Sunday, 24 January 2010

Environment Commission- The Joy of Six

MCFly was at the 6th meeting of the AGMA- level Environment Commission and can happily report that things finally seem to be heading in the right direction. It seems the recent selection of Greater Manchester as the Local Carbon Economic Area (LCEA) for the Built Environment has provided a bit of focus, if not (yet) any money. There were around 18 people at the meeting with apologies from Angie Robinson of the GM Chamber of Commerce and local authority councillors James Wibberly (Trafford), Catherine Piddington (Tameside) and David Molyneux (Wigan).

On the agenda was the LCEA and it was announced that the delivery plan for the Built Environment will be brought to the Environment Commission (EC) at the next meeting in March. The delivery plan is expected to be announced by April 2010 and £30,000 has been secured from the NWDA to help produce the joint delivery plan. It will consist of around 15 plans focusing on areas such as buildings, energy supply, innovation and supply chains.

Concerns were raised about the potential tension between cutting carbon and economic-driven programmes as the LCEA was run by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS)and not the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC). Another commissioner, however, saw this is as a real opportunity to 'sell the environmental message' and also help ease the burden of those who have committed to cutting their carbon.

The LCEA designation was also hoped to bring in more resources for the little-mentioned Climate Change Agency which is supposed to carry out the EC's workstreams. With regards to the workstreams, they are slowing gaining more focus and are now being narrowed down to “headline actions”.
Manchester Airport is leading on the Transport workstream with a focus on changing behaviours and was keen to hold back on setting targets just yet.
Lynda Shillaw of the Co-op added that flexible working hours and better use of technology was key to encouraging people to use public transport or limiting travel where possible. MCFly cannot confirm rumours that there will be a fund for innovation in transport.

The Energy workstream was 'asked' by the government to come up with a clear Manchester Energy Plan which would inform investment, infrastructure and demand management. Bid has been put in for money and certain commissioners mentioned that this was a real opportunity for city region benefits as well as further gov-supported projects.

The issue of measuring the performance, which is another workstream, was discussed with possibility of a small team setting up various metrics to help set targets and measure success.
ertain commissioners felt that it was best to focus on what measures needed to be reported, whilst another suggested it was best to focus on simple measure – such as energy, water, waste- which were easy to understand and also more suited to clear messages.

The Sustainable Consumption Institute (yes, the Tesco-funded one) at the University of Manchester
was also suggested as good place to start as they have carried out significant research around the topic.

Another important workstream is engaging the stakeholder and a new Policy and Programme Manager - Phil Budds - has been tasked with creating a cross-authorities dialogue and better web presence. Shillaw, who is leading on the Sustainable production and consumption workstream, also offered stakeholder strategies developed by the Co-op to help.

The Commission has the view- not unreasonably- that the LCEA designation is a real opportunity not just for Greater Manchester's low carbon economy to flourish but also for the EC to prove itself. So far, the EC seems to have recognized this and are attempting to make the most of this window of opportunity to secure resources so that they can finally start taking action.

Arwa Aburawa, Freelance Journalis
(with minor alterations by Marc Hudson- blame him for inaccuracies and sarcasm)

A tale of two meetings

Saturday 23rd offered Mancunians two interesting opportunities to learn about Climate Change and “What is to be done?”

The first was organised by Green Left and Socialist Resistance. It was a one-day conference entitled "Climate and Capitalism." MCFly's co-editor was only there for the opening and closing sessions (though we heard good things about the workshops) so comments will limited to those.

The meeting opened with an introduction by Gayle O'Donovan, who will be the Green Party's candidate both for Hulme (local elections) and Manchester Central (General election). She was followed by comments by Joel Kovel of the US Green Party and Terry Conway of Socialist Resistance [This is a correction of earlier inaccuracies; thanks due to "mjt"]. The latter's contributions, which seemed fairly uncontroversial to MCFly insofar as they went, provoked consternation among some that she was – through pointing out that women generally have a smaller carbon footprint than men – advocating individualist approaches to climate change mitigation. An aside here In all the years (too too many) that the current writer has attended meetings hosted by leftist parties, any hint that there might be any complicity of the working classes in benefitting from the exploitation of the “third world” or the planet's ecosystems [which Conway was not doing] is met with a vigorous and shall we say “determined” response.
Your correspondent raised the point that of the seventy or so people in the room, at most 25 were women, and pretty much everyone was white, and (he suspected) pretty much everyone had a university degree or was studying for one. Hastening NOT to blame the organisers, and pointing out this is pretty standard for any meeting labelled 'climate', he pointed out that there were more factors than just gender at play. Many of the other contributions in this initial session were focussed on who is who and where in the hierarchy of oppression. Some suggested reading on this would be the short and punchy essay “No-one ever is to blame”, which looks at our tendency to Blame Somebody Else for all the world's sins.

