Friday, 27 November 2009

MCFly 38- Calendar of next couple of weeks

Tues 1 Countdown to 2010 (Codex Alimentarus Meeting) 7pm, Friends Meeting House

Weds 2, 7.30 to 9.30pm Unicorn “Meet the producers” evening
Unicorn Grocery 89 Albany Road Chorlton

Thurs 3, 1pm IMPROVING SUSTAINABILITY SKILLS AND KNOWLEDGE IN THE WORKPLACE Dr Joanne Tippett, School of Environment and Development, Room G33 Humanities Bridgeford Street, The University of Manchester
Thurs 3 7.30pm Manchester Climate Action meeting,
@ The Bowling Green Pub, Grafton Street, M13 6NZ

Fri 4 Friends of the Earth AGM (see page 3)
Sat 5 "The Wave" demonstration in London
Mon 7 6.30pm- 9pm Rocket Stove making Madlab , 36-40 Edge Street
Organised by the Manchester Permaculture Network
Tues 8- Ed Miliband in Manchester- see page 1
Weds 9 7.30pm
Is there still a case against Nuclear Power? Nuclear New Build - Dangers and Uncertainties.Sean Morris - Nuclear Free Local Authorities national officer SERA meeting, Manchester Town Hall, Albert Square
Thurs 10 7.30pm Manchester Climate Action meeting, @ The Bowling Green Pub, Grafton Street, M13 6NZ

Tues 15 7:00 till 9:30 Manchester Gardening and Permaculture Society (GAPS) showing of"We Feed the World" a recent documentary that takes an impartial and frank look at many of the major issues surrounding modern food production today. This is in support of the "international agriculture action day"happening at the UN COP-15 summit in Copenhagen on the same day. This will be followed by open discussion about the film and action we can take in Manchester. Manchester University Students union Meeting Room 2, (All welcome!)

16 Dec 7.30pm MCFly Xmas drinks at Odder Bar, Oxford Rd (opposite BBC)

MCFly 38- Local Digest

Nov 17 Envirolink Northwest has provided funding to Tameside-based PVC Recycling Ltd so it can keep developing machinery that can process post-consumer waste and turn PVCu waste into pellets that can become fencing, gate posts and windows.

Nov 19 Viridor Laing (Greater Manchester) Ltd and the Greater Manchester Waste Disposal Authority (GMWDA) open the Waithlands Resource Recovery Centre in Rochdale. It will treat kerbside collected garden and kitchen waste within an enclosed building, to create a compost material for use in horticulture and agriculture.

Nov 20
North west bus maker Optare has signed a deal with a technology firm to use a dual-fuel conversion system, which enables engines to run on a mixture of diesel and bio-methane gas, This leads to reduced fuel cost and considerably lower noise and emission levels.

Nov 23 Manchester City Council's planning committee controversially approves plans to create a new cargo hangar at Manchester Airport World Freight Terminal . Two cottages on Hasty Lane, Ringway will be demolished to make way for a new 200,000 sq ft depot

Nov 23 Manchester-based developer Sky Properties plans to build the Green Lane Eco Park on disused industrial land off Green Lane in Salford. The new facility would, if approved by Salford City Council, treat and manage about 240,000 tonnes of local business waste each year through a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF), an Anaerobic Digestion (AD) plant and a Gasification plant.
The plans are firstly going out to public consultation with residents and organisations in the area around Green Lane. A three-day public consultation event will then happen at Monton House Hotel in Monton on December 3, 5 and 6.

Nov 23
The partnership between Kro and Foundation is launched (see MCFly 35, 36 and 37) Customers will be asked to donate 1 per cent of food bills to the the offset fund and Kro will itself commit 1 per cent of each buffet order received.

MCFly 38- Scary Science

Climate Progress reports
Fast on the heels of the hottest June to September on record*, NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies reports that last month was tied for the second hottest September on record (after 2005).

Unlike NOAA, which announced its October global analysis with a major State of the Climate monthly update, NASA just quietly updates its data set . So you have to do a little math to see that for the June through October period, 2009 now tops both 1998 (easily) and 2005 (just barely, hence the asterisk).

For NOAA, it was the sixth warmest October on record, and the fifth-warmest January-through-October period.

Nov 22 The Guardian reports that the world's largest ice sheet has started to melt along its coastal fringes, raising fears that global sea levels will rise faster than scientists expected. The East Antarctic ice sheet, which makes up three-quarters of the continent's 14,000 sq km, is losing around 57bn tonnes of ice a year into surrounding waters, according to a satellite survey of the region. Scientists had thought the ice sheet was reasonably stable, but measurements taken from Nasa's gravity recovery and climate experiment (Grace) show that it started to lose ice steadily from 2006.

The Independent reports, on 25 Nov that
"The planet could warm by seven degrees Celsius (10. 8 degrees Fahrenheit) this century, a figure that lies at the farthest range of expert predictions made only two years ago, scientists said on Tuesday. The study is the biggest overview on global warming since the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a landmark report in 2007. Several authors of the new paper were part of that Nobel-winning group.
Entitled the "Copenhagen Diagnosis," the 64-page summary is pitched at the December 7-18 UN conference in Denmark tasked with forging a planet-wide deal to curb greenhouse-gas emissions. "This is a final scientific call for climate negotiators from 192 countries who must embark on the climate protection train in Copenhagen," said Hans Schellnhuber, director of Germany's Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), which oversaw the paper.
"They need to know the stark truth about global warming and the unprecedented risks involved," he said in a statement. The authors say the document "serves as an interim scientific evaluation" of climate change, between the IPCC's Fourth Assessment Report published in 2007 and its next big handbook, due in 2013.

CRUde Awakening

Thousands of emails from the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia have been hacked. The 'skeptic/denialist blogosphere is exultant, thinking they've found a smoking gun of the multigenerational conspiracy of grant-hungry scientists in collusion with capitalists, poltiicans, the illuminati and... oh, MCFly despairs. Homo sapiens??
Anyway, George Monbiot has tried to create a firebreak, and threw in some heavy-handed satire. George Marshall has a piece on scientists not getting what damage the scandal might actually will do.

