:

MCFly 020- Answering the Call

Manchester, proud of its many “firsts”, is about to host another. A grass-roots report on climate change - and what the people and local government of Manchester can do about it - is being launched on Monday 6 April. The “Call to Real Action” is being written voluntarily by concerned citizens, who are tackling topics as diverse as health, transition, energy, fuel poverty, resilience and how the Council can engage and consult to make best use of the energy, enthusiasm and knowledge of its people.

"This is too important an issue not to be involved in,” said Jo Wilkes, of Moss Side, who is organising the launch. “As well as doing the report, we're teaching each other new skills and creating new links. The launch is part of that - with live music, a comedy set, short speeches and time to talk, swap ideas and contacts.”

Drafts of the report are appearing on the website ( for anyone to comment on, and there is an opportunity to see - and comment upon - the final draft on Monday March 30 , at the Friends Meeting House, 6 Mount St. That meeting is free, and all are welcome. There will also be time to brainstorm how to keep the momentum going after the launch event.

If you can't make it, email

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Scoop! Environment Commissioners not being appointed yet

The Environment Commission for Greater Manchester will have to wait a little longer for its first meeting as a full body. Six members of the 11 commissioner group have been appointed, and have already met once, but five others are still being sought.

The initial plan was that a recruitment consultancy would deliver five preferred candidates to the AGMA Executive for their meeting on March 27th. MCFly has been told this will now not happen. It is not clear whether the Environment Commission will press ahead with its planned Tuesday April 7th meeting, or what this delay (not the first to hit the body) will mean for Greater Manchester climate action by local government, or the pace of development of the Manchester Climate Change Agency.

The idea, as reported in MCFly 17, is that 11 "Environment Commissioners"- 6 elected politicians from various local authorities and 5 people from business/ construction/media/ voluntary sector/academia- will meet regularly and help co-ordinate activities.

The Environment Commission is one of 7 Greater Manchester-wide bodies being set up - the others are Economic Development, Employment and Skills, Health, Improvement and Efficiency, Planning and Housing, Transport and Public Protection.

The selection of non-local authority members for the Planning and Housing Commission is agenda item 6 on the AGMA executive meeting for March 27th. There will be "a report from the Head of AGMA Policy & Research Unit" presented. It is not clear if this to offer names for approval or whether it is merely 'how the search for them should be conducted'.

You can see more information here
MCFly 19 blog post
Bluffer's Guide to the Environment Commission

The Manchester Report

So, this is interesting, from the programme for the Manchester International Festival. (The text is theirs, the links are MCFly additions...)

The Manchester Report

Sat 4 & Sun 5 July / Manchester Town Hall

Manchester was at the heart of the Industrial Revolution, which boosted fossil fuel use and kick-started climate change. It’s only fitting then that the city should also be at the heart of attempts to solve this uniquely challenging problem. This is the rationale behind The Manchester Report, the creation of which will be overseen by Lord Bingham, one of the UK’s most highly respected legal minds.

Over two days at Manchester Town Hall, prominent experts in the fields of science, business and world affairs will cross-examine advocates representing a wide range of extraordinary carbon-reducing schemes – from giant solar-power stations in the Sahara to light-reflecting white roofs. The results will form the basis of The Manchester Report, a low-carbon road map to be published at the end of the Festival in advance of December’s UN climate change conference in Copenhagen.

Commissioned and produced by Manchester International Festival and The Guardian.

MCFly will find out more about this and let you know. And will be there reporting, of course.

Saturday, 21 March 2009

LGA (TLA) PEC. Clear?

The Local Government Association (a London-based "union" for local government in the UK) has gotten its name in the papers for All the Right Reasons.

They've released a list of 200 jargon/buzz words and simpler alternatives.

It's cheap news for cash-strapped papers and makes the LGA look like the Friend of the Bemused Citizen.

The press release has a quote from the Chairman of the Local Government Association, Cllr Margaret Eaton:

“The public sector must not hide behind impenetrable jargon and phrases. Why do we have to have ‘coterminous, stakeholder engagement’ when we could just ‘talk to people’ instead?


MEN recycles recycling

On Tuesday March 17th the Manchester Evening News published the third of its (much delayed) Greenlife supplements.

