Sunday, 26 July 2009

MCFly 029- Green Scheme leads to MORE emissions!

July 13 A Berlin brothel has created a discount scheme for "green" punters, as a way of swelling profits during the recession. Thomas Goetz, owner of the "Maison d'envie," told Reuters news agency that "customers who arrive on bicycle or who can prove they took public transportation get a 5-euro ($7) discount from the usual 70-euro ($100) fee for 45 minute sessions." The scheme is working. "We have around 3-5 new customers coming in daily to take advantage of the discount," he said, adding the green rebate has helped alleviate traffic and parking congestion in the neighborhood.

MCFly can think of several reasons "why not in Manchester."

MCFly 029- Coping with Copenhagen

Afterplay on the G8 summit in Italy

Fiona Harvey of the FT reckons “the point of this meeting was never going to be the declaration at the end of it. The real prize was that Mr Obama sat in a room with other leaders (excluding China, which could not be helped) and impressed on them his determination to make a deal at Copenhagen in the hope that they would transmit a similar level of will to their negotiators.Whether that strategy was a success or failure we will know in December.” Meanwhile, the head of the IPCC, Dr Rajendra Pachauri, has said that the leaders disregarded the IPCC's findings that emissions will have to peak in 2015 and then rapidly decline to avert the worst consequences of climate change.

Activist plans This November activists will be joining together to call for climate justice, using the hunger strike as a rarely-employed but powerful form of peaceful, non-violent protest. We are from all walks of life, including students, teachers, NGO directors, clergy and retirees. Meanwhile, the Guardian reports that a network of radical green groups is planning to disrupt the COP 15 by invading the conference centre and occupying it for a day. Climate Justice Action has said it hopes to mobilise up to 15,000 protesters to storm the Copenhagen climate summit and a large carbon dioxide emitter nearby.

Here in Manchester, Stop Climate Chaos bods have met twice with Manchester City Council, and announcements will be made soon. Richard Leese, leader of the Council, will be attending a few days of the Copenhagen conference (MCFly hopes he gets a window seat on the train, to check out the lovely French/Belgian/ Dutch/German/Danish/German/Dutch/Belgian/French countryside.)

Manchester Climate Forum is holding a “now that we've marched, what next?” meeting on Tuesday Dec 8 at the Friends Meeting House.

UN-animity July 23 The UNs top climate official, Yvo De Boer, has said that the richest nations will have to put $10bn on the table during the Copenhagen climate change summit. He insisted the burden of climate change must be shared and that the money would help developing countries.

And in “WHEW!You can stop campaigning, the world's saved” news, five top UN officials have added their names to an online petition urging world leaders to “Seal the Deal” at Copenhagen.

MCFly 029- Writing Group reports #1

Writing Groups reports

Buildings- productive first meeting July 24. Read our reporter's account at

Sustainable Consumption- meets Thursday August 6th

Green and Blue Spaces- met on Tuesday July 21 and "captured some great ideas and activity and have given ourselves a strong footing to ensure that the CCAP responds to adaptation priorities, in addition to its focus on delivering mitigation outcomes."

Transport- meets July 29. First draft of participants included 15 men and ... no women.

Energy- has not yet had a date appointed.

MCFly 029- Action Plan Update #3

Action Plan Update #3 Days between July 26 and November 18 = 115

The writing groups for the Action Plan are being established. Some have already met (see below).

Richard Leese has yet again gone out of his way to say that the target of a million tonnes of C02 less per year by 2020 (roughly a 30% cut) is a minimum, not a ceiling. Someone really should take him up on this offer. The other point, being emphasised by all three Richards (Leese, Cowell and Sharland) is that the Action Plan is not a "final document." It will be revised and toughened and made better. Indeed, at the recent Environmental Advisory Panel, one experienced panellist raised concerns about how much could realistically be written by September.

The Action Plan will mostly be about mitigation (reducing emissions), though there is a sense among those writing it that adaptation is going to have to get more than a passing mention. There are, of course, many unresolved questions here-

who is going to be revising the document in the month of October, under what criteria? Will there be a "final view" for the writers before it goes to the Executive on November 18? How will the document be released- in what formats, with what kind of launch event(s)? Will the lessons of the "Call to Action" be learnt? What are the mechanisms for engaging with "stakeholders" and improving the document in 2010 and 2011? What 'groundwork' needs to be laid down now? Just for starters...

MCFly 029- Climate Youth Conference in Manchester

On Monday October 19, Oxfam is hosting a free "Active Global Citizenship" conference. 25 schools from the North of England can send 4 students and one teacher each to a day of workshops and discussions about climate, Copenhagen and campaigning. For more information, contact Jo-Anne Witcombe, Regional Youth and Schools Campaigner 0161 234 2793

MCFly 029- Wind and Workers

The Danish wind power company Vestas is shutting down a wind turbine factory, ending six hundred very green jobs. The Isle of Wight factory is, at time of going to press, occupied, and a campaign to pressure the Government to step in has been launched. A Vestas worker will be speaking at a public meeting organised by the Campaign against Climate Change; Tues 28 July from 7pm at the Mechanics Institute, Princess St.

MCFly 029- All Power to the... Council?

Manchester and Leeds recently got new powers - as “city-regions.” Announced at the Budget in April, it wasn't clear if this was another Westminster PR stunt about “de-centralising” or a real deal. According to a blog post by the Manchester Evening News journo who broke the story, (David Ottewell), it may be the latter. And crucially, number 7 of the ten 'work streams' is “Rapid transition to a low carbon economy” which 'will involve retro-fitting existing buildings and AGMA taking greater control over the energy with which it is supplied.' Watch this space.

Meanwhile the new Communities secretary, John Denham, has announced a consultation in which councils are "asked to tell the government what new powers they need to mount more effective climate change work." It runs until October 2, and MCFly will be reporting on Mancunian responses and the outcome.

