Saturday, 31 October 2009

Angie Robinson interview

Interview with Angie Robinson

Q: What role does Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce play in tackling climate change?

A: I think that it's really important that we actually make sure that we are at the forefront of the debate. Particularly because we have some businesses and membership, we are actually a good means of getting out that information towards them. It's about helping people to get their heads around this issue, as climate change and energy issues can actually be very simple or they can be incredibly complex. And I think that people are quite fearful of it because of the language that surrounds it, and an important thing for us as the Chamber of commerce is to actually translate that so businesses can understand it.

We employ our own specialist who is very professional and knows a lot about the climate agenda, we also have a committee of the chamber which looks at transport, which looks at the environment and planning. Whilst these issues are bundled up together, they do separate out quite easily and so they get the attention that they deserve. Also, one of vice-presidents, Phil Jones from Brother, is very much leading the charge in terms of climate change.

I think from the business perspective, they are still getting their heads around it and because of the dark economic climate we found ourselves in, we very much got our message along the lines of “not only is this good for the planet, but perhaps more importantly in the short-term, this is good for business”. There is a business case that this will beneficially improve your bottom line. This is one way that we are contributing to the debate, it's not the only argument that we are using but it's about getting people to sign up and recognise the agenda. And if we are brutally honest we are not all there yet.

Q: Have you experienced any resistance in looking at the climate change agenda?

A: I don't think that there are any businesses that are resistant to tackling the climate change agenda because most businesses at the very basic level are looking to reduce their energy costs and usage. Now, their reasons for doing that may be varied and I think that whilst climate change isn't always at the forefront of everyone's agenda, it has moved up there a lot more in recent times because everybody talks about it. I think we need to move now from everybody talking about it and knowing that it's something that we have to get our heads around to actually making a difference very quickly. We are looking to support the leadership that our politicians, both locally and nationally, are showing because some of the greatest ways to make a difference isn't about sticks necessarily but its about carrots and helping people to understand.

You know I haven't come across any companies that are saying 'climate change is a load of twaddle and I am not interested and I'll carry on.' I suppose there will be companies that are carrying on as normal and are either waiting to be lead or it's just not high enough on their agenda at this point in time so we have to help them understand what opportunities are open to them. The whole issue of climate change is that it is a shared responsibility and it doesn't belong to just the business community or the householders or schools, we are all in it together and we have to work hard to make sure that where we can make progress we are and that we support those who want to make progress but I haven't quite managed to get there yet.

We need to understand what our relative responsibilities are. I mean there are some massive opportunities in relation to new energy technologies and if we could retrofit all the homes, it could be a huge business opportunity. There are chance in this for businesses and it just about getting the money raised really.

Q: Is there a sense that there will be some clear winners and losers from Manchester moving towards a low carbon economy?

A: I think that there is still a lot for us to understand about that and I think our job is to help businesses interpret where they can contribute and gain from a low carbon economy. That might be a longer-term gain or a shorter-term gain. I think there is still much to do to help them understand that. I think that if we even begin to suggest that there will be losers in this, then the argument will be dead in the water and so will we as our planet will be destroyed in many ways. The important thing for us to do is to find a way in which companies can come on board, willing and happily, and with benefit to them, their workforce and their community within which they operate as a whole.

Q: Do you ever envisage a time when Manchester businesses won't be motivated by economic growth and their bottom line alone?

A: I wish I had the answer to that. I'm not sure that we ever want businesses not to focus on the bottom line because private sector businesses is all about making profits, providing jobs and creating wealth. But that's not in a ruthless, Victorian sense at all. People these days who are running businesses recognise their responsibility not just to their workforce and the world within which they operate. Lots of companies now realise that there are customers and member of their workforce who are asking 'what is your policy with regards to energy conservation and energy usage?', 'how green are you?' And that something that we are encouraging companies to deal with this and we're saying 'you know what, this could give you an edge.'

Companies are not naïve about that. We should never really be asking businesses to give up their profit because even businesses that are not-for-profit, still need to create and retain surpluses as you can't run a business on a standstill budget. You've got to have something for a rainy day and I think that economic growth and low carbon economy are not two mutually exclusive things and in fact I think they sit together very well. If we could capitalise on first-mover advantage as a low carbon economy, then that will sharpen up our competitive edge and not disadvantage us.

Q: Do you feel that attitudes towards climate change are changing in the business community? And in what way?

A: I think that attitudes across society are changing and certain things are driving that. First of all, it's very much in the media and that effects the sort of things that we think about and young people have bought into the climate change agenda and therefore putting pressure on their families and friends. And we should never forget that people who own and run businesses are parents, are brothers, sisters, uncles and citizens at the end of the day and are aware of what the issues are at the end of the day. Probably the pace of businesses attitudes towards climate change are just slightly ahead of society as a whole (maybe not hugely but just slightly) because it is something that companies are having to focus on. I am starting sense a slow change. I can't tell you that there is a huge tide, an unstoppable tsunami because that's not the case.

There are some companies that are in front and are real role models, other companies perhaps need more help and assistance to do what they would like to do because making changes when you are running a company is not always the easiest thing to do. Particularly if you are in a small company where you own the company, you are also the companies finance director and marketing and you may have people to help you but there is an awful lot on these people's shoulders and this is another element of running a successful business that they are having to turn their attention to. And of course when people were being taught how to run a successful businesses, energy was just an issue of cost and not climate change and so they are having to change the way that they look at things too.

Q: Who do you feel are the real leaders in change in the business community?

A:Brother UK, the Co-op is world leading, some smaller companies. We can shine torches on these companies but what we really want to do is mainstream the climate change agenda. We should not be making it something special that we applaud people for, it should part of the routine and part of what makes a businesses healthy and successful.

Q:In the US, the Chamber of Commerce has faced a severe backlash from big companies for their opposition to the climate change action. Do you as the GM Chamber of Commerce see any risks in making a real stand with regards to climate change?

A: I don't see any major risks associated for us. Our main job is to represent businesses and their views and create a climate which foster their activity. So our jobs is very much about asking well, what is their issues and how can we persuade policy makers and others to understand those. I think it always dangerous to compare ourselves to the US, the US it could be said, have not really faced up to their responsibilities in terms of climate change in quite the same that we have in the UK.

We are aware of the concerns of climate change, the impacts it has on other people across the world, our responsibilities and we are a sophisticated first-world society and we have responsibilities towards others. As much as I love the US, and I do, they have disappointed me and I can't imagine for one moment getting into a fight with our members as it's our job to fight for them and get our voice heard and we are full of responsible companies. There are no companies that see this as the elephant in the room or the big black bear that is trying to prevent them from going forward. Companies adapt to the environment that they are in so that they can flourish, otherwise they go to the wall.

Q: What firm commitments is the GMCC making to tackle climate change?

A: Whilst I wouldn't say that our support programme is fully mature, and we do have a lot more we want to do, we do have our committee and our own polices in house to recycle, reduce the amount of energy that we use and to be more sensible and responsible in our activities. I am not going to say to you that we have it right, we are on a journey and we are trying to improve our performance and organisation and we do look at that very closely. So whilst we are not an exemplar, we are trying and I think that's very important and we are honest about that. And as a small business ourselves we do understand some of the issues related to that.