We are told on the front cover that there are "Virtuous circles: How recycling can save money and the planet."

Now, I am sympathetic to journalists, being the son of two of the blighters. And I've written several thousand blog posts on why a little bit of exaggeration is acceptable in tabloid newspapers.

But "save the planet"? Recycling?? You're not having a laugh, cos it's not funny.

The contents are predictable- love-ins for long-time Greenlife sponsors Bruntwood and the Co-op (don't get me wrong- they're doing admirable things, and I'm glad I bank with them. Their customer service has improved over the last years, from a lousy baseline, true). Greenlife have picked up "Ascot environmental" as an advertiser too, so maybe there'll be another supplement before Copenhagen. Oh joy.

It's all so damned top down. There's nothing in there about "how to get involved", "how to take it beyond just recycling." It's almost as if the Manchester Evening News is operating on a shoestring staff and is [therefore] only really interested in easy cheap copy. Oh, wait...

How to get involved?
Try this - Call to Real Action
or go to that
Chorlton Green Festival

Or check out Environment Network for Manchester.

Monday, 9 March 2009

Kevin Anderson on Copenhagen

I know Kevin Anderson. I like Kevin Anderson. I hope Kevin Anderson is wrong. But I don't think Kevin Anderson is. [I wrote this a year ago, and haven't changed my mind.]


"Two leading climate scientists have broken ranks with their peers to declare that hopes of getting a meaningful deal on halting global warming this year are already lost.

"Professor Kevin Anderson, director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, and Professor Trevor Davies, one of the centre's founders, told The Times that it was time to start looking for alternatives to an international deal.

"They made their comments on the eve of a three-day conference in Copenhagen this week in which thousands of climate change researchers will meet to discuss the latest discoveries in the field. The findings will be used in December when world leaders attend a UN summit, also in Copenhagen, to try to work out an international treaty on greenhouse gas emissions."


Black Environment Network conference

Cross-posted from Environment Network from Manchester, but links added byMCFly.

On March 5th between sixty and seventy members of the voluntary and community sector from around the country attended the Black Environment Network conference. Organisers of the event were pleased with the turnout, although it has been higher in previous years.

Five minute presentations were given by a range of groups including Red Rose Forest, Sustainable Schools North West and the Big Lottery Fund. Workshops covered issues as diverse as how to support Gypsy and Traveller communities, to the more obscure 'how to engage and involve ethnic communities in bat conservation'.

I attended the afternoon of the event and took part in a particularly inspiring workshop by Hanna Thomas of the Otesha Project. We were encouraged to think about aspects of our life that we have had no control over, both privileges and disadvantages. With powerful and provocative exercises we considered how these aspects of people's lives may have effected the way some people feel more confident to act on environment issues than others. It was food for thought indeed!

BEN promotes equality of opportunity with respect to ethnic communities in environmentalism. The mission statement explains that the word 'black' is used symbolically recognising that the black communities are the most visible of all ethnic groups. The network works with white, black and other ethnic communities.

Jenny Nelson

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Gender and Climate Change

Finishing an issue of Manchester Climate Fortnightly is always a mixed blessing. Good that it is "done", but inevitably, as soon as it's up you spot what is missing.

So for example, on International Women's Day, we've written, er, nothing about gender and climate change. Whoops.

My (white male) take on this issue is that
a) it's those with least control over their lives, with least 'buffering' who are going to get hard first by climate change
b) sexism against women is a major reason they don't have control over their lives [along with class, race, and a bunch of other factors]
c) in the long run, the entire species- and life on this planet more generally- is possibly/probably in even deeper shit than the scientists are currently telling us.

So, if we want to survive this mess, and have it worth surviving, we have to create justice and resilience, ('buffering'), and that means more power for the poor, for women generally (but not, obviously, for the Margaret Thatchers of this world).

I can but hope these banalities and generalisations enrage any trolls reading this (you still there, "tallbloke"?)

Here are some good links on Gender and Climate Change:

A comprehensive 'overview of the issues' article on the excellent Tiempo Climate site by Ulrike Rohr in which she "discusses the historical lapse in assimilating gender issues in the climate change debate and the urgent need to undertake research and analysis on this issue."