MCFly 029- Getting Serious about Climate Change

Friends of the Earth (FoE) is targeting local councils across the United Kingdom – including Greater Manchester – to show them the benefits of getting serious about climate change (www.getseriousabout FoE reckons it will “create jobs, save cash, and cut carbon”, boosting the local economy, slashing fuel bills, raise people out of fuel poverty, reduce health problems and improving public transport.

They want councils to do three things:

commit to cutting carbon emissions by at least 40% by 2020 (Manchester's goal currently is 30%);

get cracking on making homes more energy-efficient,creating local energy supplies and upping green transport;

support FoE's campaign to give local councils more powers.

Manchester FoE members are taking stalls and information to dozens of festivals and community events over the coming months, asking people to write postcards to their councillors and MPs. If you want to get involved, contact or go to a FoE meeting

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Ecocities launch

Ecocities launch

Very much a game of two halves

First half we have speeches from

Professor Alan Gilbert, President of the University of Manchester

After a few not-so-gentle digs at Thomas Friedman's “The World is Flat”, Prof Gilbert warmed (ho ho) to his theme – that it would be dynamic city regions that drive growth and have a competitive advantage in the 21st century. He seemed quite taken with the work of Richard Florida (on where the nimble creative classes want to live) and argued that sustainable cities would have to happen not merely because of regulation but also to Attract and Keep the Talent.

He pointed out that knowing it's vital is one thing, doing it is another, that there'd be intense competition from other cities

So the University with it's 2015 role was looking at

  • a scale/quality of research that as world class, but also one that shaped the agenda
  • not just theoretical research but practical stuff, that made a difference.

He extolled existing international partnerships, for example with Harvard and also US, Singapore, Bangladesh and Japan.

He closed with “Bruntwood and Manchester and the Universities” would succeed or fail together.

Dr Michael Oglesby, Chairman of Bruntwood

He opened by arguing that battle for the recognition of a problem was won, but the question of what to DO was not (question of always wanting someone else to pay for it!)

Observed it is easy to sit back and wait for regulation and then complain about it, but that this is too important an issue to leave to Westminster.

No point in asking developing world to change if WE don't act.

How to achieve? Strong base, partnerhsip keey. Manchester University one of top 4 in UK, Bruntwood recognised as one of the best, very good customer relationships. Over 2000 customers

Too much focus thus far on the new. Retrofitting is where it is at.

Need clear guidelines. Unis to come up with what would really make a differnece, Bruntwood to look at practialities, Council to decide what's feasible.

There are going to be recommendations we don't like, unpalatable. Have to take these on board. If not, fail, with serous consequences.

Impacts from temperature increase, 60% increase in rainfall, leading to flooding because we've paved over so much. Some problems will not be soluable, Large areas we will not be able to live in in the future.

Sir Richard Leese, Leader of Manchester City Council

Birthplace of the Industrial Revolution [Oh, if I had a quid for everytime I have heard THAT lately]
Mcr wants to be part of solution
Cities critical (over 75% of energy, 80% of greenhouse gases)
Mentions Call to Action [but not, naturally, Call to Real Action!]
Increased public understanding.
Extols the “surprising range” of partners writing the Action Plan
Once again talks about the targets as being a minimum: “At least,” he is at pains to emphasise

Then the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding and a chance to hoover up more food. Your MCFly reporter got three feeds out of the Council last Thursday Truly, “snouts in the trough.”

So, then we had an “Overview of the Eco-cities initiative” by Professor Simon Guy and then a very detailed presentation on “Climate Change Impacts in the Manchester city region” by Dr John Handley, before Dr Jeremy Carter led off the workshop component.

This involved having us in groups of 8 or fewer, with a facilitator, getting us to look at “Challenges” and then “Opportunities.” Lots and lots of ideas, which the Eco Cities crew are going to collate and send out.

As with the speeches, the gender balance appalling. MCFly did a head count. There were 53 participants, of whom 14 were women. Of all the people, only one could be classed as Black or Ethnic Minority. Want to be clear though- this is NOT down to any conscious action or oversight on the part of the Ecocities crew. 3 to 1 seems to be the male/female ratio in any climate event MCFly goes to, with anything labelled “Transport” significantly worse. What is to be done?

They think it's not all over. It is soon.

Buildings Writing Group lays firm foundation

The first meeting of the Manchester Climate Change Action Plan Buildings Writing Group [or MCCAPBWG to absolutely no-one] met on Friday 24th in Committee Rm 4 in the Town Hall. Twenty or so experts and enthusiasts gathered there, looked down upon by the portraits of eminent councillors of the past. This group is one of five which together will create a plan that will lead to a reduction of at least one million tonnes of CO2 from the city’s footprint by 2020. Quite apart from this startling target, the deadline for completion of the plan is Mid October (yes, this year) and is if that wasn’t enough – the process is a collaborative one. Someone involved in the process was heard to say that he didn’t know whether to be exhilarated or horrified.

The meeting was facilitated by the consultants Countryscape, and scribed by members of the Council’s Green City Team. Context was given by the Town Hall’s new Director of Environmental Strategy, Richard Sharland, and the 100 Months Club’s Phil Korbel was appointed as Chair of the group.

Before getting down to some serious brain dumping, the group considered the role of climate change adaptation within the action plan. The Bruntwood representative told the group that that was at the heart of the major ‘Eco Cities’ initiative that they were funding, and that for a major commercial property owner to ignore adaptation would be against their and their tenants’ interests. Charlie Baker (Urbed) retorted that to ignore mitigation would be abdicating the city’s responsibilities to those people in the developing world who were already affected by climate change. Between these poles a form of consensus was reached – acknowledging that some degree of climate change is inevitable, that building owners and users need a reason to change their behaviour (and adaptation was a tangible expression of that) but that too great an emphasis on adaptation would imply to the public that climate change was somehow easy to deal with. It was also recognised that there will be many occasions where the two will overlap – with ‘green roofs’ being seen as a prime example.