The other meeting was essentially a Labour Party shindig at Holy Innocents Church in Fallowfield (of course, when it comes to climate change, despite what some at Climate and Capitalism meeting, none of us is wholly innocent).
Veteran MP Gerald Kaufman (standing again this yearin Gorton), Councillor Mike Amesbury (Exec Member for Culture and Leisure) and Mike Franks of SERA were invited to talk on “After Copenhagen: saving the planet”.
There were about 20 or so in the audience, including other councillors, more men than women and a distinctly older demographic than the “Climate and Capitalism” meeting.
Mike Franks spoke first, on a broad variety of topics, including local renewable energy and also Victoria Baths. Cllr Mike Amesbury followed, extolling the ambitious targets set out in the “Manchester. A Certain Future” document, and conceding that there had been “justifiably a lot of criticism” of the Council's Call to Action document of January 2009. He pointed to Labour's investments in social housing and plans for retrofit and refurbishment, and the green-ness of the Council's libraries (a subject MCFly will tackle him on soon-ish).
He also spoke of the “15,000 green jobs” being created through the city region, a topic several in the audience tried to pin him down on later.
Finally Gerald Kaufman spoke at perhaps greater length than was strictly needed about the various achievements of the Labour Government since 1997 on the issues of environment (while always highlighting that the record was imperfect and there was no room for complacency). Interestingly, he also touched on inter-species justice, not something members of parliament usually speak to (given that the monkeys and bugs can't vote).

Questions from the floor came around the notorious TIF (see MCFly 1 etc), the green jobs (one audience member was justifiably confused as to how employing people in cemeteries was in any way 'green') and the poor performance of the government and council in assisting companies that wanted to have green roofs.

Thanks to good chairing from theHoly Innocents vicar we finished on time, with all who wanted to speak having spoken... It was an interesting event, and certainly the sort of thing that should be continued.

Back to the Climate and Capitalism meeting, I arrived after the final plenary speakers had given what I'm told were inspiring speeches. Unfortunately, the Q and A was anything but inspiring. I have lost count of the number of times good days have been spoilt by overlong and unfocussed Q&As where people (well, mostly men) with limitless needs for attention, approbation, controversy and more attention hold forth at horrible length with unstructured comments, deliberately(?) arcane questions (a form of dick-swinging; you rarely see it from women) and self-serving announcements. Not all of the contributions were like that, not even a majority, but enough of them were to needlessly deflate what seemed to have been a high-energy day. I do not understand why any organiser would plump for such a masochistic and self-defeating structure, except out of unconsidered habit. But there you are.

Both meetings could have benefitted enormously from a couple of simple techniques- give everyone (who is willing) a name badge and another sticker for them to say what they're particularly interested in or are campaigning on, or where they live.

Also, even in a tiered lecture theatre (as the Climate and Capitalism event's opening session was) it is possible to ask people to turn to the person behind them (they probably know the person they are sat next to) and have a chat for a couple of minutes about what they're doing/what they're expecting from the day.

These simple techniques help break down the invisible barriers to mingling (British reservedness) and can help nurture a wider set of loose ties between interested people from different social circles. If these things aren't done, there tends to be a significant clustering into groups (cliques!) of people who know each other well.

Climate Forum Jan 20 report

On Wednesday night a small number of people from a diverse range of groups gathered at the latest “Manchester Climate Forum” to talk about the outcomes of the Copenhagen Climate Summit and its implications for Manchester, and also about “what makes a good group”.

On Copenhagen- the actual accord is only 3 pages long (see here). It turns out that the “targets” that countries were supposed to sign up to by January 31st are now “soft.” Oh dear.

There was discussion around what consequences- if any- the failure of the Copenhagen meeting had for Manchester and 'activism'. There was discussion over what could and should be done by NGOs in the run up to the Mexico City meeting of November 2010.

Secondly, the meeting broke into pairs and threes to write up thoughts on the qualities of “good” groups and “bad” groups and ways that people could be retained within groups (with the proviso that merely retaining people does not necessarily make a group “good”!). You can read these in a separate blog post on the “Time to GLOW” website – comments very welcome!

This was followed by announcements of upcoming events (see MCFly calendar for those and other events)

The next Manchester Climate Forums are on Weds 17 February, Weds 17 March and Tuesday 20 April (a pre-election debate between Councillors and candidates). All meetings are at the Friends Meeting House, 6 Mount St, Central Manchester (behind the Central Library). Mingling and writing-on-flipcharts and other icebreakers from 7pm, for a 7.30pm sharp start.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

MCFly 040- After Copenhagen

After the disappointment of the last international negotiations on climate change, come find out what happened and what it means for Manchester at the next Manchester Climate Forum on Weds 20 January, from 7pm, at the Friends Meeting House.
For details of two other Copenhagen meetings, see calendar on page 4. They're on Saturday Jan 23 and Tuesday Jan 26. Of course, taking local action is the key thing!

MCFly 040- They talk the talk, but what about tramming the bike?