Rohr is "director of genanet - focal point gender, justice, sustainability, which aims to integrate gender justice within environmental and sustainability policies. Her primary areas of responsibility are gender issues in energy and climate change."


Some United Nations site is our response to the growing public attention to climate change, and the increasing need for information about women’s perspectives and gender aspects in climate change policies and measures.

The web site is based on the knowledge available through the gendercc network, and is one element of an envisaged International Competence Centre Gender & Climate Change (CCGCC).

MCFly 019- Environment Commission update

The Environment Commission is one of 7 Greater Manchester-wide bodies being set up - others include Health, Transport, Economic Development etc. ( The idea, as reported in MCFly 17, is that 11 "Environment Commissioners"- 6 elected politicians from various local authorities and 5 people from business/ construction/media/ voluntary sector/academia- will meet regularly and help co-ordinate activities.

They will not be paid, and indeed there is only a minimal budget for operating costs. MCFly has been told that the EC is supposed to be task-orientated and help deliver objectives. If it wants to achieve discrete projects then it will apply for funding separately .

The timetable for the Environment Commission has been pushed back slightly. On March 20 the recruitment consultants (we don't know who they are) will give a list of recommended candidates for the 5 non-elected commissioners to the AGMA Executive.

All being well, the Environment Commission will meet on Tuesday April 6 for its first full meeting. At this, they will discuss the action they want to take, how they will achieve it and how to set-up support infrastructures to do it.

According to Steve Turner of the Manchester Climate Change Agency, one of the delivery bodies underneath the Environment Commission, the delay is not having an impact on the MCCA's progress, and it still plans to open its doors later this summer.

MCFly will keep you informed...

MCFly 019- (retro)fit but you know it

Manchester City Council will spend nearly £25m on aesthetic improvements to the Town Hall in order to boost “civic pride.” This money is part of the £165m Town Hall Complex Refurbishment Program. The civic-pride-boosting items include a £3.8m glass walkway between the town hall and the central library, and a £20m face lift to St. Peter's Square.

In its "Call to Action" the Council listed "retro-fitting Manchester's Civic Heritage" as its second Catalytic Action, and this - unlike other parts of that report (see MCFly 16, 17 and 18) - has been universally welcomed.

A report by the Council claims that “the refurbishment of the Town Hall Complex will result in a greatly improved physical environment and will significantly contribute to the Council’s objective

of becoming a leading, environmentally sound organisation.” It is unclear just what finanical and energy savings are envisaged or if a cost-benefit analysis has been done, but the symbolism is vital - without getting its own house in order, the Council's moral authority will be diminished.

That said, the Council is currently approving the 2009-2010 budget, and - as reported in MCFly 18 - although climate change is a listed as a “priority”, no new money is set aside, with projects running on what is left of the previous year's £1m allocation.

MCFly 019- The Age of Stupid

On Sunday March 15, Manchester will play host to the premiere of an important new film about climate change, “The Age of Stupid”. But before your chest puffs out too far with civic pride, so too will Aberdeen, Enniskillen, Staines, London and dozens of others.

The film stars Pete Postlethwaite as “a man living alone in the devastated future world of 2055, looking at old footage from 2008 and asking: why didn’t we stop climate change when we had the chance?” According to the website, the themes are “climate change, oil, war, politics, consumerism and human stupidity.”

Four years in the making, and just over an hour and a half long, the film was filmed on location in America, UK, India, Nigeria, Iraq, Jordan and the Alps. The director, Franny Armstrong, has previously made a highly-regarded film about the 'McLibel Two.' In order to maintain their independence, the film-makers raised £450,000 by “crowd-funding”- selling shares to individuals and groups.

Press coverage has been very positive (including from the Sun, every climate activist's best friend- see cartoon below). MCFly sources have raved, though some folks don't like the ending!

Manchester launch speakers include Emma Smail, of the Chorlton Big Green Festival and Chris Worrall (Oxfam).

More information about how to get tickets from here

MCFly will cover the launch and review the film.

Saturday, 7 March 2009

Manchester Cartoonist gets more global coverage

Marc Roberts, who draws cartoons for Ethical Consumer and New Internationalist in addition to his Manchester Climate Fortnightly gig, has had another cartoon posted on the widely-read "Climate Progress" website.