Phil Korbel attempted to give some ‘steer’ to the proceedings by saying that the big wins were in building refurbishment (as opposed to new build) and that the group should divide its thoughts between what can be done to the fabric of buildings and what can be done to change the way people use them. The Carbon Trust representative also alerted the group to the need to include waste and water usage as vital means to tackle the climate change impacts of buildings. Jon Lovell from Drivers Jonas (property experts) also told the group that they have been commissioned by the Council to suggest actions around the city’s commercial property stock, which might make that side of the group’s work easier.

The bulk of the meeting was taken up with the participants creating a mass of objectives and actions, which are to be edited and prioritised in future meetings. There was a real sense of ‘knuckling down’ to the task, and all those present, whether Council officers, sustainability experts, campaigners or property specialists seemed happy to share their thoughts in a refreshingly open way.

Some of the perceived blocks included the lack of baseline data (e.g. how much CO2 is produced by the Commercial and Residential property sectors (a clear overview of who’s doing what) and where the money is likely to come from. But set against these obstacles is the stated task (by Richard Leese amongst others) that at this stage the groups must be aspirational – come up with the best ideas and then the funding issue will be addressed.

The meeting came to a close with a long list of objectives and some actions being detailed against them but it will be the next meeting (mid August) where some shape starts to form around this vital area of decreasing the city’s carbon footprint. Between now and then, further discussions between the group members will take place on line once the meeting’s findings are published.

Friday, 24 July 2009

Defend green jobs: demo in Warrington Saturday 25th

Tomorrow (Saturday 25th): join a demonstration in Warrington at the Vestas HQ. Vestas, Britain's largest manufacturer of wind turbines (despite being a Danish company), is closing down its Isle of Wight plant, one of the island's largest employers. The plant mainly makes turbines for export to the USA, but it is still ludicrous that the British government is happy to bail out banks and car manufacturers whilst ignoring its green industries - the ones it should be supporting for the future. More details here.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

"Independent" "debate"

Is our democracy under threat? That was the topic up for “debate” tonight at Manchester Town Hall tonight, as sponsored by a tabloid newspaper formerly known as the Independent.

Four white university-educated men (three who went to Cambridge. The UK dominated by Oxbridge? Surely some mistake) sat above a very white audience (of probably more than average income) and talked about democracy. Is our democracy under threat? No, our current model looks in rude health

Some Indie hack called Steve Richards led off with a potted biog of Gordon Brown's ups and downs since 92. The guy has had more lives than a Time Lord cat, and apparently should not be counted out just yet.

Then Johann “repentant cruise-missile leftie” Hari kicked off.

After regaling us with the Dalai Lama's response to being called a former slave-owning theocrat and a “Buddhist death-threat” he got down to business:

The “first past the post” voting system leads to an unseemly chase for a few tens of thousands of Middle England votes and should be replaced by proportional representation.

The media is largely owned by rightwing plutocrats so right wing policies of Labour or Conservatives get no scrutiny. Hari asked how many part-time workers there were in the room (not many) and how many knew that the so-likeable Dave Cameron is planning to do over part-time workers' rights to annual leave etc.

He made the basic obvious (but not to some it seems) point that change comes from Below. (Women's rights, gay rights etc).

Anyway, Hari at least gave the right answer to the question. Yes, our democracy is under threat, from a huge set of climactic shocks that are going to kick in soon indeed. He mentioned the Middle Ages and its non-human-made climate changes, leading to a steep rise in religious nut-jobbery, riots etc, and then name-checked Darfur as presaging our water-short future etc.

He pointed to the near consensus that we are likely to see 4 degrees temperature rise in the next 50 years or so. He pointed out that a difference in four degrees during a picnic is nice, but a four degree rise in your body temperature (from 37 to 41) leaves you slightly ... dead. Crop failures, starvation etc etc....

Neil Hamilton (him of the brown envelopes from Harrods) oozed towards his microphone, the human embodiment of a badly-written UKIP leaflet so cheaply printed that great smudges of ink stain your hands, leaving you depressed and in need of soap.

Blah de blah, Hailsham, elective dictatorship blah de blah 70% of legislation from Brussels, blah blah Strasbourg blah blah Quango State blah blah Health and Safety executive blah blah.
Look, I'd have more respect for the guy if he bothered to point out where most UK foreign policy emanates- namely Washington DC. I wish all these guys whining about Brussels would just admit the UK is the 51st state. Why are we in Afghanistan? Eh? Eh?
Hamilton closed with the crowd-pleaser (his opener fell flat) that “we need a revolution”

So Steve whatsit asked him if he thought Dave Camoeron would lead a revolution that will please Hamilton. The oily little creep replied “well, it's extremely unlikely.”

Howard Jacobson, author of a good book about Australia, wittered out some decent banalities- democracy as a a process rather than an accomplished fact, that the rage at the expenses scandal was sublimated (my term, not his, but fitting given the Freud connection of the event) rage at the bankers, about whom we could nothing.

Graham “dyslexia doesn't exist” Stringer reckons that democracy isn't under threat in the UK, but doesn't like proportional representation because the BNP got in in the North West.

Johann Hari, sat next to him, asked a straight question about PR which Stringer... didn't answer but ducked and weaved like a ducking and weaving weaselly thing. Classy.

So, at no point did Steve whoever bother to get the other panellists to respond to Hari's central claim about the impacts of climate change. What's a chair for? To make clever comments about “embryonic political alliances” between Stringer and Hamilton, or actually address some substantive issues? Don't write in, the question's clearly rhetorical...

And so from the floor we had the usual mix of sane and rational and insane and irrational comments, delivered with varying degrees of coherence and brio.

All the panellists took their (i.e. Our) time in answering. Howard Jacobson having too much fun being Howard Jacobson to do anything serious. He lobbed in a few gratuitous hand grenades about the upside of ID cards etc. Hamilton banged on about Europe. Hari and Stringer went at it hammer and tongs about the best place for the BNP. Hari's line was they get elected, but never re-elected, because they're shown to be “gang-rapists and lunatics.”