In our business support company and partner agencies across the whole of the city-region, we are helping them to access businesses so that they can talk to them and we are making sure that advice is readily available. Amongst our board of directors there is an environmental specialist who runs an environmental consultancy, so right there in the heart of our boardroom (she's female as well- we are ticking a number of boxes here!) we have environmental issues being raised as part of our business strategy. So we are on this journey, we are not there yet but its a good start I think.

Q: Any plans for future improvement?

A: Yes, we always want to improve. It would be great at some stage if we could be a carbon neutral organisation but we are not quite ready to do that. We still need to do some work around that, and maybe even less then neutral although I have a feeling that getting to neutral will be a good starting point. But environmental issue is a very big theme for our presidential team and particularly in 2010 when Phil Jones steps up as president and he has already given us a very early warning that he will be bringing environmental issues as one of his top themes. So it's in the pipeline, it's happening and we are not resting on our laurels.

There is an increased demand for CC information but we need to make sure that we package it appropriately. The worst thing that could happen is that we start to legislate to penalise business, the greatest way that we can make a difference is to encourage companies and to change their practices or help them understand a little bit more rather than threatening them. You don't change people's behaviours by frightening them. For a lot of the companies it makes sense to deal with the CC agenda in terms of attracting customers and in terms of our business. It really is a no-brainer.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

No Mega Tesco - It's Just Not Cricket

We gathered outside Trafford Town Hall on Wednesday 21st October to make it clear to the Council that local people do not want a huge 140,000 square foot Tesco in the area. Councillors were reportedly due to meet at the Town Hall and we were told that the planning application for the huge store was also going to be submitted... only it wasn't, again.

The No Mega Tesco campaign has been waiting for the application to be submitted since it held a public meeting on 28th September. There was a good crowd of us there, around 40 people and plenty of support from drivers passing by on their way home, tooting in support. The media also turned out with BBC Radio Manchester and the local news crew, and the MEN. Strangely though both the Cricket Club and Trafford Council were not available for comment.

Later the Council stated that this was because the application had not been submitted. It is puzzling that they have become guarded all of a sudden, as late in September they issued a press release which supported the re-development, including the Mega Tesco.

So, be on your marks to oppose the application - we will be posting information for people to include in any letters of objection on the blog but the timescale to submit your views may be as little as 3 weeks. Also, because the Council seem intent on supporting the application we may need to make so much noise about it that it gets called in for a public inquiry. Otherwise, if Trafford Council approve it, it may be game over.


An Abundance of Apples

What to do with all those apples that are still on the trees or that have been blown off in the wind? Make cider with them!

On Monday 26th October, 25 people attended a great evening organised by Abundance Manchester and the Manchester Permaculture network at Hulme Community Centre. Over 200Kg of apples were washed, chopped, mashed and pressed to make apple juice and then cider-maker Matthew Veazey gave a short talk about the different types of cider and how to make them.

Some lovely food and then more apple washing, chopping, mashing and pressing and everyone went home with bottles of fresh apple juice - some destined to become cider and some to be Tuesday's breakfast uice! Great evening.

For information of future events: or

For advice on cider making:

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Razing the Game

The rusty padlock did not delay your intrepid MCFly reporters. The thick shrouds of cobwebs made us think twice, it's true, but an expert crack of a bullwhip cleared the path. Creepy crawlies scuttled away as we pointed our torches in places where the sun hasn't shone for quite a while. But the ancient stonework had no crevice, no fulcrum release lever... “It's no good, Arwa,” I said. “Trying to take a short cut through Man City trophy room is not going to get us to the CN4M event on time.

So we retreated, circled the City of Manchester stadium, and got to the East entrance in time for the standard goody bag and free pecan pastries (at taxpayers expense). Community Network for Manchester's Annual Conference (this year entitled “Raising the Game”) wasn't high on the Indiana Jones Excitement Scale, but we DID walk away with a small rainforest of business cards and glossy brochures.

For those of you who've never heard of it: Community Network for Manchesteris a collection of voluntary and community groups organised through networks, that exists to find new ways of enabling people to fully participate in Manchester’s economic, social and cultural life.

The ubiquitous Phil Korbel- (I swear, that man would go to the opening of an envelope) – kicked off proceedings with a brief and energetic overview of the day and a few upbeat comments about the Voluntary and Community Sector. Councillor Val Stevens (Deputy Leader of the Council) extolled the virtues of the process by which £10,000 has been dispersed to 17 projects in Chorlton.

Then Toby Blume, the CEO of Urban Forum gave a compelling an unexpected mix of bullshit bingo phrases (MCFly will be launching cards imminently) and refreshing honesty about the limits of the Third Sector, (he pointed out that it can be unaccountable and unrepresentative, parochial, serving self-interest rather than beneficiaries, moaning, and be [perceived as] Agents of the State). He outlined the risks of tick box exercises where targets are “met” but results not achieved, and finally looked at the challenges that lie ahead under a probable Tory government.

He said that “democratic renewal” is the new “empowerment”, and that there had been a shift under John Denham (the Sec of State for Communities and Local Government since Hazel Blears jumped before she was pushed), away from civic participation to “tackling political extremism”

He pointed out that for the last thirteen years the Voluntary and Community Sector had had access, but this shouldn't be confused with influence.

He then turned his attention to the (likely) Conservative Government by this time next year. He said that David Cameron was vacuous, just wanting to get elected, but cited Ian Duncan Smith as someone “trying to atone, wanting to tackle poverty”. He felt that there was a struggle going on for the soul of the Conservatives- between the progressive wing and the thatcherites. He pointed out that while they are keen on civil society, consistent with their 'self-help' philosophy, the downside is that they are not interested in capacity building. His fear was that Conservative “Civic Engagemetn” would be designed to enable people to vote down public spending initiatives.

The two workshops your MCFliers went to were of variable quality. The rooms weren't of ideal size, and there was the perennial problem of Some People (usually Men) Talking Too Much, with the facilitators insufficiently brutal to shut them up. In one, on “Duty to Involve” 3 of the 11 audience members- more than 25%- said literally not a word, which was kind of ironic. (That workshop was pretty good though, all things considered).

The second set of workshops had good information, but no better “intra-group dynamics” (we can bullshit with the best of 'em),- dominated by a few, or simply a lecture re-branded as a “workshop.” So come lunch, once we'd had our snouts in the free food trough and done a couple of circuits of the stalls, we made our excuses and left.

Final observations-

  • wotta lotta buzzwords we heard: doesn't anybody speak English anymore?
  • wotta dearth of people not actually employed in Third Sector infrastructure there was at this “showcase event” (there we go again).
  • wotta lotta electricity was being wasted by the electronic advertising hoardings around the pitch being on when there was nobody in the stadium. Climate change action? Yeah, right.

For all this, it's a Good Thing, we guess, that things like CN4M exist, and we're not just saying that in hope of not being blackballed for next year's event.

For the official take on matters, see

Q and A with Richard Sharland

Weds 21stOct: At a public meeting organised by Manchester Climate Forum to discuss the Council-led Climate Change Action Plan, Richard Sharland (Manchester City Council's head of environment strategy) tackled questions about the plan ranging from aviation, the international implications of climate change and working beyond Manchester City Council.