On Friday Jan 15 the Greater Manchester "Integrated" Transport Authority met to decide whether to allow bikes on trams. "Love your Bike" campaign and Greater Manchester Cycling Campaign had hoped for at least a relaxation of the current total ban: a compromise solution of off-peak travel would have at least shown willing towards, um, integrated transport and encouraging people to make smart (low carbon) choices. It wasn't to be. Four Liberal Democrats- including David Sandiford (Didsbury East)- voted for the status quo, as did three Conservatives. The five Labour councillors argued against the ban and voted for a deferment and then voted against.#For more info: Guardian Fri 15, Peter Walker
And watch this space...

MCFly 040- Looking for a competent quango? Trust me, save your energy...

Entertaining* blog post on the utter uselessness of the Energy Saving Trust in implementing the boiler scrappage scheme. The EST is "a clunking bureaucracy which isn't apparently up to anything more complex than sending out a few leaflets about changing your lightbulbs." And continues in this vein...
*(disclaimer; it's written by Mrs MCFly)

MCFly 040- delivery delivery delivery

Last year was about planning and promising. This year, in the words of a very senior official from Manchester City Council, is, well, read the headline. For a quick overview of important issues and dates between now and issue 66 of MCFly, read on....
At the end of January, the Council is going to say how it will meet its "10:10" obligations. The Council's budget gets set in February/March. How much will they be spending on climate change? Watch this space. On May 6th council elections take place. Labour's dominance (they have two thirds of the council seats) may get chipped away, but they will still be in control, albeit perhaps without some high- profile politicians. [MCFly will cover two wards- Northenden and Hulme]
Meanwhile, the Council is hoping that organisations big and small, public and private, will be endorsing the Action Plan and writing their own delivery plans. To help this along, templates are being produced. A 12 member Steering Group (see page 2) will have been formed and prod the Council towards the production of a Delivery Plan, to be presented (it's hoped) to the Council's Executive in September. Then, late in the year, there'll be the first "stakeholder" conference, with between 100 and 200 representatives of stakeholders meeting to monitor progress so far.
What will success look like? MCFly's answer would be - a huge response (including criticism of the existing plans inadequacies and suggestions for plugging gaps around food, aviation, and peak oil) from individuals and groups throughout the city, and the vigorous implementation of some bold high profile moves. Failure looks like "no bikes on trams", and an expanding airport and more talk about boldness but no actual boldness..
Greater Manchester
The Association of Greater Manchester Authorities has won City Region status, which is essential for dealing with energy, transport and so forth. There are seven "Commissions" of politicians and bureaucrats/business people. The Environment Commission will be trying to carve out a role, using Greater Manchester's Low Carbon Economic Area for the Built Environment status. Expect some changes to the make-up of AGMA (and the Commissions) after the May 6th elections...
North West
MCFly will be at the (re)launch of the North West Climate Change Action Plan on Friday February 12th (at the Midland Hotel) as part of our "canape won't pay" policy. But the real question troubling assorted bureaucrats and quangocrats won't be the survival of the planet but the survival of the North West Development Agency. The Tories have been making finger-across-the-throat gestures towards the regional development agencies, but it's unclear what business wants, and whether that will carry the day...
If the Tories get in, they won't be repealing the Climate Change Act anytime soon, but the future of the Department of Energy and Climate Change is less certain. There is probably enough business interest in the money making opportunities in a "Low Carbon Transition" to keep the 2020 plans on track, but there are worrying numbers of denialists and delayers in Tory ranks, all the way up the hierarchy.
Legitimacy versus effectiveness questions will be asked longer and louder. The UNFCCC caravan heads back home to Bonn and then on to Mexico City in November. Will there be a legally binding treaty by the end of the year? It's pretty unlikely, and. much depends on the progress of Climate Change/Energy legislation through the United States Congress. But even, then a politically acceptable deal is likely to be scientifically inadequate, an adequate deal unacceptable...
And on the subject of 'delivery delivery delivery'- MCFly sends congratulations to Leo. And Emma- we always knew you had it in you!

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Next MCFly, Weds 20 Jan meeting...

The next full MCFly will be published on Sunday 17th January. It will contain the usual mix of news, analysis, gossip, "humour" and a useful calendar of upcoming climate events.

One such event is on Weds 20th January, hosted by MCFly's sister/parent organisation "Manchester Climate Forum". It's at the Friends Meeting House, 6 Mount St, from 7 to 9pm

As the blurb says-

We will
a) look at what emerged from Copenhagen (the "Copenhagen Accord") and what it means for Manchester and the world, outlining the future of the international negotiations
b) discuss what makes a "good" group that takes action on climate change
and social justice issues
c) look at what various groups are doing in Manchester over the coming year.

This is NOT a meeting where you will sit in rows listening to too many
speakers drone on for too long before a boring Q and A session. This is about you finding out what you want, making connections with other people who are doing things or wanting to.
Bring your ideas, your friends and a quid to help us cover room hire.