Here are a few other links
Real Climate

Climate Progress

Reuters had a good cartoon (see above)

There's an open letter by Dr Judith Curry, a hurricane specialist, that's worth a look too. And here is a link to a paper (I've not read) of hers that calls for greater transparency

But the best response by far has been from the Daily Mash... " CLIMATE CHANGE EMAILS STOP GLACIERS FROM MELTING"

Thursday, 26 November 2009

After the Wave, the Eddie...

Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Ed Miliband will take part in a public rally in Manchester on the 8th December at Manchester Central. This event is jointly hosted by DECC and Friends of the Earth Manchester and it will be Ed Miliband’s last event before he travels to Copenhagen, and an opportunity for participants to take part in a Q & A discussion.

The Leader of Manchester City Council has been invited to attend and will use this opportunity to launch the city's stakeholder climate change action plan, Manchester: A Certain Future.

This event will take place:

Tuesday 8 December,

Doors at 5PM for a start at 6:30PM

The Exchange Auditorium, Manchester Central (ex G-Mex)

If you wish to attend, please email, with Manchester, 8 December in the subject line. Please make sure to include your name and names of people who wish to attend with you if relevant. You will receive a confirmation by email that your tickets have been booked.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Copenhagen and the Climate Slamdown.

Click here for a magnificent climate cartoon about Copenhagen by Manchester-based cartoonist Marc Roberts. It's in the latest New Internationalist.

MCFly has run a column for the past 20 or so issues (I may over-estimate) called "Coping With Copenhagen" (Copenhagen, in case you don't know, is ground zero for the Climate Change negotiations at which whirled leaders will be trying to hash out a successor global deal to the Kyoto Protocol, the only international and legally binding climate deal this species has thus far managed to create.)

Basically, we could easily have filled the newsletter with boring details about these negotiations, over which we have virtually no influence. But that info is easy to come by, and MANCHESTER Climate Fortnightly is just that. So we created this website.

And Marc Roberts (he of the cool icons and spot cartoons) agreed to have his arm twisted to do an extended wrestling-match metaphor of the whole sorry process.

On you will be able to read the daily updates that we do about (but not "from" - we have not the time, money or inclination to go) how the negotiations pan out.

Please do tell us what you think!

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Matters coming to a head...

This from the latest Northwest Business Insider
Heineken UK today officially launches its new biomass plant at Royal Brewery in Manchester. The brewing giant, formerly Scottish & Newcastle UK, has invested £17.5m in Manchester and the same amount at the John Smith's brewery in Tadcaster. Construction started in 2007 and both plants have been operational since October. The plants will initially burn woodchip to generate steam and electricity, with the ability to fit equipment to burn spent grain at a later date. Any excess power will be sold to the National Grid. Hugh Jones, director of solutions at the Carbon Trust, said: "It seems appropriate to launch this
project as we approach the crucial climate-change talks in Copenhagen.
Businesses must take the lead in using energy more wisely and efficiently, and I
am very encouraged to see."

We at MCFly will drink to that... (well, one of us will. The other Doesn't Drink)

How much can you grow?

I’ve been vexed by the discovery of a document which details how much fruit and vegetables a garden the size of an average allotment produced. The project ran in 1975 at Harlow Carr, a RHS garden in Yorkshire. While the weather in 1975 might have been a bit kinder than it has been in Manchester in recent years, I’m still mystified by the volume of produce listed from this small area (250 sq. metres). As an allotmenteer who (possibly a little obsessively) records what is harvest from our plot I have a fairly accurate picture of what we’ve grown over the years. It comes no where need the numbers achieved during this 1975 project.

This project was done under the auspices of the National Society of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners (NSALG) with the aim of showing how vegetables for a family of 4 could be provided. The blurb also states that ‘most of the work was carried out by the garden apprentice. Approximately 180 hours work went into the feature.’ Yields were as follows:

Carrots 146 lbs
Parsnips 23 lbs
Beetroot 156 lbs
Lettuce 270 heads
Radish 42 bunches
Broad Beans 78 lbs
Peas 37 lbs
Cabbage 234 lbs
Brussel Sprouts 27 lbs
Turnips 46 lbs
Runner Beans 116 lbs
French Dwarf Beans 36 lbs
Marrows 28 lbs
Courgettes 53 lbs
Onions 57 lbs
Spring Onions 45 bunches
Potatoes 208 lbs
Leeks 34 lbs
Celery 57 heads
Spinach 11 lbs
Spinach Beet 145 lbs
Sweetcorn 38 cobs


We spend much longer than most people can cultivating our allotment and would consider it to be fairly productive. We don’t have full beds over winter but through the summer and autumn, into October its all full. What I don’t understand is how you’d achieve this as a family – when you’ll be wanting to harvest one or two cabbages a week, a pound or two of beetroot, carrots, a bunch of spinach etc. You surely are not going to dig up the entire crop of everything and swiftly put something else in the bed in its place – where would you store it all?

There is a lot written about how much food can be produced from a small area like an allotment and I just wonder if they are in part derived from projects like this one.

I would be interested to know how much other people grow – just growing to feed your household. Does anyone have any comments?

Guest Blogger, Debbie Ellen

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Now if we can just turn runways into allotments...

Crains Manchester Business is bloody brilliant. They do daily free email bulletins (on top of the weekly newspaper, which MCFly has subscribed to from its first issue...)

Yesterday they reported the following:
1:32 pm, November 16, 2009
Operator sought to open bar in airport control tower

Passengers could soon be supping pints in the place where air traffic controllers once policed Manchester’s airspace.
Manchester Airport is seeking an operator to turn the airport’s decommissioned control tower into a bar.
The tower has 360 degree views around the airport and is located within Terminal 1, which has just undergone a £50m refurbishment.
The control tower is split over five levels, with the fifth level earmarked as the space for a 1,100 sq ft high-end bar.
Andrew Harrison, commercial director at Manchester Airport, said he hoped the bar would be able to rival some of “the most sophisticated venues” in the city centre. He said the airport was looking for “a cutting edge operator” to manage the project.
The bar will be reached via a lift or staircase from level 2 in the departures area, where a merchandising stand could be set up to attract customers.
Property developer Milligan Retail is helping the airport to select a tenderer.
So, it's progress; now all we need is for the runways to be converted into permaculture plots....