In his summing up bit, Hari also nicely skewered the increasingly swivel-eyed Hamilton on the subject of the vast European super-state. You know, that one which employs as third as many people as Manchester City Council

Here's what I would have said (polished up a bit, it's true), had Steven whoever pointed at me to ask a question

“In January Manchester City Council launched a fairly lousy document about climate change called “Call to Action.” It contained nothing substantive about consultation or engagement, and the Council went into bunker mode when asked. A group of Mancunians, with no money or office or previous experience, put together their own report in seven weeks, and now the Council has opened up its climate change planning process. You CAN make a difference, if you are determined, informed and willing to work bloody hard.

"Now, I want to know what the other panellists think of Johann Hari's take on climate change. I see three positions. One, you agree with him- in which case why didn't you say so, and mention climate change in your talk. Two, you don't know- which seems pretty cowardly and lazy for so-called public intellectuals. The material exists in digestible formats for highly educated people such as yourselves, and if you won't take the time to wrap your thinking gear around it, we really are in trouble. Or three, you DISAGREE - which you're obviously entitled to do- but then surely you should say that you disagree, and you should be able to back that up with reputable science. Otherwise, what the hell are you doing on the panel??”

Winners and losers

The Independent- maybe they're happy, but I didn't see a rugby scrum fighting over the right to sign up for quid a week subscriptions. They have, like my patients, severe problems with their circulation, and that is very very painful.

Freud Communications, the events organiser. Yeah, they emerged with dignity intact.

The speakers? Well, no-one made more of a tit of themselves than they already are I suppose. Stringer didn't get lynched by the dyslexics in the room, which must have been nice for him.

The audience? Those who got to speak, yeah. Those who got to listen? No, you know, I'm not really sure they got anything other than plonk and olives. As the late lamented Kurt Vonnegut used to say, “so it goes.”

What could have been done differently

Debates take time, so schedule more of it.

Get people talking to the people BEHIND them. This simple technique always generates huge volumes of chatter, breaks ice and who knows, can start firm friendships and even social movements, if done frequently enough.

Those speaker biogs in full

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Environment Commission update July 09

MCFly was at the latest Environment Commission meeting on July 16 and, after the commissioners away day last month, we have lots to tell you! Of course, what you are reading below is NOT the official minutes, but will do till they are distributed...

Recommendations for MCCA

Following the request of the commissioners, Mark Watts of the London Climate Change Agency made his recommendations to help Manchester's very own Climate Change Agency swim rather than sink. Watts pinpointed the lack of resources as a major issue and suggested a figure of around £250,000 to tackle the projects that the MCCA has already taken on. He also proposed that the MCCA define itself and its role/aims more clearly.

An assessment of where Manchester was upto in terms of tackling climate change was also proposed alongside the notion that the EC and MCCA should be clearly separated from each other. Smart metering and retrofitting municipal buildings were given the thumbs up as positive ways to build a reputation and presence in Manchester.

Charlie Parker and Commission chair Dave Goddard were keen to point out that devolution will bring more resources for these projects and that funding will be clearer by October. They did, however, agree that research was needed to make sure that AGMA was getting bang for buck from the 15 million been spent in the sector across Greater Manchester.

Reports and presentations overload

To help the commission narrow their aims a plethora of reports were presented which included: a report on the UK Low Carbon Transition Plan for background information, the structure of the NWDA and how the EC could work them, and a report to provide an overview of EU developments and membership of the 'Covenant of Mayors'. I'll spare you the details although if you are really keen we have linked up the reports where possible.

The main actions coming from these presentations, which were all rushed although the meeting overran by an hour, was that AGMA could sign up to the 'Covenant of Mayors' as the covenant's targets were not very different to those already set. Commissioners also debated whether adaption to climate change or the need to reduce the carbon per part in the air should take priority with regards to the EC's vision. This debate once again led to the issue of finding where Manchester is and directing funding more strategically.

Commission and Communication

Finally, a short presentation was given by Janine Watson to help the EC's 'brand positioning' reflect their vision and focus. As well as highlighting the possibilities of facebook and industrial-heritage-inspired-brick-wall websites, she also pointed to risk of talking to journalists without a clear agenda and the need to manage activists. Overall, she recommended a launch event once the EC has defined it aims and work plan.

In case you had somehow managed to miss it, the main theme running across the meeting seemed to be that a lot can be achieved ONCE a there is a clear focus on what it is they want to achieve and how. And whilst things are moving in the right direction, tough decisions need to be made soon to forge this ever-elusive 'vision'.

Friday, 17 July 2009

Manchester research group calls for Tar Sands companies boycott

Manchester-based Ethical Consumer magazine has called for a boycott of high street brand names associated with environmentally destructive tar sands extraction in Canada.

Tar sands, a mixture of sand or clay with bitumen ('heavy oil') are found beneath the pristine forests and wetlands of Alberta and are increasingly being exploited for oil by fossil fuel companies as other reserves run out. Reports by leading international environmental organisations state that tar sand extraction releases greenhouse gases at 2.5 to 8 times the rate of conventional oil – before the end user even gets to burn it as fuel. Extracting tar sands also causes massive environmental destruction to major wildlife habitats, affecting fish, plant life and migratory birds. The toxic pools of waste matter from tar sand processing measure up to 50km2 in size and are deadly to wildlife: in one incident in 2008, a flock of 1600 migratory birds died after landing on one. This figure was initially said to be 500, but the company responsible, Syncrude, admitted during a court case a year later that it was triple the number first reported.

Indigenous communities living downstream from tar sand sites have raised concerns about the poisoning of their water and fish stocks. Cancer rates in communities downstream from tar sand sites are above average, and traditional ways of life are suffering as animal and fish populations decline. In the USA working-class communities near refining plants have also campaigned against the health effects of bitumen processing.

