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Cutting carbon emissions

Earlier this year Manchester: A Certain Future (MACF) produced its first annual report revealing that, while progress had been made towards Manchester’s commitment to cut the city’s carbon emissions by 41% by 2020, there was still much more to do. 

Dave Coleman, head of MACF’s Low Carbon Culture Group, starts by explaining the importance of influencing the right people at the right time. “We need to be influencing large organisations if we are to achieve the kind of aims that we have set ourselves. It’s very easy to engage with sustainability managers, but if we want an organisation to get behind this agenda, we really need the person right at the top to buy in, too.”

He believes the group has made a significant step forward in engaging with some of the city’s largest organisations. A recent breakfast event saw almost 30 senior CEOs, collectively employing around 549,000 people, meet for a briefing around low carbon culture in the city.

They heard from Sir Richard Leese, Leader of Manchester City Council and BT’s Mike Blackburn, chair of the Greater Manchester LEP, who explained the case for rapid action on climate change within our business culture. Jo Beggs, Head of Development for Manchester Museums Partnership, was able to show how the city’s cultural sector was reducing its carbon footprint and the Dean of Manchester Cathedral, Rogers Govender, also spoke about the moral dimension for us all to act on climate change.

Members of the CEO Group have individually committed to report back on a six monthly basis on how a low carbon culture is being promoted within their organisation. “It’s not just the physical stuff,” adds Coleman, “but reporting back on what they are doing to promote awareness of, and action on, climate change and its importance both internally and externally”.

The Low Carbon Culture Group is also working with the University of Manchester and Manchester Metropolitan University on pioneering work to measure how the people of Manchester are embracing the idea of a low carbon culture, and how their attitudes are changing.

Over to the Buildings Group, where Dr. Will Swan has recently been appointed as chair. Will is Associate Head of School at the University of Salford and has been working with Greater Manchester as part of the Low Carbon Hub for over four years. During this time he has worked on the Green Deal Go Early and Green Deal Communities, both funded by DECC (Department of Energy and Climate Change). He currently chairs the GM Retrofit Innovation Network, which is looking at developing a retrofit evidence base, as well as training materials for companies within Greater Manchester.

Damian Burton, who heads up the Energy Group, has been working with many of the city’s major energy users and discovered there’s an important role for the group as a go between to help businesses better understand upcoming energy policies, and access both national and EU funding. The group is now talking with other energy users such as supermarkets and colleges to find out the energy issues that are most important to them.

This group is set to launch a series of breakfast events aimed at helping commercial energy efficiency projects to get off the ground. “There’s a wealth of information out there but what if you specifically want to invest in a project in Manchester?” asks Burton. “Where’s the best place to turn for really practical advice about how you can get things moving? It’s this kind of question that needs answering.”

The group also hopes to run a similar event for community projects, helping groups looking to unravel the paperwork and funding options behind installing renewable energy projects such as wind turbines and solar panels.

MACF Structure

The CO2 Monitoring Group, dedicated to carbon counting, has set out to establish where the city is in relation to its emissions goals and while the latest figures show that emissions fell by 12% between 2005 and 2013, it's clear that much more needs to be done.

To address this, the group has identified a list of priorities including the need for a better understanding of the data for measuring carbon emissions, the gaps that exist, and how other cities are measuring their emissions. The group also plans to review the 41% target against the latest climate science, and assess the impacts of using a carbon budget approach.

Chair Ali Abbas says the group will then undertake a sector review of emissions, to see how current initiatives stack up and where more needs to be done. "We also recognise that Manchester's carbon footprint includes more than just direct emissions from energy and transport," he added. “We're looking to extend the scope of the emissions that are measured to work towards a Total Carbon Footprint for the city."

The Sustainable Consumption and Production Group has set up a new Waste Sub-Group who are investigating ways to promote the waste hierarchy (reduce, reuse, recycle) including campaigns, funding applications and research into commercial and food waste in Manchester. SCP are also working with the Food Board on shared priorities, particularly around sustainable food procurement and food waste, as well as promoting community food growing including the Growing Manchester programme.

Work on procurement is being furthered by Greater Manchester partners who have developed a Greater Manchester 'Low Carbon Evaluation Framework' and are looking to pilot this on large public sector contracts over the coming year. The SCP group is also intending to set up task-and-finish groups to work on shorter-term projects and host discussions, the first of these being the Sustainable Visitor Economy.

The Green and Blue Infrastructure Group has established a strong core team consisting of academics from the University of Manchester; green and blue delivery and management groups (Groundwork, Red Rose Forest and the Canal and River Trust); city management and coordination groups (CityCo, Corridor Manchester); and third sector partners (AfSL). Steve Merridew, chair of the group outlines, “A key element of the work the Green and Blue Infrastructure Group undertakes is facilitating the coordination, promotion and dissemination of research and the evidence base (generated both without and outside of the city) to help catalyse the maintenance, improvement, enhancement and increase of Manchester’s Green and Blue places and spaces.”

The group has been active in coordinating mapping of green and blue infrastructure across the city, connecting key regional partners with funding streams to increase delivery on the ground, and bringing together research and best practice from across the region. In July the group hosted a European funding event, bringing green and blue agencies together from across the region to hear presentations on European funding programmes from New Economy, the Enterprise Europe Network and the RSPB. The session concluded with a series of workshops generating ideas for potential funding bids – these will be developed further leading up to a follow up event later in the year.

And in September the group will be hosting a fringe event at the Labour Party Conference entitled ‘RIBA City Healthcheck – Manchester: Health, Climate and Propensity’. The impact the places we live have on our wellbeing and physical health is becoming increasingly recognised. This event will explore how cities are performing and how planning, design, finance and creativity can be joined up to deliver a greener city that facilitates healthier, lower carbon lifestyles –a key theme will be investigating the innovative funding mechanisms for the creation of healthy external environments. The event will bring together leaders, experts and practitioners from across the city including TfGM Strategy Director, Dave Newton, as one of the speakers.

So, there is progress, but there is still much more to be done. The final word from Gavin Elliott, chair of the MACF Steering Group, perhaps sums up this challenge, “Clearly this is very disappointing news, but perhaps not entirely unexpected. We knew from our projections in the Annual Report that we were not on track to meet the 41% 2020 CO2 target, and what the 'official' DECC data now shows is that we are even further off course than we had feared. However in some respects that doesn't make a significant difference to what we know needs to happen to address this issue both as individuals and as a city – namely, we all need to do more do cut our carbon emissions, and we need to do it now.”

Main image by Len Grant.