Monday, 16 November 2009

And ye shall know the truth, and it shall set you free...

MCFly attended the Faith Network of Manchester conference about Faith and the Environment, at the wonderful MERCi building in Ancoats. It was one of those evenings where everyone (between 35 and 45 people, slightly older than average 'climate' meetings tend to be) had a good time, but that you leave with nagging doubts about its effectiveness. Good grub, good chat, but not as incisive or interactive as it might have been...

After housekeeping and a brief intro to the history of MERCi (sustainable in many ways) we had four speakers.
On Buddhism, Clive Pyot spoke about his own community and the precepts he tries to follow. For more on Buddhism and the environment, see here. If it was true back in ol' Gautama's day that all existence is suffering, what's it gonna be like when the positive feedback loops kick in, eh?

On Christianity Rev John Hughes spoke about people's definitions of Christianity (he favours “God is, as Jesus is, therefore there is hope”) and Operation Noah and ecofeminism

The representative of Islam, Zahid Hussein, spoke of the Ecomosque project, and Rabbi Warren Elf finished off the session with a brief take on Judaism and the guidance to be found in the Torah.

Because of significant time over-runs, there was no time for questions and discussion in the big group- everyone legged it for the food, which was vegetarian and delicious (huzzah to the cook!)

There was an invitation and expectation that we should all “schmooze”, but this was not done coercively (name badges, enforced mingling etc) so people seemed to largely stick with those they already knew.) After a nice long break, we climbed back to the top of the building. Initially we were told that, as per the plan, we were going to get into groups to tackle very specific questions and come up with one-sentence pledges that would be stitched into a big pledge. Then followed some extended introductions, and since time was then very short, the initial plan was curtailed, and we were invited to be in big groups (of about 10 people) to discuss things generally and fill in a pledge leaf for a pledge tree. In MCFly's experience these groups tend to be dominated by one or three people, with the others drifting off mentally if not physically, so we cast ourselves out of the land of Nod.

MCFly's unsolicited advice- The evening might have been more intriguing and thought-provoking if the speakers had been invited to wrestle with one or more of the following-

  • 1) My faith's doctrine and how it does or doesn't equate with “sustainability.” What are the tensions, what have the tensions been historically?
  • 2) The existing PRACTICE of my faith and how it does/doesn't equate with sustainability (i.e. is there a gap between my doctrine and my faith's practice around environment, and if so why.)
  • 3) What are the OBSTACLES that stand in the way if I try to make my doctrine/practice more in line with sustainability?

After all, for each religion there are problems;

Christians have the dilemma between the two bits of Genesis in which God says “hey, this creation is yours to subdue, fill yer boots” [domination] or else He/She says “look, I'm giving you this to look after” [stewardship]. Further, some evangelical Christians (and yes, I know some- and like them) – are very unconcerned about Climate Change because God Has A Plan. This segues nicely into Buddhism- there are some interpretations that allow people to meh, it's all just one big cycle o' suffering, so what's the point trying to hold stuff together- everything changes”. I'm not saying it's a right interpretation, but it is prevalent.

Islam- well, take a look at the Haj- is flying to Mecca more than once (or even once...) compatible with sustainability? It's one big can of worms- ass soon as you start dissing people's interpretations of what it means to be a good adherent to their faith, it's gonna get messy. (Please not, most of the world's Muslims seem to live in countries with pretty low per capita carbon emissions. Before Westerners start lecturing, we might need to sort out the plank in our own eyes).

Judaism- I am not so clear on the tensions within it on environmental issues, but you could- without conflating Judaism and Israel- take a look at Israel's environmental record (nothing to write home about), and the reasons for the weakness of its environmental movement.

The point is, these problems (and others) exist. If they didn't, we wouldn't be in this mess. It seems a pity to hold an event that focusses solely on the good things that are going on. There has to be SOME time devoted to the problems, and how they might be overcome. If not, we simply violently agree with each other and are none-the-wiser for dealing with the real problems, because they haven't been named. As a Quaker might say, we've not born witness.

Given that the total time spent on the four speakers was closer to an hour than 40 minutes, despite the invocation on the agenda “max 10 mins each” it might have been better to have a fifth speaker- a secular humanist, or an animist or a pagan as well, and kept everyone strictly to their time (with a card held up to give them a two minute warning, or some such).

MCFly's two pence. In vulgar anthropological terms, religion is part of terror management, and also a way of maintaining social solidarity and rules of engagement within (and less commonly between) tribes. To that extent, religions mostly seem to follow the Golden Rule, which Christians will explain as “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Kant's categorial imperative yadder yadder. (And a nice little side line in telling you to behave in this life cos you get your reward in the next. But we digress...)

Well, if you're gonna retrofit the Golden Rule for “the Environment”, you simply need to say that “others” means not just other hairless two-legged apes stumbling about now but ALSO other species AND other humans and species that haven't yet been born.

Voila. We'll send you an invoice.

Random important quote

"Activism is my rent for living on this planet." Alice Walker

Further Reading

The stuff about Buddhism in Only Planet (page 111-113
The Ecology of Eden by Evan Eisenberg (long, but really really amazingly good. If you skim the 'Earth Jazz tosh, that is)
Dancing towards Armageddon by

Things MCFly thinks they should read, if someone invents an extra 12 hours in the day

The Great Transformation, by Karen Armstrong

Sunday, 15 November 2009

MCFly 037- Executive Decision

On Wednesday 18 November the Executive Manchester City Council will adopt a 64 page plan about Climate Change. The document, called "Manchester. A Certain Future. Our co2llective action on climate change" has been months in the making. Written by a mix of council officers, academics, activists and business people, it lays out a bold vision (if you ignore the existence of a whopping great international airport) of how Mancunians will be living, moving, working, growing and adapting by 2020. It's freely downloadable and far more readable than the notorious "Call to Action" of January. Wednesday's meeting is open to the public, and starts at 10am, in the Council Chamber, level 3 of the Town Hall Extension.