Sharland, appointed in July this year, remarked that the writing groups which helped form the Council's plan were a brave step, especially considering the short period of time they were given but they had produced good results. A hundred actions had been put forward by the plan, which would need delivery plans and resources to pay for them. Sharland re-iterated the target of reducing C02 emissions by 41% in the next ten years and taking a more complete measure to include embedded carbon in the next 2/3 years. Whilst these target were highlighted as ambitious , Sharland argued that the biggest challenge would be changing the way people think and behave, which would in turn unlock the ability to further reduce C02.

Quoting Wendell Berry's, 'Art of the Commonplace', he said that civilisation had been built on forgetfulness and so there would need to be an awakening to enable us to tackle climate change.

This talk was followed by a question and answer session (please note that this by no means a complete record of all the questions and responses):

Chris Worral of Oxfam asked about whether the action plan would explicitly acknowledge the impacts of climate change on poorer countries.

Sharland responded that the details of the plan were still be discussed and whilst it would recognise that CC is a global issue affecting others, it wouldn't be used as guilt but as a reason to take action. He argued that people need something that they can relate to and therefore the focus would be on local issues.

Ali Abbas of Friends of the Earth along with others tackled the issue of aviation and why the airport had been left out of the council's action plan.

Sharland noted that the exclusion of shipping and aviation from C02 reduction target had been explicit and that is one of the things they accept they will have to look back on and discuss. He noted that the airport would addressed as part of the move to include embedded carbon in targets in the next couple of years. He did however insist there was evidence that the airport does bring economic benefit and the action of greening the airport's practice was a step in the right direction.

Bill Harrop of the Transport Action Group, who had contributed to the transport writing group brought up the issue of the need to work with other councils to be effective.

Sharland admitted that there were some TIF scars left behind in the city with regards to transport and there was a need for a critical mass to overcome it. He did however recognise that it was important to work with other boroughs and beyond to be truly effective.

After this Q and A the meeting split into small groups to discuss good and bad ways of 'engaging' and discussing climate change beyond the usual suspects. This was what was fed back from the various groups:

In response to this issue of engagement, people suggested what they felt was good practice

+ Proper dialogue (via visual media, discussion)

+Validating individuals and empowering themselves

+ Comedy

+ Co-ordinated activity to win hearts and minds (information

    + Practical and local action

and what was ineffectual.

- Fear and guilt only work in the short-term

-top-down enforcement


-meetings with focus or meaning

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Local food in Manchester

There are some brilliant local food projects happening in Manchester at the moment. One of them is Abundance, which, inspired by a similar initiative in Sheffield, picks surplus fruit and veg and - in a proper example of joined-up thinking - distributes it to places like homeless hostels, projects supporting destitute asylum seekers and inner-city programmes supporting people with mental health needs. That is, the kind of people who are often excluded from getting good-quality, beautifully fresh local fruit.
Today, though, I'm excited about the news that the lovely Dig, who deliver my Tuesday morning veg box (today featuring a really spectacular bright purple cauliflower) are branching out from delivery into growing their own supplies. They're taking on some of the land at Dunham Massey, where a lot of the veg they deliver comes from already, and experimenting with new polytunnels to get a wider variety of veg over longer seasons. And being thoughtful kinds of people, they're also busy having a think about how environmentally focused food projects like this will get their produce into urban centres in the most sustainable way.

Plums image pinched from Abundance Manchester because I couldn't resist it. Blog post originally from here.

Monday, 19 October 2009

MCFly 035- 3 out of 10:10

Manchester City Council signed up to the 10:10 (to reduce its emissions by 10% by the end of 2010) at a full Council meeting on Weds Oct 7 (we blogged that- do pay attention at the back there!). But here's a scoop, straight from the mouth of Stockport's Exec Member for the Environment (Stuart Bodsworth)- our friends in the near south will ALSO be signing up. And what's this? Our spies in Bury tell us that the Lib Dem Group has tabled a motion to the next full meeting of Bury Council (28/10) calling on the Council to sign up to the 10:10 pledge. They “hope this will receive all party support and as such kick start the Council's commitment to CO2 reduction.” So, only Salford, Tameside, Trafford, Bolton, Rochdale, Oldham and Wigan to go. Easy peasy! MCFly will keep you informed...

Meanwhile, Central and Eastern Cheshire PCT have signed up to the 10:10 campaign. Has Central Manchester, or UHSM? Or any other Manchester NHS trust? We will try to find out...

MCFly 035- Jurassic (Car) Park

Having a direct C02 footprint bigger than many of the world's nation states isn't enough for Tesco UK. The nation's favourite grocer has just submitted a planning application to Trafford Council for permission to build a 140,000 square foot Tesco Extra store in Gorse Hill, Stretford, as part of the Lancashire County Cricket Club re-development scheme. If approved, it would be one of the largest Tescos in the UK.

A Mega Tesco would bring scores of HGV lorries making relentless just-in-time deliveries to the store. Some of these lorries would no doubt contain the Atlantic haddock which Tesco transports from Scottish ports to Poland where labour costs are lower and back again to its UK stores. In addition, to such oh-so-not sustainable food transport policies, Tesco want to include around 1000 car parking spaces at the store.

Assuming that Tesco are expecting people to park their cars in these spaces, rather than use them for growing local food, it is difficult to see how the resulting increases in car journeys, congestion and C02 emissions can be squared with the the government's planning guidance. The Government's December 2007 Planning and Climate Change Supplement to Planning Policy Statement 1 (yes, we are geeks, but we need to be) states that planning authorities should expect new developments to "create and secure opportunities for sustainable transport in line with PPG13" and that any planning decisions made by local authorities should "shape sustainable communities that are resilient to and appropriate for the climate change now accepted as inevitable".

Tesco may have become the Tyrannosaurus Rex of the retail sector, but we all know what happened to the dinosaurs that could not adapt to a serious bout of climate change. Let's hope the local community can persuade Trafford Council to see sense and refuse this pre-historic planning application.

A little background- in 2004, Tesco were granted planning permission for a 48,000 square foot store on the same site and in 2006 submitted plans for an 89,000 sq foot store. These latter plans were refused by the local council and Tesco lost their appeal at a full public inquiry.

Further details on the campaign

STOP PRESS: To give Trafford council a clear idea of how strongly people feel about the scale of this proposed development there will be a 'presence' to coincide with the next full Council meeting:

Weds 21st October, 5.30 – 6.45pm , at Old Trafford Town Hall on Talbot Rd (corner of Warwick Road and Talbot Road.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

MCFly 035- Loads of dosh still up for grabs

In June the Council launched its CO2mmunities fund, with £200,000 available for "exciting, innovative projects that will save carbon, inspire others to act and result in long-term and wide scale positive change." Excluding an AFSL contract, no funds have been dispersed, and the deadline - December 10 - looms. Applicants are advised to discuss their project ideas with the Green City Team before submitting their bid, by calling Esther Barnes on 0161 234 4226 or emailing

MCFly 035- In-KRO-dible

The newly formed "Foundation" ( has set up a co-branding partnership with the locally-owned "Kro" chain of bars (, to launch on November 1st.

MCFly has tried in vain to get comment and more info, so at time of going to press, we are unable to say whether there are ANY firm commitments from Kro to do anything to prove they are walking the talk. If they don't voluntarily and rapidly get shot of their wretched patio heaters that are directly heating the planet, they will be a laughing stock, they will make Foundation a laughing stock and they will create cynicism and contempt for the very "eco-branding" that they want to promote. More news as it comes to hand.

