Sunday, 20 December 2009

MCFly interview: Sharland on Copenhagen

Hi all,

well, Copenhagen is done and dusted (at last). You can see various updates and analysis at I'd particularly recommend MCFly cartoonist Marc Roberts' "The Great Climate Let-Down" He posts regularly also at

Richard Sharland, the City Council's head of Environmental Strategy attended a portion of the Copenhagen talks, alongside Council Leader Richard Leese. MCFly sent him a few email questions, and he kindly replied. Here goes:

What were you hoping for from your time at Copenhagen?
I was hoping to see ideas, plans and challenges shared by cities around the world and for us, Manchester, to play a truly tiny part in an event that would swing the complex supertanker of global human society onto a more positive course for the future. The first of these hopes was fulfilled, exceeded even: the second was not, the supertanker has altered course slightly, but only.

What happened: Is there anything that you didn't get that you wanted to get?
Yes, we didn't get that inter-governmental result and that is seriously disappointing.

Did you get anything you weren't expecting. (the serendipity question)
Yes, I did get something I wasn't really expecting: to meet personally so many leaders of cities who were wholly committed to tackling this agenda substantially, who were keen to exchange ideas and information, who understood the need for mitigation, adaptation and opportunity and who are committed to action and cultural change regardless of what did or did not happen at COP15. And there was something else: none of the cities we encountered have written a stakeholder plan like we have, and it aroused a fair bit of interest!

Do you think the "nation-state" outcome, such as it is, makes the work of cities like Manchester easier or harder?
The lack of a real outcome at COP15 makes our job undoubtedly harder, but we live in a country that has legislated for climate change and legislated boldly. The lack of a real outcome will make it much much harder for many in cities elsewhere in the world.

In some ways, Copenhagen has been a great disappointment, a grey cloud, rather than the beginning of a bright future: but every cloud has a silver lining and the positive drive and teamwork of the leaders of cities should be celebrated and supported as a great force for change. They will al have been inspired by each other and each others support and will be stronger as a result......and so, for those of us old enough to remember the song it is "Hi Ho, Silver Lining" now.

And Manchester will be bidding to host COP18, right?
COP18 is a way away........I am thinking this: when we are a year or two further down the track and Manchester - A Certain Future is accompanied by the sign-up of a raft of Manchester organisations large and small and we have some Delivery Plans with detailed targets and costs and time-lines in place, we will be in a strong position to consider what kind of global conference we'd like to host.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Richard Leese at the GMex

Richard Leese, Leader of Manchester City Council, was at the Copenhagen Rally to launch Manchester's Climate Action Plan “Manchester. A Certain Future.” As well as telling Ed Miliband, Minister for the Department of Energy and Climate Change that we need a deal at Copenhagen, he was keen to talk about the commitment Manchester City Council was making to deal with climate change. The 41% C02 reduction target by 2020 was reiterated as well as the belief that Manchester needs to move towards low carbon for the health of the economy and not to the detriment of it.

Leese was also open about the fact that the council still has no idea how they are going to meet those targets, or where they were going to get money to finance their actions but insisted that they were committed to finding the resources and meeting their ambitious targets. Whilst the council leader highlighted behavioural change as the biggest aim of the plan, he maintained that the Climate Change Plan must demonstrate that tackling climate change will not lower people's quality of life but improve it. MCC's climate change plan was hailed as the 'fantastic' outcome of a collective effort but as we all know delivering and implementing the plan is real measure of its success.

The beginning of the end?

Ed Miliband, your government's climate change top bod, couldn't resist the Churchill allusion. Asked by the chair of tonight's huge public meeting for an inspirational summing up about Copenhagen (which happens to be the subject of a pretty cool cartoon by Marc Roberts), he reached for the “it's not the end, it's not even the beginning of the end, but it is the end of the beginning" line. And, through more gritted teeth (note to subs: do flies have teeth?) MCFly says he might be right...