On the subject of Certain Futures, MCFly sees two racing certainties;

a) Climate Change is going to hit us in ways we haven't yet considered, and quicker than most people think. Many Mancunians are in for a rude awakening.

b) Without relentless, imaginative and constructive pressure on the City Council and its partners, (and the other Greater Manchester councils) then infighting, apathy, despair and bureaucratic inertia will sap the momentum gained over the last year.

That pressure needs numbers. Not a single one of the existing climate campaigning groups is doing a particularly good job of enthusing newcomers and keeping them involved - every group has a core of usual suspects and many new faces who are replaced by still newer faces within a couple of months. On climate change, Manchester City Council has started to change how it works. Maybe the 'activists' need to do the same.

MCFly 037- Read All About It

Don't have space to list all of these below in the paper edition of MCFly, and hyperlinks work better on a blog anyhow...

Defining Dangerous Climate Change- A call for consistency

Prof Kevin Anderson and Dr Alice Bows

The Greenhouse Development Rights project has just released a brief report (only 10 pages) entitled "A 350 ppm Emergency Pathway."
In this paper, for the first time, a precise and up-to-date representative 350 ppm pathway is developed. Like so: The 350 target reflects a scientifically-grounded assessment of what global climate protection really means. But what would it actually take to bring the atmospheric carbon-dioxide (CO2) concentration back to 350 parts per million? This memo provides a quick, up-to-date overview of the issues here - issues significant to any plausible emergency emissions reduction target.
To that end, it focuses on the extremely limited size of the remaining global CO2 budget, and on the emissions pathways that would enable us to keep within it. And, by way of context, it compares 350 to the 2°C temperature target, and offers a very brief glimpse of the challenges that such emergency targets raise on this North / South divided world.
Clive James isn't a climate change sceptic, he's a sucker - but this may be the reason

The People Paradox: Self Esteem Striving, Immortality Ideologies, and Human Response to Climate Change by Janis Dickinson, in Ecology and Society 14 (1)

A Great Jump to Disaster? (Review of James Lovelock's The Vanishing Face of Gaia)
by Tim Flannery in the New York Review of Books

How cities should respond to climate change – new research
Researchers at Newcastle University, on behalf of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, have outlined how our major cities must respond to climate change, if they are to continue to grow. Using the UKCP09 data, the report "How can cities grow whilst reducing emissions and vulnerability", looks at the impact of: rises in temperature, increased flooding in winter and less water availability in summer. As well as protecting our homes and buildings against the increased threat of flooding, the report emphasises the need to reduce our carbon emissions, reduce our water usage and move towards cleaner, greener transport.
More details are at

A Transition Food Strategy
Having recently help develop ‘A Sustainable Food Strategy for Bristol’, Claire Milne is now helping Edinburgh do the same.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Scrutiny and Overflight, sorry, oversight

At the latest Communities and Neighbourhoods Overview and Scrutiny Committee, Manchester Airport was invited to talk about its carbon commitments. The airport, and aviation in general, has been excluded from the council's climate action plan but with a commitment to re-assess this once they move towards cutting the cities total carbon footprint in 2013.

What we at MCFly headquarters were particularly keen to hear was that the airport was taking the council's climate change plan seriously, and preparing for the implications of the total carbon footprint reduction planned.

Rather the Manchester Airport was keen to point out that aviation is only responsible for 6% of UK emissions and that the company (55% owned by the council) was committed to becoming carbon neutral for energy use and vehicle fuel by 2015. Energy use was a particular concern and by reducing use they saved 8,244 tonnes of C02 already. Half of the airports electricity was from renewable sources, with commitments to take this to 100% and a wind turbine was planned for the sister airport at East Midlands.

No attempt was made to question the 'socio-economic' benefit of the airport, with representatives stating that the airport was simply crucial for Manchester's economy and providing jobs. No mention was made of the council's plan or its implications on the day-to-day running of the airport.

Although it is easy to be cynical of the airport and the fact that they don't seem to take any responsibility for the aircafts' carbon footprint once its in the air, figures they provided actually show that 'aircraft on the ground' emitted 125,000 tonnes of C02 in contrast to 164,000 tonnes emitted once the aircraft is in the air...Does that mean that the 125,000 tonnes is their responsibility? After all they are aiming to be carbon-neutral in their ground operations by 2015...
Arwa Aburawa
Freelance Journalist

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Does every little help? Mainstreaming consumer behaviour

Last Thursday the University of Manchester's “Sustainable Consumption Institute” (no laughing at the back there!) held the latest of its seminars. It was given by Simon Retallack, of the left-ish leaning Institute of Public Policy Research. They've been doing research about consumer attitudes to climate change. The seminar was based around a report they've just done called Consumer Power: How can lower-carbon behaviour be mainstreamed.

He started by pointing out that individual energy use and transport account for 44% of the UK carbon dioxide emissions, and that beyond the “environmentally-inclined”, many people don't take action. He said that mainstream consumers either haven't been taught about the issue and/or haven't responded, but that uptake beyond the converted was vital.

He made the uncontroversial but often neglected point that knowing and segmenting the audience is a precondition of success- you can't just aim at “the public at large”.

But dividing by income/profession will only get you so far, and so he introduced the idea of dividing people by different values.

Based on Albert Maslow's “hierarchy of needs” the Cultural Dynamics Strategy has three broad motivational groups

Pioneers - directed by 'inner needs' These are the 'natural activists' and are roughly 40% of the population.
Prospectors - driven by esteem and are outer-directed (your fashion victims and conspicuous consumers). About 30% of the population
Finally, settlers are driven by 'sustenance', dislike threats and are driven by comfort.

Complicated enough? Not really. Each of these groups can be further divided into four subgroups. But let's not go there, at least, too much.

Retallack laid out the results of some focus groups/guided discussions and interviews with people within the prospector group. (Their psychological rewards come from the esteem of others, status, fashion, success.)