MCFly 035- Can't Run, Can't Hide

World leaders meet in Copenhagen this December to discuss whether our species wants its civilisation to continue (that's no exaggeration, it IS that stark). Today, as we publish a slightly-earlier-than-usual MCFly, some readers will be among those 'swooping' on the second biggest coal-fired power station in the UK. They aim to shut it down (non-violently) and then use the momentum and skills gained to go to Copenhagen. Other readers will attend a conference entitled "Climate Action Now," organised by the Stop Climate Chaos coalition, who focus on a march called “the Wave” on December 5th, in London. We wish both sets of readers a safe and informative time of it.

Both events are organised by highly motivated and dedicated people, and will be attended by Mancunians who care passionately about justice for unborn generations and for other species on this planet. All work hard at what they do. But they only have so much time, so much energy, and with the end of the Copenhagen-process in sight, there is a deadly important challenge to turn their attentions to. We refer of course to ... Manchester City Council.

MCFly has been reporting all year about the creation of a Climate Change Action Plan for the city of Manchester. In January the Council released its "Call to Action." In April, local campaigners with no money but a lotta bottle released their "Call to Real Action." The Council sat up and took notice, using the C2RA methodology to create writing groups around buildings, energy, transport, green spaces and sustainable consumption. Most writers came from the Council, academia, and business, with a smattering of Concerned Citizens.

That plan – which also acknowledges the need to adapt to inevitable changes ahead - is now in the very very final stages of drafting and re-shaping for public consumption. It will be ratified on November 18 and commits Manchester to a 41% cut in its emissions by 2020. The Call to Real Action group will be launching its response and its vision of “A day in the life of a low-carbon Mancunian” on Monday November 30.

The desired 'outreach and engagement' during the writing process was weak to non-existent. But the Council has tried, and knows it must do better. It held a well-attended mini-Conference on Monday October 12th (see the MCFly blog for a report). It knows the Plan will need revision (it prefers the term 'iterative process' – it sounds more scientific). It knows it cannot do this alone. MCFly knows that bureaucratic inertia, political realities and the inevitable funding cuts ahead threaten the Plan's success. Without critical friends, who relentlessly poke with kind words and sharp metaphorical sticks, this Plan will be just another glossy document sat on the shelf. Whether you believe in d-locks or ballot boxes, both or neither, we can surely all agree that can't happen. We can't run, we can't hide. We must act.


Thurs Nov 5- Call to Real Action meeting at Friends Meeting House, from 7pm
Weds Nov 11- the Climate Change Action Plan becomes publicly available ahead of...
Weds Nov 18- it is ratified by Manchester City Council's Executive meeting
Late November- some sort of official launch event (Health Warning: May contain moppets)
Mon Nov 30- Call to Real Action's responses are launched at Nexus Cafe, Dale St from 7pm.
December A Council-led festival from Sunday 13th to coincide with the second week of the Copenhagen Climate Conference.
2010 The real fun and games of 'delivery delivery delivery' and further 'iterations'.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Climate Action Now conference

Together with approximately 150 people I spent a precious Saturday at New Century House in the centre of Manchester, at a conference organised by Stop Climate Chaos Coalition, Oxfam and the Co-op. After a swift introduction from the organisers, Penney Poyzer, the "Queen of Green", after starting off rather slowly got into her entertaining stride. She urged us to step back, think clearly and not be blinded by our passions. She described how she had converted her house to harvest rainwater, "low fat water2, a few years ago, but had recently found out that this used more carbon than it saved.

Elvis Sukali, the Communications and Media Officer for Malawi Oxfam, spoke about the impact of climate change in Malawi. The rainfall season is shorter, more intense and more destructive and the cold season has been reduced to a few days. This has lead to water and food shortages, and increase in disease and poverty. Oxfam are helping farmers to use drought resistant crops and develop irrigation.

The message from Kevin Anderson, from the Tyndall Centre, was stark. Economic growth and reducing carbon to a safe level are incompatible. The United Kingdom Climate Change Committee estimated that a 3% per annum decrease in carbon production was compatible with economic growth. More than 10% per annum decrease is needed for a 3 degree average increase in climate temperature. Radical action is needed within the next 18 months.

In question time, George Marshall from COIN (Climate Outreach and Information Network) was asked about how to persuade people to change. He said that, in a sentiment echoed by other speakers, that the climate change movement needs to widen out from the activists. We need to identify people like the people who need persuading, and work with them, not try to take people on directly.

During lunch there was time to go round the stalls and attend discussion groups followed by a performance from the Low Carbon Shakespeare Company.

Lucy Pearce from the secretariat to the Stop Climate Chaos Coalition spoke passionately about their work but mostly about the preparations leading up to The Wave on December 5th, urging everyone to go and tell everyone else they know. She showed a great short film prepared by the UK Youth Climate Change Coalition of "The Wave Dance flash mob" which you can see here.

The conference ended with discussion about what action we could take in our local communities to encourage people to change their behaviour.

Nigel Rose

Thursday, 15 October 2009

EST launch- must innovate harder....

This morning Team MCFly went to the launch of the Energy Savings Trust's “Green Communities” event (essentially their CafE programme rebranded and with more money ponied up by central government). There were some Very Good Bits. But... wait for it, wait for it.. frankly, it did have a whiff of 'let's tick the box marked engagement, get a couple of photos and some positive feedback from reliably effusive people, take a couple more photos and slap it all in the annual report.'

There were approximately 140 people in the room, which is a turnout to be applauded and envied. Much much more could have been done, at minimal/zero cost, and it would have given everyone a warm fuzzy feeling when they heard “Energy Saving Trust” or “Foundation.”

The audience was sat in rows and subjected to your standard death-by-powerpoint series of presentations.

  • The chair of the EST Graham Ayling, gave a bit too much detail about the EST, and used a few too many of the words you'd find on a “bullshit bingo” board. He said nothing that anyone in the room would have found objectionable or surprising.
  • Two people from “DESP”- Davyhulme Energy Saving Project talked about the work they had done, initially in their local church and then with school children.
  • Ben Williams from Foundation basically said that although they haven't got the money from the big capitalists that they thought they would get (don't you know there's a credit crunch on), they still want people to send in applications for funding for 'offset' projects.

This was followed by a talk from a “TV personality” called Dick Strawbridge, who was very engaging for 10 minutes, but after 20 minutes or so began to pall a bit. We then had an opportunity to mingle, and browse the stalls of the sponsoring organisations (no other stalls were around) before a nice lunch, with a decent veggie selection for once. Everyone then sloped off, but for those who hopped on a coach to visit an “eco-house.”

So, a certain amount of information was disseminated (tick that box), a certain (but not large) amount of networking facilitated among stakeholders (tick that box) and photos taken (tick that box). But overall, a missed opportunity for genuine beyond-the-silos networking and community(!)-building, and for a species that has been missing opportunities to sort itself out for quite a while now, a bit of a disappointment too.

So, what are the Concrete Suggestions?