If Canadian tar sands expansion go ahead at the rate currently projected, it would account for 87% of the maximum allowable emissions from OECD countries in 2050 if we were to stabilise at 450 ppm. Carbon Capture & Storage technology, intended to 'scrub' CO2 from fossil fuel emissions, has not yet been proved viable, and even if current experimental models were to succeed they would take decades to become fully operational.

The brands named and shamed by Ethical Consumer magazine include consumer providers such as 3 Mobile, Superdrug and Nouvelle recycled toilet paper, as well as international banks HSBC, RBS and Barclays. Caterpillar, also the subject of a boycott over its sale of machinery used to commit human rights abuses by the Israel army, is also on the list.

According to Ethical Consumer, Superdrug and 3 Mobile are owned by subsidiaries of Hong Kong company Hutchison Whampoa, which also owns Husky Energy Ltd. In 2006 Husky had a total of 510,890 acres of oil sands leases and in 2007 signed an agreement with BP for a 50/50 partnership to develop the Sunrise oil sands project. Caterpillar, along with Hitachi and Liebherr International AG, are accused of manufacturing specialised equipment used to dig and transport tar sands.

Nouvelle and hosiery staple Lycra are owned by Koch Industries, whose involvement in tar sands extraction comes via its subsidiary Flint Hills Resources and another subsidiary company which has constructed a pipeline which carries oil from Alberta to Minnesota, USA.

Ethical Consumer's Dan Welch noted that “Koch Industries has a very sketchy track record as far as environmental responsibility goes. In 2000 alone, more than 310 spills from its pipelines and oil facilities in the USA resulted in the company being fined $35 million dollars.”

And the three banks named in the report have been accused by environmental groups Greenpeace and Platform of financing the involvement of major oil companies such as BP and Shell in exploiting tar sand reserves.

Ethical Consumer's own website now features a dedicated campaign page with form letters, key facts and links to further information, including reports by the Worldwide Fund for Nature and Co-operative Bank, and by Platform and Greenpeace.

This article originally appeared at

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Oversighted and scrutineed

MCFly went along to the latest Communities and Neighbourhoods Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting (it's like a Select Committee- a bunch of elected politicians keeping tabs on a more powerful bunch of elected politicians and bureaucrats) on Tuesday14 July. The meeting was - in part- about the "Call to Action".

The main topic on the agenda was the community awareness and engagement aspect of the Call to Action and my, weren't council (rightly?) please with themselves. Quoting the Environment Advisory Panel, the “C02mmunity Challenge” event and even MCFly- the executive member for the environment Richard Cowell argued that they had “opened their eyes to the potential of consultation and taking people along.”

The Community Challenge was also hailed the “meaty part of this project” by Cowell, which is not only a bad choice of words but a little worrying as the event, whilst useful in bringing really diverse people together, failed to mention the Action Plan or actively engage participants in the writing groups contributing to it.

Even so, they clearly have high hopes for the Action Plan which his due out 18 November, and reported that they will be making the most of their contacts in the Guardian to get publicity for the plan.

Online application forms also available now to bid for a grant from the £1m Carbon Reduction and Innovation Fund. The fund is open until 10 December, 50% match funding is encouraged and successful projects with be part of the Action Plan.

Sunday, 12 July 2009

MCFly 28- Caption Contest

Can you come up with some snarky captions or speech bubbles for Hilary Benn (him whose pa were an an enemy of the state) and "Captain Switch-off" (the one on the right). No prizes, but a mention in the next MCFly.

MCFly 28- why not in Manchester?

Why not in Manchester?

July 4 Local authorities across Scotland have launched a three-year programme that aims to encourage people to cut their car use in favour of more active and sustainable forms of transport. Seven local authority areas are taking forward the wide-ranging initiatives through the Scottish Government’s Smarter Choices, Smarter Places (SCSP) scheme, which is supported by the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA).

July 10 'The European Environment Agency is considering Europe-wide building regulations that would encourage developers to include “vertical allotments” in their designs...

In an interview with The Times, Jacqueline McGlade, the agency’s director, said: “Managing our urban spaces as extensions of agriculture will reduce the demand to turn forests into farmland. Food crops must be brought closer to the table.

“The idea of living walls and vertical allotments is very old, going back to the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. It’s amazing we haven’t done more of this before but now there is a new urgency to change our habits because of climate change.”

MCFly 28- gizza job!

MERCi are looking for highly motivated and proactive individual(s) to be a Sustaining Change Development Officer, for a programme which "aims to create a cohesive network of voluntary and community sector organisations and social enterprises who are committed to operating sustainably and willing to share this best practice throughout the sector."

The post is funded until 2012 through Big Lottery Basis Funding. Salary is 21,833 working five days a week 37.5 hrs (possible job share) with up to 5% matched pension contribution. Deadline for completed applications is 12 noon Mon Aug 3.

As part of its developing partnership with Manchester City Council, Action for Sustainable Living needs two self-motivated individuals to cover its expanding work in South and East Manchester. Both posts will run until 31st March 2010 but, subject to achieving targets, these temporary posts may lead to an extended contract. Sustainability Coordinators lead teams of up to 15 voluntary Local Project Managers to help people take simple next steps towards leading more sustainable lifestyles and help communities find local solutions to local sustainability problems. Salary £22380. Interested? Download the job pack from or telephone 0845 634 4510 for a printed copy. Email your application form, CV, personal statement and equal opportunities form to

Closing date for applications is 5pm, Friday July 17. Interviews will be held on Friday July 24.

MCFly 28- Coping with Copenhagen

Coping with Copenhagen

Friends of the Earth disses the government' "Road Map to Copenhagen"

A brilliant report from earlier in the year that lays out 3 likely scenarios from Copenhagen, one of which is fetchingly called "Multilateral Zombie"

Campaign against Climate Change starts to advertise a train trip to Copenhagen from London, during the talks. With World War Two analogies all the rage in climate circles, shouldn't we ask “Is your journey really necessary?”