The research looked at their opinions under "on the move"- energy efficient cars, UK holidays and trains and "home"- energy monitors, heating controls and solar panels.

The participants were aware of climate change and its impacts, and partly positive about “doing their bit”. They would go so far as admit to a dislike of “waste” but also said they had “climate fatigue.” they thought it depressing, boring, faddy, gimmicky.
They were sceptical about both government and business motives
Oh, and the obnoxious selfish ignorant little planet-killers really really didn't like being made to feel guilty about their “lifestyle choices”

Retallack made the point, that maybe some of us (author included) need tattooed on the inside of our eyelids- Guilt Is Not Effective.

On a related point, these prospectors did not like the environmental campaigners. The word smug came up rather a lot...

Saving money was not automatically a motivator for all these guys- it could be seen as penny pinching/being an old biddy.

Recommendations from the work came under two headings-


  • Don't focus on climate change “it's one of those things you think about for a few minutes, then get depressed and move on to the next”
  • Emphasise saving money (especially at present)
  • Be aware of the 'rebound effect' (people use money saved on energy bills to book a flight/buy a car)
  • Use the right language- “carbon pollution” or “waste” instead of co2, emissions.
  • Satirise high carbon behaviours and leave room for self-expression
  • Make low carbon desirable and fun
  • Being in control matters (e.g. Solar panels help protect from rising energy bills)
  • Avoid guilt and the environmental label
  • Use messengers that 'keep it real' (B and C list celebs work better, people can relate to them. Bono and Madonna are not the way to go)


Strong government policy essential

  • Avoid sending mixed signals (like, er, third runways, which were spontaneously mentioned by focus groupies)
  • Send the right price signals (taxes as carrots and sticks), but make sure changes are introduced transparently. Hypothecation (ring-fencing money raised to solve a specific problem) is needed, no matter how much HM Treasury doesn't like it.
  • Make the right things affordable. Subsidies, discount on stamp duty, on bill repayment etc
  • Make low-carbon services visible (demonstration homes in each locality)
  • Make it desirable

Retallack handled the Q and A well, giving brief but detailed answers and not droning on endlessly.

All in all, a useful hour was had by all. The next Sustainable Consumption Institute lecture is on Thursday 19th November from 1pm to 2pm. Humanities Building, Bridgford St (near the Blackwell's in the University Precinct). Dr Sally Randles of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research will be talking, hopefully about her fascinating work around aviation and why we fly.

About these seminars: They're free, they're friendly and I'm not just saying that cos Tesco bunged me a hundred quid (cos sadly, they didn't).

About the huge multinational that sponsors the Sustainable Consumption Institute: They want to build a Tesco in Stretford so big you could see it from Jupiter with the naked eye. These guys want stop it.

Other sources of info:

Disclaimer- this blog was typed up 5 days after the event, and my scribbled notes have become even more illegible with the passing of time. I may have gotten some of it wrong...

Breaking News- Climate Change Action Plan released

The climate change action plan for Manchester, which MCFly has been reporting on all year, is now available for all to see. It has been released ahead of next Wednesday's Executive Meeting, at which it will be formally accepted.

The link above points to a 77 page pdf. The first 11 pages are a summary of the implications for the Council, written in Councilese. They matter, but what matters the most is the Plan itself. It's been named "Manchester- A Certain Future. Our co2llective action on climate change" It is 64 pages long, and contains a foreword by Sir Richard Leese (Council Leader) and five chapter headings, around "Living, Working, Moving, Growing and Adapting."

We quote from page 5
Our plan has two headline objectives:

1: To reduce the city of Manchester’s emissions of CO2 by 41% by 2020, from 2005 levels. This equates to a reduction from current levels of 3.2 million tonnes per annum to less than two million; it also equates to a reduction in per capita emissions from 7.3 tonnes to 4.3 tonnes per head.
Manchester’s emissions of CO2 derive mostly from our use of fossil fuels and are directly related to the use of buildings, products, transport and industrial activities. We can lower these emissions by reducing our demand and use of energy; altering the technologies used for energy generation; and changing the sources of the fuels we use from fossil fuels to renewables. Our plan sets out ways of adopting and applying these three approaches across different sectors and scales.

2: To engage all individuals, neighbourhoods and organisations in Manchester in a process of cultural change that embeds ‘low carbon thinking’ into the lifestyles and operations of the city.

To create a ‘low carbon culture’ we need to build a common understanding of the causes and implications of climate change, and to develop programmes of ‘carbon literacy’ and ‘carbon accounting’ so that new culture can become part of the daily lives of all individuals and organisations. Every one of the actions in our plan will contribute in some way to the development of ‘carbon literacy’ in the city. However, achieving a new low carbon culture – where thinking about counting carbon is embedded and routine – can only be delivered as a
result of all the actions together, in an overall co-ordinated manner. Enabling a low carbon culture in the city will be particularly important if the challenge of meeting even more demanding carbon reduction targets between 2020 and 2050 is to be met.

Actions to meet these targets are set out under five chapter headings – Living, Working, Moving, Growing and Adapting. Each chapter makes it clear what Manchester is going to do to meet the challenges posed by climate change, along with the changes we need to make as individuals, communities and businesses.

The editors of Manchester Climate Fortnightly would urge all Mancunians who care about their future to read the document carefully and actively. We need to come up with better ideas, tough questions and suggestions for improvement. The next two years are crucial for Manchester's future. We would urge Mancunians to get involved in making this Action Plan a reality.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

MCFly 36- Fat lot of good

In November 2008, Manchester NHS unveiled a document called "Improving Health in Manchester: Commissioning Strategic Plan 2009-2014" Amongst many concerns, the strategy focusses on reducing the levels of obesity in the Manchester population. It wanted to tackle childhood obesity by promoting healthy lifestyles for families with young children.

The strategy highlights the clear cost benefits from people becoming active and states that the "cost saving for each person becoming active is £370 per annum" and this was "a prudent estimate as it excludes savings generated from other areas such as patients that stop smoking" [Page 68]

Supporting and encouraging children and adults to cycle to school or work is a great way for people to include exercise in their everyday routines. So it is very disappointing to see that this strategic plan for "Improving Health in Manchester" doesn't seem to include the words bicycle, cycling or cyclist and the word "cycle" is only mentioned in relation to the "commissioning cycle" or "disease cycle".