  • Start with a short welcoming comments from the chair followed by him/her asking people to turn to the person behind them(they probably know the folks sat next to them) and discuss why they've come, what projects they are working on etc (this is an easy and failsafe icebreaker)
  • “Enforced mingling” based on where people live, what jobs they do, what they are particularly interested in, what kind of projects they are running, what religion they are, and a random one (month of birth, first letter of the town/city of their birth). Getting groups of 4 or 5 people going, talking about a shared experience etc, even if for a few minutes, gives EVERYONE permission to mingle more. [Without these "permissions", only those determined or bold enough to mingle beyond their known groups will get the most out of a day like this. Sure, there are always a few who want to be left alone to digest or stare into space, and they can keep doing that. But it's the role of hosts to break the ice, and today the ice didn't get broken nearly as much as it could have done.]
  • Investigate Open Space Technology.
  • One of the speakers should ALWAYS be tasked with injecting a little realism- if there is no acknowledgement of the challenges and difficulties that we face then it is frankly dishonest and unhelpful and undermines the credibility of the sponsoring organisaitions. If this stuff - community engagement etc- was easy, then we wouldn't be in the mess we are in. Everybody knows that, but is too afraid of spoiling the jamboree atmosphere to come out and tell the truth.

So, really good that the EST and Foundation are doing this work, and it's encouraging to see so many people in attendance. And it WAS useful for those who went, MCFly included. But nonetheless, these sort of events have not created the “stepchange”that is needed, and without a lot more of all the good things they want to promote- partnership, innovation, boldness- then these sorts of meetings will continue to perform significantly less well than they could (while still ticking the boxes around photos and positive comments for annual reports and upbeat newsletters).

Wordy rant over.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

A B.A.D. idea?

A quickie now, and a longer post later-

Blog Action Day( is not the "B.A.D" idea of the title. Getting thousands of bloggers (as long as they're more read and influential than MCFly) talkin' about Climate Change is something that should happen weekly.

No, the BAD idea is from the blessed Manchester City Council. After working hard and for the most part successfully to build a bit of trust and credibility with its voters on Climate Change, it now wants to insert a gagging order in its terms of reference of its Environmental Advisory Panel. It wants explicit control over what information goes where and is going for the "if it's in an official file, it's an official secret" kind of thing. Incredible. This, THIS is how they expect to build the trust and transparency that will be needed for the coming crises? Old habits die hard, I guess...

Monday, 12 October 2009

From words to action (plans)

This is a LONG blog post, so here is the take home: Manchester City Council hosted a surprisingly “open” meeting that seems to have generated a lot of good ideas (more on that later!) and left people with a sense of where this process is headed, and why. But talk is cheap, and delivery is everything, as the Council itself acknowledged. So, time will tell if we look back on this conference as more waffle or the first step on the road to sanity and survival.

After coffee and schmoozing, the “Three Richards” kicked the day off
Richard Cowell, Executive Member for the Environment (the local Ed Miliband, sort of) was pleased at the great turnout, a sign that people were committed to “forward looking" and living and working in a prosperous low carbon city.

He thanked the Environmental Advisory Panel, the members of the writing groups (over 100 people involved) and he thanked the Green City team and other Council officers for their hard work. He also specifically mentioned that he was inspired by the Call to Real Action, (he brandished a copy) not just for its ambition, but also in its way of working (and we know how vulnerable that lot are to the old "de-fanging through praise" tactic).

He pointed out that the Action Plan was a plan for Manchester, not just the Council, and that Manchester was a city that other towns and cities looked to for a lead. He wanted people to leave from today's Conference feeling that they were part of a process, inspired and ready to work in 2010 towards 2020 and beyond

Richard Leese, leader of the Council and blogger extraordinaire, followed him and started with a reference to the Greenpeace protesters on the roof of Parliament (who knows where some of us who were in the hall today might be this time next year, Richard, if that's what's needed...). He said it was important so many people were in the room to help the process along, but that there was a lot of work to do on behaviour change more broadly. He highlighted the importance of the next few years for 2020 but also 2050 and beyond. He pointed out that by 2050 he wouldn't be leading the council (you never know...) but that the next 10 years were vital for our long term future.

Climate change was, he said, a challenge and an opportunity, and that thinking and acting on opportunities like this "made Manchester what it is and what it will be." Low carbon living would have to become “embedded, routine, automatic”, the city would have to generate and use low carbon energy. By 2020 all new buildings would be carbon neutral, with some carbon negative.
There'd be new industries, and opportunities (that word again) to be national leaders.

He said that the Draft plan built on existing strategies and that there were four overriding themes to it.

1) Climate change would affect everyone and therefore everyone had a part ot play, as individuals, in neighbourhoods, in businesses etc.

2) Nobody (“especially the council, some would say” he added sotto voce) has all the answers. The Action Plan doesn't replace but rather assists and connects existing plans

3) The Council would have to lead by example. Manchester is the biggest Local Authority to sign up to the 10:10 campaign, which he admitted would not be easy to reach.

4) The plan was not the finished article, but would be evolving and innovating

When the Call to Action was agreed, the target was “at least a million tonnes”, and that has now become a percentage target of “41% lower than 2005 levels, which is in the region of 1.25 million tonnes.

Some of this would come from projects already happening, some from national policy, but over half the savioniswould have to come from new projects. Leese finished by saying that the price of carbon was set to challenge the price of oil as an economic barometer in the future, and that producing this first version was part of the engagement with the international process, that he would be taking a copy to Copenhagen for discussion with other leaders of the big cities.

Finally, Richard Sharland, the director of Environmental Strategy spoke. He outlined the background to the Plan, which is mostly looking at mitigation (reducing emissions), with some elements of adaptation. He re-iterated that this was an “iterative” process (i.e. That it would change through dialogue and reflection and new information coming to hand) . He (rightly) said that it was a sign of boldness and strength to admit that the plan will have to change. He was emphatic that the plan must not be a glossy document that sat on the shelf.

On “governance” he said that there would be lots more work to do in 2010, on targets, involvement and resources. He felt that the first objective- of reducing carbon emissions by a million tonnes was crucial, but so two was the second objective of creating a cultural shift towards low carbon living. That was partly why there was such a focus on cultural change and engagement.

He highlighted that as of 2013 the City will be using a “Total Carbon Footprint,” and thus including the embedded carbon (from the production of goods imported to Manchester)

He gave examples of just how challenging some of the actions in the plan would be- the cost of insulating 170,000 homes would be in the region of a billion pounds, and then invoked the spirit of Kirklees, where £1 invested results in £4 flowing back into the economy. He cited Toronto, Berlin and Melbourne as examples of big cities that have tackled this.

He said there would be an annual conference about the Action Plan, and a steering group. The conference would be a chance for annual review and continuous improvement. There would need to be endorsements by stakeholder organisations links to existing (governance) structures.

There would, obviously, need to be delivery plans for key actions, for actions already in the plan and those not yet devised.

He closed by saying the conference today was not an editing/technical run through, but a chance to discuss engagement and 'sector priorities'. How could we take this process, he asked, from the 160 people in the room to 1600, to 16,000, to 160,000. Rather a good question, actually....

Workshop One
We were all of us assigned (randomly before lunch) to tables, and asked to talk about how culture change happens and what would 'work'. Personally I am not convinced this was the best use of our limited time, but hey-ho, it's what all the tables did.
Because of some fairly (unnecessarily) lengthy introductions about what we were supposed to do, we didn't get to the real meat of the matter- what are the barriers for action, before we broke for lunch.