Meanwhile, the G8 "historic announcement" of a 2 degree target gets a kicking from green groups and the UN secretary-general as vague and insufficient. On July 9 the Guardian points out with weary glee that "Less than 24 hours removed from lofty goals, including 50 percent global cuts in carbon emissions by 2050, the G8 has backtracked, and now has agreed simply to “substantially reduce carbon emissions” by 2050."

MCFly 28- Manchester Report Report

This two day event was cack-handedly advertised, poorly organised (single-sided A4 agendas, for morning and afternoon?!) and the most disempowering format imaginable (we oiks were lucky to get a question in at all). The audience was paler, maler, and significantly staler than usual, perhaps in cause and effect with the techno-fixated nature of most presentations. A welcome behaviour change perspective was provided by Cambridge Carbon Footprint ( Apparently the Guardian will be publishing the presentations as a supplement. Unused copies might be useful as insulation for the Town Hall? Just sayin'....

MCFly 28- Exec Members Sub-Group

Sub-groups of the 10-member Executive of Manchester City Council regularly form and dissolve around current issues. They meet frequently, to co-ordinate and problem-solve. The recently-formed Climate Change Sub-Group is chaired by Richard Cowell (Exec Member for the Environment), and its other members are Richard Leese (Leader of Council), Jim Battle (one of the two Deputy Leaders), Bernard Priest (Finance) and Paul Andrews (Neighbourhood Services).

MCFly 28- Action Plan Update #3

Days between July 12 and November 18 = 129

The long-awaited Action Plan to reduce Manchester's climate change emissions will be out before the Copenhagen Climate Conference in December. It will mostly be about “mitigation” (cutting emissions) rather than adaptation/preparing for the inevitable changes that Manchester will experience (For a short list of the impacts we can expect, see

Five writing groups are being formed, with chairs to be announced imminently. The writing groups are titled buildings, energy, transport and mobility, sustainable consumption and green and blue spaces. Each group will meet 4 times between late July and mid-September. The City Council intends to keep tabs on progress, provide support (such as group facilitators) and help groups co-ordinate between each other. The council is also sourcing technical experts to help in the process.

Each group has two objectives - namely “to deliver a measurable reduction of at least 1 million tonnes of Manchester’s annual CO2 emissions by 2020” and “to build awareness, understanding and capacity of climate change issues, engaging communities and organisations throughout Manchester in the behaviour change needed to transform itself into a ‘low carbon city’ by 2020.”

By early October a draft will be available for all those involved in the writing to comment upon (there'll be a one-off meeting), before the Plan is sent through the Council mincing machine to emerge at the Executive meeting of November 18. Various key Council figures have been at pains to emphasise that the Action Plan is not a “final” document, but one that will be revised and refined over the coming years, as more organisations are invited to get involved and share 'ownership' of it.

Points to ponder: Exactly how will the Plan be reviewed and re-shaped over the coming year? By whom? With what authority? How will it mesh with national and regional plans? How can turf wars and bureaucratic inertia be designed out from the beginning?

MCFly 28- Drax 29 "guilty"- money needed

The "Drax 29" were found guilty of "obstructing a railway engine." They are going to be hit with costs and fines. They'll have to pay £36,000 just to cover the costs of cleaning the railway tracks, plus court costs, plus fines (probably). We can make a difference. Many people are donating £29 to the Drax 29 legal defence fund - £1 for each of the people who stopped the train. If that's too much, (or not enough!), give whatever you can. Make a payment to this account - the Drax 29 Legal Defence Fund - Midlands Conservation Club Sort Code 30-98-00 Account number 02911400.

MCFly 28- Game On!!

It's happening. It's finally really happening. After months - no, years - of false starts and broken promises, the cogs and wheels of Manchester City Council are beginning to turn for climate change.

Five top politicians meet regularly as the Executive Members' Climate Change Sub-group (see page 2). The new Director of Environmental Strategy, Richard Sharland, has hit the ground running. Top council bureaucrats meet across their turf boundaries as the “Environmental Strategy Programme Board.” Chairs are being appointed to the five writing groups for the Climate Change Action Plan (more on this on the MCFly blog asap). And an Advisory Panel of volunteer trouble-makers throws in ideas and energy and keeps tabs on everyone else. But even more encouraging than this, “ordinary people” are getting involved in the “Living C02mmunities” project, businesses are signing up to words (and perhaps actions?! - see page 2) and, finally, the “Call to Real Action” group is gearing up for a vital twelve months.

It doesn't matter so much how many people get on a bus to London or a train to Copenhagen in December. It doesn't matter so much how big this or that camp or protest is. It matters (so much it matters) that the Council finds serious, radical and determined support and pressure every step it takes between now and... well, 2020 and beyond.

The writing and execution of the Action Plan is a massive undertaking in a ridiculously short timeframe. It's not that this thing can be done. It's more that it must be done. Let's go to work.

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Business Alliance...

The Manchester Low Carbon Business Alliance was launched on Wednesday July 1st in the Grand Hall of Manchester Town Hall. This group is number three of the ‘catalytic actions’ that have enthused us so much here at MCFly Towers. About 150 attendees from the private sector were treated to a glass of plonk, although tranquilizers weren’t exactly needed. Sat behind the de rigeur barrier- [Ed: shurely "Speakers Table"?]- we found Council Leader Sir Richard Leese; Lead Member for the Environment, Cllr Richard Cowell; MD of Co-operative Estates Linda Shillaw; local Arup head honcho, Roger Milburn, and Bruntwood lead chap on sustainability Iain Grant. Mssr’s Shilaw and Milburn are also members of the G Mcr Environment Commission.

Ms Shillaw was the obvious hit with the audience simply because she gave them the Co-op low carbon story in numbers – e.g. two years to pay back on a low carbon shop re-furb – and policies that embedded good practice across the whole company. Compelling and surely making her a contender to chair that Commission. Milburn exuded some authority but isn’t going to win prizes for oratory and Grant said that Bruntwood are doing their bit to get smart meters in their office blocks. As for our elected members – Cowell is obviously sincere in his mission but sorely needs to develop more confidence on stage and Leese again surprises with the fact that he ‘gets it’ as far as what needs to be done and why. He has no need to say that the stated target of lopping a million tonnes off the city’s carbon footprint is ‘a minimum’ and that we may need to further, but he persists in doing so. This correspondent wonders if many listening to him ‘got it’ as to the change that will require of their businesses.