The foreword to the plan ends with a claim that this "plan explains how we intend to address these issues over the next five years. Manchester’s journey to a happier, healthier and wealthier city is well under way and we are proud to be playing our part – we hope you will be too."

It's a shame that Manchester NHS's vision would appear not to see people making this journey by bicycle.

Monday, 2 November 2009

MCFly 36- A Growing Problem

Earlier this year, the Sustainable Development Commission (the independent watchdog on, well, Sustainable Development) released a report called “Prosperity without Growth.” It dared to suggest that endless economic growth might not be good for either humanity or the planet. It made a bit of a splash and here, rushed into print to keep the momentum going, is the full-length book of the same name, authored by Tim Jackson. (Earthscan, 2009, 264 pages)

It's relatively easy reading, if you're familiar with the academic style of writing. If you are not, you may find it a bit dry. Jackson's intended audience is, I think, the policy makers and the people who influence them. That's fair enough, but this is NOT the popular book that is going to have people emailing and facebooking about the perils of economic growth and the need for a rethink. Maybe that book can't be written?

Roughly speaking, the first half lays out the problems and points out that increased efficiency isn't going to mean less impact on the earth. The second half talks of the solutions, e.g. chapters entitled “the transition to a sustainable economy” and “a lasting prosperity.” Therein lies the all-too-typical problem of books of this nature: so much time is spent laying out the problem, that there is little space left for “solutions,” which tend to be a bit of a rushed shopping list. This book is much less guilty than some other recent efforts (e.g. All Consuming), and perhaps Jackson is keeping more specific recommendations in reserve for a sequel. Or perhaps he wanted to avoid the danger of being too prescriptive, of building castles in the air without proper foundations.

This book will NOT give you an overview of current thinking about the dilemmas of economics and environment. With a couple of exceptions (some brief mentions of Mishan and Daly) Jackson, in this book, ignores the existing body of work. He especially ignores the efforts of eco-Marxists/eco-feministslike Ted Benton, Joel Kovel, John Bellamy Foster, and James O'Connor, Ariel Salleh and so forth, presumably because he doesn't want to taint his brand and offer critics an easy excuse to ignore him. That's an understandable tactic, but it means there are a whole host of concepts- commodity fetishism, false needs, the treadmill of production, the metabolic rift, that don't get a look in.

Reading the book, with its complaints of over-consumption, you could be forgiven for thinking this isn't being pushed by a multi-billion pound advertising industry. Popular books like No Logo, Fast Food Nation and the like do not get a look in, which is a pity, since they are the kind of reference point that many readers will be aware of.

I suspect Jackson is hoping to do for 'steady-state economics' what Lord Stern did for climate change economics, but I don't think it will work. I don't think he has quite the same social capital as the former World Bank chief economist and senior Veep, aka Baron Stern of Brentford, and the argument is a harder sell than Stern's- it's a much more difficult thing for people to get their heads around. Jackson surely knows this latter point, but also underplays the vested interests- both psychological and societal between us and the acts needed to save ourselves via his prescriptions.

This book, which should be compulsory reading for the top bods of the City Council and Regional Development Agency, will confirm the already-converted in their views, offer a few ideas to those curious about our species' fate, but do little or nothing for those who simply don't care or those blind pro-growthers out there.

Further reading

My first little guide to Ecological Economics (2000? 2001? So long ago I don't remember)

Environment Commission meeting #5

Public Health Warning: These are not anything approaching official minutes, and aren't pretending to be.

The latest Environment Commission meeting (see here and here and here and here for previous reports) took place today in at Manchester University, in a converted church. (No jokes about “not having a prayer”, please, that would be childish). It was preceeded by a "policy exchange", but we can't report that because MCFly's invite went missing - presumably lost in a pile of undelivered mail.

Attendance was fairly good, with a few notable absences (apologies given)- such as Angie Robinson of the Chamber of Commerce (interviewed by MCFly here) and Andy Cliffe of Manchester Airport Group (ooh, the story we want to tell you about THEM, but it's embargoed). The University is still tussling over who will sit on the Commission, but the Health Commission is keen to send someone.

The chair of the Commission, Cllr Dave Goddard was unavoidably detained elsewhere (not due to congestion, we hope) so Cllr Neil Swannick chaired. Last time MCFly this 6'4” gent in action, he was mildly discombobulated by a heckler. That was Thursday last at the Town Hall, and the heckler was a scurrying mouse, not a rat (that would have been too appropriate).

Mike Reardon gave some verbal reports-
the City Region process continues apace, with High Level meetings About to Take Place.
“Roadshows” about the Environment Commission have taken place in 4 of the 10 AGMA councils. They're not just about flying the EC flag, but teasing out local expertise and figuring out how to “cascade” it (MCFly's word, not theirs- we've been infected by our Bull's Hit Bingo game).
6 more Local Authorities, and the Passenger Transport Executive and the Waste Disposal Agency remain to be visited by the Roadshow Warriors.
The EC's communications bod, Janine Watson, gave a brief overview of what's going on. Principally, using Copenhagen as a “hook” (possibly dangerous- if it goes as badly as some are suggesting). The EC now has a page on the revamped AGMA website
It will have specific images and mugshots of Commissioners and further information shortly. Maybe even some “Big Messages” too.

Then Cllr Mark Alcock and David Hytch gave a quick summary of their fact-finding trip to Milan, which has implemented an “ecopass” system to improve air quality in the city centre. Classic carrot and stick, with 'clean vehicles' getting in for free and a sliding scale for the dirty to dirtiest vehicles.

This was followed by discussion of commissioner's roles, and who was going to take on what, in either a leading or supporting capacity. It was agreed (MCFly thinks) that different commissioners would operate differently, and there was no one size fits all. There was general agreement that taking on too much and then having to drop it was a Very Bad Idea. At the same time, there was concern about whether the Commission had a feel for the specifics of environmental problems in the conurbation (asthma hotspots, water quality, waste etc), and that a specific Business workstream might be in order.