A word on lunch.
On the very plus side, the food was lovely and locally sourced. On the mildly minus side, we had a bit too long for schmoozing and networking (and this, from the guy trying to foist MCFlys on all and sundry!)

Questions, questions
After lunch, in the 'graveyard shift' the head of the Green City Team, Bev Taylor ran us through an interesting “quiz.” We all had little handheld devices on which to press A, B, C, D, E or F to a series of questions she posed. (She assured us that these were anonymous, but it's MCFly's sad duty to report that one participant was mercilessly coshed and dragged away by goons for giving insufficiently adulatory answers. Good luck Pat Karney, wherever you are).

I did copy down all the results (you say "OCD", I say "reflex"). The age range was thus; 14-20; 8 people, 21-35; 29, 36-50; 43, 51 to 65; 12 and over 65; 3. For a conference about the future, this is not good at all! I shan't detain y'all with too much info on this, you can find it in the technical appendix. They asked how many people thought the plan went too far versus not far enough versus just right (The goldilocks problem). Not far enoughs won with 45, versus too far 21, just right 23 and don't know 7.

This sort of thing is potentially very useful, and the Council is to be applauded for using the technology better than it was used last year at the Community Strategy conference, and also for asking questions that did have some 'embarrassing outcomes.' Next time they could take ideas for what questions to ask the whole audience, beyond the demographic ones, and use it at the beginning and end of the day to see what (if anything) has changed.

For the second workshop we were sat in tables based on whether we were business, community groups, education or regional/national government, and we were also sort of encouraged to move from table to table if we so desired (without the law of two feet being explicitly invoked).

We were asked which actions were most important in the plan, or, if we werent' familiar with the plan, what actions should be in there. Again, this was perhaps a mis-framing, and I saw some people vote with their feet and leave at this point. If you are going to ask people to stay beyond lunch, there has to be a clear rationale and set of ways they can really feel useful. Sitting in a group of ten with variable facilitation is not it, simply. We were then asked to look at what the “easy wins” might be.

These were being typed up and displayed on a huge screen as...

Richard Sharland put us out of our misery with the penultimate speech.
He asked people to email him the “one thing they'll do” to

Here's MCFly's- "we are going to keep holding your feet to the fire every way we know how (and ask our readers if they have some other ways in mind). And should the flames be insufficiently fun for our purposes, we will send out scouring parties for more (locally sourced and carbon neutral) firewood."

The final draft of the plan, with comments and ideas integrated over the 2 to 3 weeks, be accepted by the Executive, go to the Manchester Board for adoption. In 2010 they'd be seeking endorsement from other organisations, and working on a template to relate those organisations actions to the CCAP.

The City Council would also obviously be working on its delivery plan (see below), and he finished with a brief plug for the Council's December Climate Change Festival

Vicky Rosin, assistant chief exec of the City Council (as big a cheese you get without being Howard Bernstein) was next, citing and whole-heartedly endorsing something she'd seen on one of the tables- “delivery delivery delivery.” On a welcome personal note, she pointed out that while she wouldn't be around in 2050, her daughter would be, and her children. She then closed the meeting by thanking all for their input.

Who was there
In these situations it's good to assess the audience broken down by age and sex. And yes, most of them looked like they were.

Who wasn't there? Oh, you know this by now- the young, the black, the muslims, the poor. Plus ca change and all that...

So, one and three quarters thumbs up. Next time (and especially for the mooted youth conference):

  • Fewer people per table, better briefed facilitators (obviously you either then have a smaller conference, or more table, which means more facilitators. You could always ask the skilled C2RA crew...)
  • The “overall facilitator” must use the powerpoint facilities more- that everyone can see- to explain what the task at hand is. This will mean he/she intervenes less frequently in what was free-flowing discussion that ended up being very stop-start..
  • More tightly focussed questions that really get to the nub(s) of the problems (this is difficult- since there was massive information-disparity, with some people knowing the Action Plan backwards, and others not having seen it at all). e.g. Ask explicitly “what are the elephants in the room” and “how might it all go horribly wrong, and how can we make that less likely”
  • Ask for what the audience wants to talk about (using open space technology)
  • Make full use of the wonderful technology and wonderful facilities that the Council has.
  • Feedback forms about what was good/bad/indifferent

Thanks to the Council for having the guts to think and act a little outside of its boxes (all the prodding and poking is working!). Thanks to the catering and support staff, who did (as usual) a really good job. The easy bit is over, and we all know it.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Blog Action Day: 15th October

US-based online campaign forum has called for 15th October to be Blog Action Day 2009: Blogging on Climate Change.
According to the organisers, Blog Action Day “effectively changes the conversation on the web and focuses audiences around the globe on that issue” for a day. It's not just aimed at people who blog regularly in climate change – it's about getting everyone who blogs to talk about climate change for a day, linking to useful sites and discussing and promoting all the different things that people around the world are doing on climate change – whether in their home lives, at work, at school, in what they eat, how they get around or what they choose to buy (or not buy).
If as a blogger you're looking for a bit of quid pro quo from this, you can also register your blog to be included in the 'who's participating?' list. But in case you thought blogging was enough... there's also a list of places to find further actions that everyone should be taking on climate change, as well as the opportunity to email in your own suggestions.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

MCFly 34- "Reasons our Children will hate us #94"

"Writing this at 5am on my Blackberry on the way to a meeting with Kingfisher Airways in Mumbai. Been here since Tuesday promoting Manchester in an economy growing at over 6%, the effect of the global slowdown being to reduce it from around 10% annual growth. The visit has been targetted on three things, the most important being to work on getting a direct air route to India."

So writes Sir Richard Leese, leader of the Council, on his blog. Later this year, Sir Richard will be offering a huge gift to the climate denialist nutters who want us to take no action in Manchester, by flying to and from the Copenhagen Summit and turning a positive story about the Council's bold actions into a defensive mess about personal hypocrisy. Such is life.

Playing Chess with Richard Sharland

This article in the paper MCFly was written by Richard Sharland, Director of Environmental Strategy for Manchester City Council. He will be speaking at the next "Third Wednesday" meeting of Manchester Climate Forum, October 21st, 7pm, Friends Meeting House.

So, the chess game leading towards Copenhagen develops elsewhere while the planning work of nearly 200 people here in Manchester approaches the end of its first phase.

Devising the actions to make up our own Climate Change Action Plan has been an energetic process, generating learning, new relationships and reminders of people’s very different starting points. The five theme groups have identified hundreds of actions to reduce emissions or shift us towards a more low carbon culture. There have been few significant disagreements, though the issue of metrics has burned a few braincells and some will be disappointed that – at this early stage – the plan cannot provide clear quantified targets for each action.

Many of those involved will be attending the conference on 12th October, where we’ll be discussing aspects of the plan with each other and with a wider group of stakeholders to whom it is fresh and new. The plan’s first encounter with a new set of people and their starting points will help us to finalise it so it can work effectively as a tool to guide, inspire and provoke action and change.

This keeping in mind how the plan needs to work as a tool is much more important than the plan itself. In 2010, it should spawn delivery plans for key actions; endorsement and new contributions from citizens and organisations; smarter measurement. This future evidence that the plan can animate change, is iterative and adaptive, reflects what Manchester knows about its complex changing relationships with the global climate and what the city is doing to stay ahead: this will show it is working.