So, a start, but to what? The Council has set something in motion which could make a real difference but unless this fledgling group is properly supported and generates real action then it add to the growing pile of well meaning talking shops that litter this field. Little clue to this future was given at the event. Watch this space.

Soviet Spy’

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Miliband Q and A at Manchester Report, Sat 4th

Ed Miliband Q and A at the Manchester Report.

Of course, this was happening at the same time...

(For a sickeningly sycyophantic account of his speech, click here.)

First questioner describing self as “oldest solar pioneer in the room." His observation was that the crisis in how we relate to the planning machine. The local good versus the public good (a phrase Miliband re-heard as local versus national good, and liked)

EM turned it round and said “what's the solution?” Better training for planners? Questioner thought planners didn't have sufficient scientific training.

Second questioner asking for government leadership, citing example of 30 million cars pumping out fuel during congestion, air quality/health issues around this.

Third questioner asking him to comment on jury's decision in Drax coal train case.
EM says “Lord Chief Justice here would surely advise me not to. He did however say he was “in favour of peaceful action.” Call me a talmudic scholar already, but 'peaceful' is not the same as 'lawful'. He is not, here, saying non-violent direct action that breaks the law is wrong... If I was a tabloid hack I'd have led this blog post with “Miliband endorses non-violent direct action!!!”
[Disclaimer- I asked the question, and it was stupid. I SHOULD have said, “I'm donating £29 to help them pay their costs, will you join me?” That would have a) put him on the spot and b) alerted other audience members to the opportunity. Sometimes I am a numpty...]

I also asked him, given his repeated request for a mass movement, “what can we do to hold your feet to the fire.”

He answered this by saying he had anxiety that there was- as there should be- a detailed conversation about carbon capture and storage, but not enough focus on global issues. He pointed out these are big big questions (one region in China planning to build 40 Kingsnorth equivalents in the next decade, I think)
He said therefore not a sufficiently global movement: “hold my feet to the fire on domestic and Copenhagen, but don't forget the global.”

Fourth Questioner on the difference between cycling rates in Holland and Britian

Miliband became enthused here! In Holland lots and lots of short journeys by bike. Partly to do with lots of racks at stations.

EM “I got into trouble by saying people shouldn't object ot wind turbines. In end it comes down to political persuasion, persuading people the bigger threat tot he countryside is climate change.

Fifth on what to do about training (young people)

Sixth questioner his opinion on increasing petrol prices to lower consumption

Seven questioner political trust and credibility in a bad place. One way to get it is to achieve things. We need to hear about the achievements and only then can momentum be built.

Miliband talked about achievements (18% lower than 1990 figures, he claimed, but this excludes aviation and some other stuff, and what about the embedded carbon in imports!!) and from June this year Carbon budgets in every decision. He compares this to 1997 when Treasury far more resistant

[NB See Jonatahn Porritt's parting shot at HMT in today's Absurder)

He got heckled about 5 year versus 1 year reporting and dealt with it very slickly- turned it over to Bryony Worthington, one of the Manchester Report panellists, who'd campaigned with FOE and then joined DEFRA to draft 'the Big Ask'. She points out the government has to put out an annual report.

Miliband mentions a 16 year old girl at an earlier event saying “there should be a green work register” so that people like her can do some/get involved. He thinks it's a good idea.

On petrol prices- over time price pressure will go up, in both high and low carbon world. Job of government is to ensure implemented in fair way, most vulnerable are protected.

Unstable oil prices not good, need stability for planning.

Eighth questioner is the Google guy on panel asks Miliband “What advice for Obama?”

EM “doing well, huge pressures, 60 Senate votes needed for domestic legislation, 67 for international treaty (i.e. Copenhagen).
Be as ambitious as possible.

“We need Japan and Australia... we nee everyone to be more ambitious.
For devel countries we need more Finance and Technical co-operation (i.e. Transfer)

He cites leaders summit in Italy next week. (see Grauniad article on this)

Ninth Questioner: Then two question from one guy (that's really selfish and bad manners. You'd never catch MCFly people doing that, oh no) First on CCS. Questioner claims 30% more energy required, therefore not ahead. Miliband deals with it well, points out yes more energy, but you ARE ahead because you've buried that carbon plus more.

Second is on population as the elephant in the room, cancelling out gains from emissions cuts etc

Miliband says “well, development, education and women's rights.”

The questioner then interrupts and talks about policies that are encouraging more births, but cites Germany and Australia. Miliband points out that these aren't the countries where the growth in population is massive!!

[Comment: Miliband dealt with this very well, IMHO. As I said in the other post, he could have dealt with it even better by reading and citing a recent article by the wonderful Fred Pearce of the New Scientist. Pearce highlights that the growth in consumption in the already-over-developed (my words) world will actually outstrip population growth in the developing world. i.e. The problem is still us fat white Westerners.

Questioner Ten “What role for local authorities?”

Miliband asks the woman where she is from, she says Kirklees and he gets enthused.
EM- they led with energy insulation, went door to door. He asks her to speak about it all, and she does, but I can't read my writing and am obviously too patriarchal to have caught what she said.

He comes back and says LAS can play a lot more of a role. Giving LAs responsibility for Carbon Budgets. Have some effect at local level, make LAs as free as possible for experiments, e.g. Lower council tax in exchange for insulation.

Questioner Eleven "Why cabinet colleagues so unpersuaded by New Green Deal?"
Miliband reckons they are “increasingly persuaded” 21 of the stimulus green. Announcement soon on £400m investment fund. “Can always do more.” The way we calculatie doesn't take into account already built in money. Government becoming greener, carbon budgets etc.