The question of staffing levels came up. At present Sarah Davies and Mike Reardon are full time, with various other bits of staffing too. There were many applications for the Policy and Programme Manager job, with interviews happening in the next few weeks. There are also various offers of funding- some firm, some not - on the table for various projects.
This was followed by a presentation about “A Greater Manchester Environment, Planning and Housing Research Resource” (headline- people being poached from various AGMA places for work on climate resilience, understanding opportunities for carbon reduction etc
Apparently (you read it here first) Greater Manchester is to be used as a 'test-bed' for work on climate adaptation/resilience and the roles and responsibilities and private sector 'buy-in' around this.

Then there was a waste discussion, but MCFly reporters are only human (at best), and frankly, our attention had wandered a bit... One very good point was made though, by a Commissioner, that there seemed to be insufficient focus on waste reduction before we got to re-use, recycling etc.

Finally: Following the release of the government's “low carbon transition plan” over the summer “Low Carbon Economic Areas” seem to be the flavour of the month, though Mike Reardon warned that there was no pot of gold over that particular rainbow. As reported in a previous MCFly (34? Lost count), the Northwest is angling at being the LCEA for the built environment.
High level meetings are taking place and More Information Will be Forthcoming Shortly.

On a related note, it seems that the Climate Change Agency might morph a bit to fit that particular funding framework- time will tell.

In any other business, the major point was the 10:10 campaign. Manchester City Council has signed up (go Team Manchester!!) with Stockport, Oldham and Bury making moves. It was agreed that the Environment Commission would recommend to AGMA exec that all the LAs sign up...

The EC next meets in January, and by then MCFly hopes to have pinned down a lot more about some of the outstanding issues, who is responsible for what, hopes and expectations for 2010 etc.

Searching for Sustainable Urbanism in Manchester

In the spring of this year, my partner and I moved to Manchester from the US and immediately, our carbon footprint decreased by half. No, I haven’t done the calculations to prove this, this is merely an estimate based on the average carbon footprint for each country (American residents emit about 19 metric tons annually versus 9.4 metric tons for British residents).

It’s easy to see how this happened. We ditched our single-family, detached house in the US for a high-rise flat in the Manchester city centre. Our automobile trips to work, the grocery store, and the movies have been replaced with lots of walking and the occasional bus or train ride. And we simply buy less because everything costs more in the UK. In short, we haven’t done anything extraordinary; we just conformed to the built-in systems and customs of our newly-adopted country (and to be honest, resistance would be futile).

This is great news for us as newcomers, a sort of passive environmentalism that allows us to reduce our contribution to climate change without making any drastic changes to our lives (well, except for moving to a new country, of course). If only this approach would apply to everyone. But it seems unlikely that we will all move to another country to reduce our carbon footprints. Anyone up for Somalia? Burundi? Afghanistan?

Beyond the built-in conditions that involuntarily reduce our carbon footprints, I’m interested in the opportunities and challenges that Greater Manchester presents for carbon mitigation and adaptation. Urban areas were once seen as being in opposition to nature, with their high concentrations of people and pollution along with a marked lack of greenery and undisturbed land. But the environmental perspective on cities has changed in the few decades and now, urban living is understood as the key to a greener, zero-carbon future. Cities offer a number of ecological and social benefits: high-density housing, close proximity to work and services, sharing of infrastructure services, and convenient mass transit options.

So what is Manchester doing to work towards this new idea of green urbanism? I’ve done some exploring in the city centre to find inspirational examples and frankly, I haven’t found too much to write home about. Despite its name, the Green Quarter is one of the most disappointing redevelopment projects. Tall residential towers make for an efficient city but one that lacks character and charm.
Spinningfields, Castlefield, and the Salford Quays are all well-known regeneration projects but they are also rather sterile from my perspective. And I’m patiently awaiting the completion of New East Manchester and the Oxford Road Quarter. In all of these developments, the bones are there for a greener, more livable city but the flesh has yet to grow (perhaps this will happen in time).

This leads me to ask a significant question about the future of the city: how does urban development happen in Manchester? How does change come about? From what I gather, the Manchester City Council practices a form of urban development that is largely closed off to public input and participation. Instead, commercial developers hold meetings with municipal officials behind closed doors, some secret criteria are applied by the powers that be and the development request is either granted or denied. There is no master plan for realizing a sustainable, livable, and resilient city, and residents are treated as passive receivers rather than integral participants in new urban futures. Is this the best route for realizing a sustainable city?

Should we trust in our City Council to “do the right thing” when it comes to climate change and sustainable urban development? Is this how great cities come into being?

Perhaps I’m looking in the wrong places and I have yet to find the community of artists, designers, private property owners, and residents who are collaborating with the City Council to make Manchester more livable and green. For me, the Northern Quarter is the only place in the city centre that feels real, that exudes cultural and material qualities that are unique to the city. The rest of Manchester feels like a city-in-the-making, or a city that is gradually shedding its reputation as the first industrial city but is unsure of what it will become.

I’m not arguing that the entire City Centre or Greater Manchester should be like the Northern Quarter. And I’m not arguing that there isn’t a place for High Street commercialism, international business activity, and modernist buildings made of glass and steel. But it seems to me that we desperately need a city centre that has a variety of different places that people can call home, work, and everything in between in order to transform Manchester into a sustainable metropolis. And to make this a reality, we need an active citizenry that is involved in the shaping of the city, both materially and culturally.

I can imagine a very different Manchester fifty years from now. It is diverse, dense, active, alive, and a highly desirable place to live. Many of the historic warehouse buildings have been converted into residential and commercial space while infill activities have taken advantage of the vast amount of undeveloped property through the city. New buildings, parks, and public spaces have brought the city to life. And it is notably quieter and cleaner in Manchester, as the streets are dominated by people rather than single-occupant vehicles and carbon-belching buses.