Council meeting October 7

This from one of our many many spies in the world of Manchester politics, about the motion before Council on Climate Change we reported here...
It was a heated and argumentative meeting on most issues, but on this one there was cross party unity - the commitment (in principle at least) to the 10:10 scheme proposed by Councillor Cowell, was unanimous, following a very worthy speech from said councillor about the need for a city with a radical lineage such as ours to provide leadership on the issue of climate change.

The interesting bit was where Lib Dem Councillor Ankers gave a response welcoming the proposals, but pointing out the environmental impact of Manchester Airport, which he referred to as 'the elephant in the room'. The Labour councillors continued to pretend it wasn't there
Another of our spies jotted down plenty of specific named groups thanked by the good Councillor Cowell. Obviously time was short, and he couldn't mention "Call to Real Action." Next time maybe...

In other 10:10 news, Bury Council is Getting With the Programme- perhaps...
"I am pleased to be able to tell you that the Lib Dem Group has tabled a motion
to the next full meeting of Bury Council (28/10) calling on the Council to sign up
to the 10:10 pledge. We hope this will receive all party support and as such
kick start the Councils committment to CO2 reduction."
So says Vic D'Albert Prestwich Councillor & Lib Dem Parliamentary
Candidate for Bury South

We shall see!

making a positive nuisance of yerself

There's plenty of depressing things we here at MCFly Towers could and will be blogging about (after all, the Tory Party Conference has been in town, complete with bait-and-switch libertarian loons). But that can wait a while- right now, something positive, constructive and upbeat is worth bigging up, namely Manchester Oxfam's latest "how to" training session.

This one (see here for the blog about last month's one on social media/campaigning) was about lobbying, especially of MPs.

It was led by Chris Worrall (Oxfam) and Clare (sp?) Regan, researcher for the estimable Tony Lloyd, chair of the Parliamentary Labour Party, and MP for Manchester Central.

The evening kicked off without the "turn to the person behind you and have a chat" technique that costs nothing but makes these events come alive. But anyway, I digress... After an introduction of the speaker, there was a presentation/discussion of what lobbying is (expressing an opinion, influencing politicians, achieving change) , with questions from the audience skilfully and carefully answered by the two speakers. It then went into brainstorming of examples from the floor- cycle paths, Iraq war, music licences, pot holes, home schooling etc.

After a quick comfort break, we were then broken into three groups and given the task of coming up with some "good practice" on lobbying (dos and don'ts etc)

Here's the list I jotted down (I've tried to minimise repetition)

  • Media stunt (so MP gets photo opportunity)
  • Do your homework
  • Ask for specific action by specifity time
  • Have numbers and diversity behind you (not vital, said the researcher)
  • Go in pairs/threes
  • Anticipate their response and have next line ready (role play)
  • Timing- hook it to a big event/decision crunch time
  • Be succinct
  • Stick to thepoint
  • Don't get andry
  • Say thankyou
  • Schmooze back
  • "Praise sandwich"
  • Follow-up meeting to show you're not going away, are learning and watching
  • "Think around" the brick walls- do something else if plan A not working
  • Sell it to your MP
  • Match it to the MPs political interests/tailor the case
  • Persistence
  • Research
  • Address it to multiple MPs
  • Bold clear statement
  • Clear easy steps for them to follow
  • Either email or letter
  • state personal experience/involvement
There was a brief plenary, and feedback forms handed out (this is Good Practice!). And people were invited to take a copy of Call to Real Action's "2020 vision" survey, which can be filled in online (follow the link).

So, the next one of these is in early November, and it's on Gender. Will definitely be worth attending. In case anyone is put off going because they fear Oxfam will put the hard word on them to sign up/donate/handover email contact details etc etc, I can say that this is NOT the case. They are welcoming, dedicated but not "in your face" about joining their work.

(Disclaimers- the author is not a member of any political party, and dislikes the whole idea of "the Wave" that Oxfam is bigging up. Regardless, Lloyd's researcher and Oxfam deserve major kudos for putting this on. Just a pity more Manchester-activists don't come along and learn from these things, and share their own experiences)

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Honesty versus the meteorite

On Wednesday 23rd September, the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research hosted a panel discussion on “is avoiding dangerous climate change compatible with economic growth”?

Five white men took the platform, and came down 2 to 1 in favour of compatibility, with one "yes/maybe"and one abstention. So, no real surprises there then- the metaphorical elephant in the room is trumpeting and stamping all over the biosphere (including, ironically, on the literal elephants), but still she cannot be named. This species really isn't going to be smart enough to get itself out of the mess created by some of its paler members. So it goes.

Bob Watson, Chief Scientific Advisor for DEFRA, Tyndall's Strategy Director and formerly head of the IPCC (till Bush sacked him) came out swinging, with a robust statement that you CAN have growth, with the proviso that vulnerable communities are protected. He declined to define dangerous climate change, saying this was a value judgment up to elected leaders, not scientists.

He said we were unlikely to keep to 2 degrees above pre-Industrial global average temperature, and should learn to adapt to 4 degrees.

He cited noted climate genius Tony Blair (who was in turn citing Terry Barker, economist- who was in the room) had recently been talking about the economy benefitting from the switch to low carbon. [Ed: Have our cake at eat it? Wouldn't it be pretty to think so]

So, he called for massive Research and Development, and deployment of the new technologies, a global carbon market, an outreach campaign for behavioural change and the usual shopping list of Carbon Capture and Storage, 2nd and 3rd generation biofuels if leccy cars stall. His take on Copenhagen was that Obama is neck deep in health battles and there ain't hundreds of billions of quid lying around waiting to be given -every year- to poor countries to help 'em adapt.

Stephen Heal, formerly of Tesco, pointed out that business leaders are demanding tough binding targets, and that they believe these are compatible with growth.

He pointed out that there was a need to decarbonise while both population and growth were increasing, and that (therefore) we need to decarbonise MUCH faster than we have so far achieved. He admitted that for all Tesco's serious efforts recently, its total footprint had grown by 3%.[Ed: so, maybe every little doesn't help? Just sayin']

Andrew Goulson, director of the Sustainability Research Institute at the University of Leeds, gave, “as befits a social scientist” a conditional answer.

Avoiding dangerous climate change and continued growth were compatible with some ifs.

  • If we accept the economic and techno-optimism in the forecasts
  • If we overcome the sticking points in a (low carbon) transition
  • If we are less concerned with growth than with well-being and development

And then, as befits a social scientist, he gave some evidence that would make a grown human cry.

A hundred (big) companies in Yorkshire don't know how they use their energy, and none (or very few) has done an options appraisal of where saving are.
He wasn't sure what would happen when all the easy wins (the “low hanging fruit”) had been done.
He pointed to the lack of consistent signals from Government- a Climate Act but also a third runway at Heathrow.
He wondered what would happen when/if government backs down once they get to 30/40 percent cuts, when the costs of further emissions reductions begin to mount

Chris Shearlock of the Co-operative Bank (who had bravely agreed to step in at very short notice for the absent George Monbiot) said that he wouldn't answer the question because he vacillates on a daily basis, and that “we're in the system we're in”

He acknowledged that growth was quite clearly wrecking the ecosystems we depend upon and that priorities were wrong. He pointed out that if he went in to the office of his CEO saying “we should reduce turnover in order to reduce carbon emissions, then he might as well take his P45 in with him.” There is still, clearly, a target to sell more of things.