Miliband finished off talking about “our historical responsibility for what's already up in the air. [but] we could shut down EU tomorrow, developing world growth would still take us over two degrees . If you don't tackle coal, at least 2 to 3 times more expansive to solve the problem. More electricity need, not more emissions.

“If people have more questions, get in touch with me,

As he left, the chair of the panel thanked him for coming and answering so many questions.

Ed Miliband strikes again

The last time the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Ed Miliband, was up in Manchester, I blogged- through gritted teeth- that the man had done good. It gives me no pleasure (see disclaimer at the very end of this post) to Report that he has done gone and done good again.

Again, as disclaimed in the last post, nothing nice below is meant to excuse or go easy on UK government policy. They've only got to 18% below 1990 (and those are disputed figures- it depends how you count and what you don't count) because of the “dash for gas”. As we reported in the latest MCFly, Kevin Anderson of the Tyndall Centre has calculated that if the world follows the UK, that gives us only a 50/50 chance of staying below 2 degrees above pre-Industrial global temperature rise. Not good odds.

That said, I don't see what more- on a personal level- you can expect from a politician than she/he a)turns up in spirit as well as flesh, b) doesn't overuse precious time (he again kept the ratio of his introductory remarks to total time at about 1 to 4), and c) actually listens to questions and answers them coherently and concisely. I don't know where Ed Miliband got his “working a room” skills. Maybe from his rather cool dad? Maybe he just honed them himself? But – and this is the strangest compliment I will ever pay a Cabinet minister- he wouldn't have been out of place in an anarcha-feminist gathering of Climate Campers. He was judicious in seeking out female speakers, was neither patronising or over-solicitous, turned questions around, sought more information etc. I know several self-proclaimed “non-hierarchicals” who could learn a thing or three from watching this Labour Party (stodgy hierarchical) and Cabinet (powerful bearpit hierarchical) minister operate.

One final point. Miliband was asked a question about population, and answered it very well- that the way to solve that is development, women's education and empowerment. He could have done even better if he read and cited a recent article by the wonderful Fred Pearce of the New Scientist. Pearce highlights that the growth in consumption in the already-over-developed (my words) world will actually outstrip population growth in the developing world. i.e. The problem is still us fat white Westerners.

Here's the gist of his speech. He was miked up, and maybe they intend to release it as a podcast. If so, we will link to it. The Q and A session will be blogged separately.

Miliband opened by saying that, after the highly technical presentations, he “constituted the light entertainment”. He congratulated the Manchester International Festival and Guardian for putting it on, flagged that the Q and A was most interesting part and then said (I paraphrase)

He said that while technological answers are important, the 'small p' political answers really matter. Any technological answers require political will and political support. The 'group of the persuaded' is not big enough and therefore we won't get the change now and /or we won't be able to sustain the changes we implement.

We're negotiating the Copenhagen deal but have got to create consensus, both within the UK but also with developing countries.
Got to get a consensus that spans democracies and non-democracies.
Got to get a consensus that outlasts administrations
Massive and historical ask
These (technological) solutions are necessary but not sufficient.

Four ingredients to meeting the challenge-

1) Expanding circle of convinced. Convince people of the scale of the problem.
He cited the recent UKCIP information. He feels most people aren't deniers but think it will happen to someone else- not them or their immediate family. He cited people in his Doncaster constituency, who've suffered flooding (canoes on high street).

2) Got to persuade people there's a better life in all this
Governments and NGOs got to be better.
Got to explain that life will be more secure (e.g. Energy supplies)
Better air quality
Improved community
Miliband again cited Transition Town movement, and that he was at the Brixton gathering as a “Keynote listener- something I recommend to all members of the Cabinet [this from memory]”

Miliband then cited a presentation from the morning session, which I am pretty sure he wasn't at, so had actually read up on. It was the “Cambridge Carbon Footprint” presentation, of which more in a separate blog post.

He pointed out the “you should do this” message doesn't work, but the “lots' of others are doing it, you can too” is more effective. [George Monbiot on behavioural evolution]

3) Government Leadership matters
e.g. With Carbon capture and storage. Levy which will increase consumers bills, electricity bills
Environmental Transformation Fund
Government needs to get its own house in order

4) Danger of defeatism
Fear that the problem is too big, individuals too small
Question of how to aggregate individual actions, convince people they can be part of a bigger whole.
Miliband mused that government has thought about individuals (Act on CO2 campaign) and national level, but not thought enough about communities.
Gave the example of British Gas' “Green Street” competition, run between various streets and roads called Green. He visited one of the winners. Points out that people over-achieved on the targets- as soon as had meters/monitors, this affects behaviour.
It was also a galvanising force for communities.

Scientists have an important role telling us about dangers such as Arcitc sea ice etc but important to calibrate message.

Final point- best campaigns and individual actions combine
a) what people do themselves and
b) what they persuade governments to do
Big campaigns and mobilisations that change history- slavery, votes for women, gay rights.
At first impossible, then afterwards you can't find anyone who didn't agree all along.
Most important thing is much bigger INTERNATIONAL mobilisation.
NGOs critique own governments, which is important, but there needs to be a bigger ask.
This is not about a few months, but an enduring campaign [See here for an excellent essay about the dangers of a post-Copenhagen dip in activism]

In closing, Miliband was as uncomplimentary about the Make Poverty History campaign as I have heard anyone be (not directly, but admitting many people were dissatisfied) “came and sort of died away” Climate change will need a “continuing worldwide movement.”

Because he kept his remarks brief, there was actually enough time for a rather good Q and A session. That will be the subject of a separate blog post, to be typed up as soon as I can.

Disclaimer: Our eyes met across a crowded(ish) room (the Great Hall at Castle Grayskull). We waved to each other. I took over the latest MCFly, which name-checks him. He shook my hand and said “I like your blogging.” And thus was a fearless community journalist turned into a tame pussycat, purring with delight at the recognition from a Secretary of State. It really was that simple.