The meeting took place at GMEx (or “Mancheste Central” for anyone not up with the very latest rebrand). It was confirmed less than two weeks ago, so a turnout of 5 to 600 or so (the biggest ever event on climate change in Manchester?) is a pretty good effort.
After useful “fluffing” by the ubiquitous Phil Korbel, we had the main event. Joining Ed “I like MCFly” Miliband were Mike Childs (campaigns lead for Friends of the Earth), Len Wardle of Co-op and Richard Leese, Council Leader and frequent target of MCFly snarks and questions. It was chaired by John Harris of the Guardian, who has been Ed's shadow of late.

Of especial interest to MCFly readers will be Richard Leese's launch of the “Manchester. A Certain Future” action plan. He started by telling his Labour Party colleague Ed “don't come back without a deal”.
He then said what he's said before, but bears repeating: The writing of the Action Plan (which is for the City, not just the Council) was a collective effort. It's been endorsed by the City Council, and the hope is by a lot more organisations and bodies in the coming year. (Most of the Council's greenatariat were in the audience) Behaviour change is vital, above and beyond the ambitious 41% target for reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 2020. But There'll be a separate blog post about this by MCFly's other editor, so, onwards to the “main event” (not to disparage the FOE and Co-op, who will be dealt with in a later blog post!).

Miliband was usefully brief, as usual. He looked at why the Copenhagen deal was needed. The science was indeed urgent (he'd been got to by Professor Kevin Anderson before the meeting), but also the world focussed in a way it had never been before. This he credited to the campaigners in the global movement. His fear had been that Copenhagen would pass without notice, but not any more. We were, he said, not where we need to be, and may not be by the end of the conference, but we would be closer.
He agreed with Mike Childs on the need for “maximum ambition” and laid out the government's 34% by 2020, 40% as part of a high ambition deal (NB this is not about embedded carbon; the UK has exported its emissions, as Dieter Helm makes clear in his Tanner lecture)
He puffed Gordon Brown as the guy who first put numbers on adaptation funding.
He emphasised that Copenhagen was not the end, or even the beginning of the end, and that what we've learned from other movements is the need to carry on. We need to “realise it's a long hard road and the people have to keep on it” (Chomsky, btw, says ditto. In the West people ask him what to do, expecting a magic bullet. In the rest of the world, they tell him all the things they're doing.)

The question and answer session was, even to this hardened activist, a little drawn out, and predictably threw up more heat than light. Not the chair's fault, or the panellists (mostly), but perhaps a lack of imagination in the questions, many of which could have been dealt with via a google search or visit to various government websites. That said, questions on engagement are always worth asking...

To this Q and A MCFly will return- our OCD was such that we took copious notes, but it's late and some of us have day jobs to go to, so time to triage.. Suffice to say Ed and Richard, politicians both, were scrupulous in answering all questions put to them (so people like us can't accuse 'em of ducking!) Leese was careful to say -in response to a pre-meeting snark- that there will be lots of opportunities for dialogue and discussion in the coming years. Can't wait...

Props to:
Manchester Friends of the Earth and also the Department of Energy and Climate Change for putting it on in short time frame.
Ed Miliband for not talking out the clock and calling it like he sees it, and doing less ducking and weaving than you'd expect
More than half a thousand or so Mancunians for coming out and sitting still for a loooong meeting of middle-aged middle-class white men (this is not how a social movement should look, says one middle-aged middle-class white male)

Maybe next time we could have the chair encourage people to talk to the person behind them for a bit (it works, even in a tiered lecture theatre) to create some weak ties. Maybe even name badges? It all helps with the coercive mingling that should be a sine qua non of these events, and might even move things towards the elusive “two thumbs up” rating. Much else to say, some of it worth reading, but a Climate Slamdown day summary has yet to be written, and proof-read...

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

The legendary Unicorn

Tonight, about 70 people got to talk to the people who put some of the food on their plate. At the Manchester institution that is Unicorn Grocery) 7 or 8 local and not quite so local (e.g. Kent) producers gave brief talks about what they do and why they do it. This was followed by an all-too-brief presentation about the Permaculture Institute of El Salvador, one of the projects that Unicorn supports from its 4% fund. Frankly, you can't have too much permaculture.
This was followed by a chance to graze on samples of the food we'd been told about, and to quaff mulled wine. You could even redeem your two quid ticket against purchases. Result!
Unicorn should seriously consider making this a quarterly event- there is obviously a great hunger (hoho) to put faces to the names to the labels of the good produce on their shelves. In addition, direct links between producers and consumers are going to be what the future looks like (if we have one).

