Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Sustainable Neighbourhoods, or 43% proof

MCFly found itself at the latest Sustainable Neighbourhoods Partnership Forum, held at Castle Grayskull (also known as Manchester Town Hall).

Richard Sharland, the Director of Environmental Strategy, was introduced, and gave a succinct powerpoint presentation of the Climate Change Action Plan that MCFly has been exhaustingly [ed: shurely 'exhaustively'?] reporting since the beginning of July.

He pointed out that the process of creating the Plan was happening at considerable pace, for timetable reasons (e.g. Copenhagen!) He described his vision of the Action Plan – that it was getting the City in position for 2020, and also for the longer-term (2050) challenges.

The Plan would build on Manchester's history and culture, and also be reflecting and leading the city-region and national policy. He spoke of “creating a low carbon culture."

Crucially, he spoke of the “at least a million tonnes” target perhaps being converted to “at least 43% reduction by 2020.” [This latter would be a target that goes beyond the national and likely international targets, and is indisputably bold]

Alongside the emissions reduction target, is the “culture change” issue, which he said was more “tougher but more important” because if it wasn't done, the emissions target might still get hit for 2020, but the plan not be “fit for purpose” for the next 30 years.

He spoke of the difficulties of finding/using commonly accepted and acceptable measuring frameworks, for counting baselines and reductions, and that the Council was adopting - over the coming years- a Total Carbon Footprint approach.

The plan, he said, would be 'iterative' (meaning, constantly refined and re-jigged on the basis of new evidence, new concepts).

He fielded a few questions- about bypasses, governance structures/links with AGMA and also Employment and Training, before we were broken into three workshop groups to discuss a few pre-chosen topics from within the draft Action Plan.

Overall, the format of the event was well designed and well executed: the specific parts of the draft Action Plan selected for discussion did lend themselves to workshop discussion. Three groups of roughly ten per group were randomly formed, with a room and a remit for each. The headlines were then reported in a brief plenary, before everyone departed promptly at eight.

These sorts of events need to be happening a lot lot LOT more frequently, in all sorts of venues, with a much wider mix (everyone was white, at a guess, almost everyone had a university education, though these things can be hard to guess!).

But if the Council wants culture change, then they should exemplify it- there are a bunch of cheap and easy things they could do to change the culture of their "public-facing" meetings, and make it likely that those who attend get as much out of it (and so come back) as the hosts.

  • Enforced mingling- get people to turn to the person behind them (they probably know the person they are sat next to, or at least one of them) and talk about what they hope to get out of the meeting/why they've come/what good ideas they have that should be implemented on subject x or y.
  • Given the theme was neighbourhood action, it would have been interesting to see where people live, and get them mingling accordingly.
  • Have everyone where name badges with their first name to break the traditional British ice.
  • Have a “bazaar” where projects/events can be advertised, as part of the meeting (this was tacked onto the end, when it's perhaps least useful).

But overall- useful, informative and definitely worth having more people along to.

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