He pointed out that people seem more interested in earning than in saving. Only when energy costs soared had the Co-op looked at energy use systematically.

He spoke of “choice editing” over and above “green consumerism", e.g you can't buy “bad” (non-Marine Stewardship Council) fish at the Coop now.

He acknowledged that only absolute targets matter, and that intensity targets are nonsense. He said they got put in sustainability targets because they look good, but they don't matter.

Saving the best for last, along came Kevin Anderson

He said that he's an academic, a mechanical engineer by training, so he was looking for evidence based conclusions.

He cited the existing definitions of “dangerous climate change” by a temperature increase above pre-Industrial Revolution levels, and accompanied them with amounts of carbon dioxide we could put into the atmosphere. (2, 3 and 4 degrees, and the accompanying tonnage of C02)

He then looked at the emissions reductions necessary to restrict the amount of carbon emitted to those three levels, making sure that he gave the most optimistic possible scenarios, including halving emissions from food production and a massive decrease in deforestation.

The following numbers are GLOBAL

for 2 degrees, you'd be looking at 20% per annum cuts

for 3 degrees you'd need 9% per annum cuts

for 4 degrees you'd need 4% per annum cuts

That's with a peak by 2020. If you peak sooner, 2 degrees is no longer possible, 3 degrees needs 15-20% .

He then looked at precedents for emissions reductions- the UK dash for gas and the French nuclear build. That came out at a 1% reduction (excluding shipping and aviation)

The collapse of the Soviet Union resulted in a 5% reduction.

He then looked at reductions consistent with growth- citing Nicholas Stern and the Climate Committee saying you might just about get 3%.

So, his conclusion was that there was an infinite gap between growth and the emissions reductions needed to avoid even the most fingers-crossed definition of Dangerous Climate Change.

The floor was then opened for questions. (The following is by no means a complete record!)

In response to a question by Bronwyn Harwood, who works with Tim “Prosperity without Growth” Jackson about the social and resource consumption implications of economic growth/endless quest for novelty, Bob Watson said he believed that it can ALL be zero carbon, that he was not convinced of the need to move away from consumer(ism) society.

In response to a question about the bleakness of his message, Kevin Anderson insisted that hope comes from honesty. He gave the example of Neville Chamberlain (British PM just before the war). He said that if we start form kidding ourselves (here he cited the Earth Summit in Rio), then we get nowhere. He asked how far we are removed from the dictionary definition of genocide we are with our obsession with economic growth.

He called for regulating companies stringently, personal carbon allowances with strict caps on how much can be traded. He pointed out hat “role models” in society all have carbon footprints the size of Ghana.

He pointed out that the so-called good news of reduced emissions because of the recession is not good news, because those emissions are still in the atmosphere for our great grandchildren to deal with.

He pointed out that the carbon footprint of Joseph Stiglitz, and everyone on the panel, were very high.

He said it is not an “information deficit” that we are suffering.

He said we cannot get the cuts we need by technology (by 2020) and therefore behaviour change is essential.

Poor countries need to grow, up to a point. To a certain threshold, growth is good.

A cut in UK emissions might lead to life being like in the 50s and 60s, which weren't that bad.

Terry Baker, cited by Bob Watson, called Kevin's economics “hairshirt economics” and accused him of recommending bankruptcy.

In response to a question about making energy more expensive to drive behaviour change, Kevin Anderson pointed out the problem with a price rise is that the rich (I.e. us) can afford it, but the poor all get screwed. He said that 50% of emission come from 1%, and that if we get them down, others will fill their shoes, but it will take 20 years.
With strong caveats he said there were indeed a few geo-engineering proposals worth looking at.

Neil Adger asked the panel what they thought the worst impacts of a 4 degrees temperature increase would be.

Bob Watson chipped in with “lots of conflict”, musing that the UK might- at a push- be able to grow all its own food.

Andy Goulson said that as the impacts from climate change kick in, the blame game will get moving, and collective action will therefore be harder.

Kevin Anderson's take was that 4 degrees was the collapse of humanity (but not its extinction). He pointed out that to destroy so much beauty in half a second of time- to act like a meteorite- was very very arrogant.

Noel Castree asked about leadership in the West, and whether democracy was compatible with the necessary changes, but your MCFly reporter's front leg was aching, so he can't tell you the replies the panellists gave.

Phil Korbel of RadioRegen asked "Given the stress on the need for big behavioural change did any of the panel have a 'magic bullet' on that issue?" No one had an answer to speak of...

The chair of the meeting then gave the panellists the chance to sum up

The Tesco chap emphasised the need for hope, and galvanising the market place

Kevin Anderson said that a scientist must be dispassionate and honest. He advocated sharp caps on people's personal emissions. “15 tonnes this year, 10 next, 5 the year after that. More than that and it's off to the clinic in Switzerland.” He emphasized that the world would be different, soon, and that Copenhagen was still up for grabs “if civil society kicked the right butts”

Andy Goulson said that there was a balance between stark assessments and politics as the art of the possible. One without the other not helpful. Importance of articulating a vision, viable partnerships.

Chris Shearlock said “let's be positive, it's a political problem, not an economic one. 'More regulation please'”

Bob Watson agreed with Chris Shearlock- it's “totally a political issue.”

Conclusion/petty sniping

This was followed by the leisure of the theory class- a buffet meal, complete with ... meat. You'd think the Tyndall could at least set an example by "choice-editing" the dead animals for an single evening, given what Rajendra Pauchauri has said. 'pparently not

Overall- only one of the five panellists took a rigorous and scientific view of the issue. Others might have done so and still come to the same conclusions, but hmm. To be fair to Andy Goulson, he was coming at this from a social sciences framework.

Once again, Kevin Anderson's compelling and terrifying logic was ignored. It reminds me of the reaction to him at the Manchester Evening News "debate" at the beginning of 2008 (Nick Clegg, Paul Monaghan, some Volcano guy). There he was ignored or cheap shots directed at him with no chance for him to reply. It wasn't much better this time round. He is an Enemy of the People.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Going through the motions

On Weds 7th October, the following motion will be "debated" by Manchester City Council.
Don't lose any sleep over it being defeated...
Ahead of the Copenhagen summit of world leaders, Council commits
to signing up to the10:10 campaign to reduce CO2 emissions by10%
by the end of 2010. Council resolvesto campaign alongside Stop
Climate Change Chaos/Oxfam to demand effective, fair and globally
just action on climate change from Copenhagen and beyond.
Council recognises the impact that climate change will have upon the
lives of Mancunians and peoples across the globe and we resolve to
commit to a campaign of public information activity including a
‘Climate Change’ festival in order to promote awareness of these
issues and to provide information to Mancunians about the 10:10
Council thanks the diverse range of campaigning groups and
individuals who are contributing to the writing of the Climate
Change Action Plan due to be published in November which
will act as the driver for change across Manchester and will send
out a strong message that local government,businesses, public
bodies, communities and individuals are ready and key to
delivering the reductions in CO2 needed.

Signed: Councillors Richard Cowell (proposer) Richard Leese (seconder),
Sue Murphy; Sheila Newman; Bernard Priest, Jim Battle and Mike Amesbury.

The meeting is at 10am, Level 3, Town Hall Extension. Open to the public...