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

MCFly 038- A different league

Forum for the Future is a charity that does an annual league table of Britain's 20 'greenest' cities. Last year (see MCFly 12) Manchester fell from 12th to 15th. This year, it's 14th (but there's a twist). Perhaps MCFly should be buzzing round this story like a fly round... well, either we're getting soft in our old age (and bribed by the free sandwiches the Council doles out), or else it's simply not that big a deal any more. We asked for a statement from the Council, and got the following from Cllr Richard Cowell:
“This year the Sustainable Cities index represents Greater Manchester as opposed to Manchester in 2008 so the 2008 comparison with 2009 cannot be made. Sadly, due to timing of the Forum's work the ambitious City of Manchester Climate Change Action Plan taken to City Council Executive in November wasn't included in the Forum's deliberations but will feature in next year's. Manchester will continue to work with other Greater Manchester Councils through AGMA, the Environment Commission and other channels to put sustainability right at the heart of how the City Region functions.” You. Had. Better!

MCFly 038- Future Imperfect...

Like the times, the Climate Change Action Plan (“Manchester. A Certain Future”) will be changing. This is not a scoop or an exclusive:- Manchester City Council has said all along that a document put together between July and September, a document that deals with a fast-changing target like climate change, a document for a city not just a Council, was going to need further work. That 'iterative process' will keep us all busy next year.
Approved without demur by the 10 member Executive of the Council on November 18, the 64 page plan has two headline goals- "to reduce the city of Manchester’s emissions of CO2 by 41% by 2020, from 2005 levels" and "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."
MCFly asked various political parties what they thought of the Plan. On the airport: the Liberal Democrats said “There is no logical reason why a Council should own an airport, but as we do own one, we should use our influence to set a target to reduce CO2 emissions.” The Greens said “the council should retain its stake but use it to reduce the airport's true carbon footprint - i.e. the flights. They should not sell it off to the private sector.”
MCFly asked "what's missing?" The Lib Dems are worried about the lack of short term targets, and how this strategy fits in with our commitments to the 10/10 agenda, and are "also worried that there are no annual targets so we can see how we are progressing to the 2020 targets. There is little to explain how we are going to lever in the £1million matched funding.” The Greens said “major deficiencies are the lack of detail as to how the 41% will actually be reached, and the absence of any plan for beyond 2010. The vision could and should be much better. On transport for instance (beyond a nod to video-conferencing) there is no recognition of the need to move away from the commuter model and the recognition that public transport also has a carbon cost. It is somehow expected to co-exist with the Council's other plans for continuous economic growth, and with planning decisions such as the destruction of Hasty Lane, which was taken just one day after the action plan's approval. This completely undermines confidence in both the process and the plan itself."
On what's praiseworthy (this doesn't come naturally to opposition parties!) the Lib Dems were “comfortable with most of the detail in the Action Plan, and the model for engagement has been good (although it shouldn't have taken 20 months).” The Greens said “the Council are being genuinely ambitious with it, particularly when compared with the other Greater Manchester boroughs. As well as a proposed 41% cut in the City's carbon footprint by 2020, there is a 'commitment to create a Total Carbon Footprint framework' by 2013 [and] numerous good ideas ranging from the large-scale insulation of housing to increasing local food production. The use of Manchester citizens to help draw up the plan instead of the previous use of remote consultants is also to be welcomed."
Call to Real Action, the grassroots group that inspired/cajoled the Council into adopting a more participatory method of drafting the Action Plan, are releasing their response on Monday 30 November. It will be available at
At time of going to press, the Conservatives, the Socialist Worker's Party and Friends of the Earth had not replied. When they do, we will let you know.
For more info