My vision of Manchester’s future isn’t a utopian dream by any stretch, it’s quickly happening in many cities around the globe. And it is happening through innovative partnerships between public and private individuals and organizations that share the same goal: to create more livable and greener cities. The challenge is to adopt these ideas to the Mancunian context and in the process, create a city that reflects both the local history and people. It is only then that Manchester will have the potential to be considered a world-class city.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

MCFly 36- Bury Council statement

A MCFly reader received this email from Bury Council, which we publish un-edited.

Like Harrogate, Bury Council is very serious about reducing carbon emissions and in May 2009 we were accepted onto the Carbon Trust’s Local Authority Carbon Management Plan.
Over a ten months period we will now work closely with the Carbon Trust within their tried and tested framework to produce an Action Plan and to integrate carbon management firmly into the processes and procedures of the council.

We have set ourselves an aspirational target of a 35% reduction in our carbon emissions in the next 5 years and our plan will set out the measures that will be taken towards this target and will progress carbon reduction at the council into the future. The idea of setting such a demanding target is that this will push us to identify as many carbon saving actions as we can and to continue to look for opportunities as we progress.

The Carbon Trust have a wealth of experience and expertise in relation to carbon reduction and under the Carbon Management Programme they will provide technical and change management support and guidance to help us to realise practical carbon emissions savings. The main focus is to reduce emissions under the council’s control such as buildings, street lighting, and business transport.

So far we have established our 2008/09 baseline which basically describes where our carbon emissions come from. We now know that most of our emissions come from our buildings and that just under half of the buildings emissions come from our schools.

We are now in the processs of identifying the actions for our Action Plan. These will include actions that are already being implemented and proposed alongside new projects from a wide area of the council operation including : - energy efficiency of our buildings, energy efficiency of our schools, streetlighting, transport measures, awareness raising campaigns, procurement and wider opportunities for combined heat and power and district heating.

We will have our Action Plan completed by April 2010 and then from then we will continue to implement the measure identified and carefully monitor progress.

The Government have recently introduced National Indicator 185 which requires the council to report on percentage carbon dioxide reductions from its own operations each year. Bury Council have designated this indicator in our Local Area Agreement which means that if we don't reduce our carbon emissions we recieve less money in our performance reward grant

Chris Horth
Unit Manager - Environment

Bull's Hit Bingo and sanity maintenance

The last couple of weeks Team MCFly has inflicted several dreadful meetings on itself, in the name of schmoozing and snout-in-troughing. It's not the rigid and unimaginative non-participatory style that irks the most. No, it's the blizzard of bu... zzwords. That's what we will call them.

So, to save our own sanity, we've come up (with a little help from our friends, especially Master Cartoonist Marc Roberts) with "Bull's Hit Bingo" cards.

As the blurb here says
These "bingo" cards are for anyone who has ever sat in a meeting where the speakers are just spouting all the right words, (engagement, empowerment, grassroots etc) but it's obvious that their brain and the audience's ears are running on auto-pilot. These cards are for anyone who has ever wanted to stand up and say "bull's hit" but never had the bottle. Now you have the perfect excuse; if you flourish the completed bingo card, the speaker is sure to see the funny side of it, oh yes. "Inspired" by our hair-pulling, toe-curling and teeth-grinding at the meetings of various public bodies that really ought to know better, these cards are an essential component in the cognitive toolkit of carbon-based life-forms engaged in collective intellectual interaction going forwards."
You can

Of crow bars and foundations

[This is an expanded version of MCFly 36's lead story, entitled "Getting facts out of these guys? You need a crow bar."]

They don't want you to know. They don't want us to tell you. Who? What? Well, the popular chain of bars under the "Kro" logo is going to be launching a “partnership” with Foundation (see box below) to promote climate awareness and action among Manchester's drinking classes.

But since these sorts of partnerships always run the risk of “greenwash”, MCFly wanted to get a comment, any comment, out of both Kro and Foundation about what the deal actually entails. As we wrote in the last MCFly-

“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 [see bottom of this blog post] 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.”

Since then MCFly has been trying in vain to get answers. We've emailed and phoned repeatedly. At time of going to press, we have had no reply from either organisation. A search of both their websites, on October 31st, gives no mention of the proposed partnership, so it may have been put on hold while the two organisations decide what to do.

On October 13 Foundation announced on their twitter account “We're looking forward to the launch of the Kro Bar and Foundation partnership, starting the 1st November. More details to follow.”

MCFly was told that there would be an opportunity for Kro patrons to support Foundation's work (perhaps by voluntarily donating money during transactions) and that Foundation's profile would also be raised. Given that the Copenhagen Climate talks loom large, and Kro is a Danish-themed chain, it must have seemed like a no-brainer.

Foundation is the newly-created Climate Fund for the North West, and“gathers up donations from people and businesses and uses them to support individual carbon reduction projects across the Northwest.

Hved er Kro?
Kro is a (deservedly) popular chain of cafe bars around Manchester (see The first one was set up opposite the Manchester University Student's Union in 1999, and the business has won a string of awards, and expanded rapidly. It is run by Mark Ruby, whose family is Danish.

Here's where YOU come in, gentle readers. We hope you'll have more luck than we have had.

Write to email/phone Kro and Foundation and tell them you want answers All the usual things- be polite but persistent etc. Think about taking your custom elsewhere until you get a sensible reply.

Kro HQ
Manchester Science Park,
61 Pencroft Way, Manchester
M15 6AY
Tel:0161 232 9796
Fax: 0161 273 7550

c/o Groundwork
First Floor, Fourways House
57 Hilton Street
M1 2EJ
0161 237 3200
Foundation Chief Officer

Patio Heaters
Wyevale, Britain's biggest garden centre chain, stopped selling patio heaters two and a half years ago, due to climate change concerns.

Fiona Hall - a Liberal Democrat MEP – wrote a report that called for a ban on outdoor heaters. This call was has been backed by the European Parliament.
But Fiona Hall told the BBC that figures she had seen showed that if a car was run for a year it would emit three tonnes of carbon dioxide, while the figure for an outdoor heater would be four tonnes.

From Euro MPs back patio heaters ban BBC website 31 Jan 2008