He's also had several postings in each of Real Climate, Nature Climate Feedback and the New York Times dotearth blog. The latter even interviewed him.

Maybe one day Manchester and UK papers will bother to share with their readers the talent that the Americans have no problem seeing.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

MEN not useless after all...

All those horrible things I wrote about the Manchester Evening News? All those sneering "unconstructive" comments? All the petty side-swipes? I take them back.

WAY,FI? No I don't. I take back that taking back.

Dizzy yet? No, me neither; but I am chuffed that MEN printed my response to a letter they ran last Thursday, by a guy who signed himself as "Average Working Man". AVM said a) Climate Change might not be happening and if it is b) I can't do anything about it so c) I'm just going to eat drink and be merry.

Here's my letter as I sent it in, virtually identical to what the MEN published.)
I understand all too well the feelings of frustration and powerlessness that "Average Working Man" expresses in his letter ("I''ll be selfish", MEN 26 Feb). He writes of global warming (which IS happening, sad to say) "I cannot get personal about such matters, because governments are not going to take notice of my thoughts."
At the national and international level, I suspect he is right. At the local level, if he were to get together with other people, then he might (fingers crossed) be wrong.
Manchester City Council has recently released a climate report called "A Call to Action", and the head of the Green City team has publicly requested comments and suggestions on it and the Council's climate work. Although there are some good things in the report, a large and growing group of Mancunians think that it doesn't go far enough. They're getting together to write "A Real Call to Action." The next meeting of the group, which has a website, is on Saturday 7th March, from 1.30 to 5pm, at the Central Hall, Oldham St. Average Working Man, and anyone else who thinks that climate change needs a strong response, is welcome to join us.

Monday, 2 March 2009

Brussels Sprouts and the End of the World

News reaches MCFly Towers of a film premiere the climat-istas will be dying to pack their low-energy popcorn for.

No, not the Sunday 15th March eagerly-awaited launch of the "Age of Stupid", which is coming soon to a cinema near you, no matter where you live it seems.

No, this is about the "Manchester Mini-Stern," a report released last year which spelt out the (21 billion quid) costs of not acting quickly enough of smart enough to climate change. It used the methodology of the Stern Review and applied it to Greater Manchester. This was a first, for a sub-national approach, and the report has picked up a few awards (recently a Sustainable Communities gong, according to the MEN.)
Read more about it all in the updated 3rd Manchester Climate Change Agency bulletin.

Here's the poster for this launch. One last thing, this poster can be seen at the following address:

Recession good for company environmentalism?

There's been a lot of debates in woolly green-corporate circles about whether recession spells the end for ideas like 'corporate social responsibility,' predicting that CSR will be abandoned as a luxury as companies strip down to the bare essentials of survival.
This press release from threatened van manufacturer LDV puts an interesting spin on this, however. The implication here is that the possibility of going under is spurring moves towards green-tech specialisation. Of course, this has its limitations - electric vehicles are great at reducing the city-centre emissions such as NOX and particulates which knacker our lungs and immediate environments. But if they're charged up on conventional leccy they are no better than ordinary cars, because that electricity still has to be generated, and largely from fossil fuels. But perhaps it would be a positive development if there was some proper joined-up thinking by owners of such vehicles and they were also demanding decent green electricity tariffs from which to charge their cars and vans?

Sunday, 1 March 2009

The Sun Also Rises

Taking the advice of an anonymous commenter, I'll try to be 'constructive rather than critical'
(Yeah, you know and I know that there is a question-begging false binary buried in there, but what are ya gonna do?)

So, where to be constructive? Um... (Imagine that cute doggie from Microsoft when you do a file search)... Oil companies? Nope. Nuclear? Nope. Uncapped carbon trading? Nope.

Got it.

The Sun 'newspaper.'

I shit you not. They published what amounted to a puff piece about the Age of Stupid, the 'grass-roots' film that premieres all over the place on Sunday March 15th. (See Manchester details here).

Now, to quote Marie, "why would someone do that?"

One reason- without getting all reductive about newspapers merely reflecting their owners' views- might be that James Murdoch, Rupe's son, has been Converted to Green-ness.
BSkyB actually has an un-crap record, compared to other comparable companies.