Platform. The everyday portal for sharing knowledge and intelligence on sustainability across Greater Manchester.

Greater Manchester Green Summit: Day Summary

Key outcomes from the event included a plastic-free pledge made by some big names in the hospitality sector and a supporting ambition from the Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, to rid the city-region of single-use plastics by 2020, as well as an aspiration for Greater Manchester to become carbon neutral at least a decade earlier than 2050 – using science-based targets to guide the way.

The Mayor also pledged to transform cycling and walking in the city-region by investing up to £50m per year for three years from 2019/20, supporting Chris Boardman’s ground-breaking ‘Made to Move’ report, and pledged to develop a Greater Manchester Infrastructure Strategy later this year to include energy, digital, transport, waste, waste water and natural environment infrastructure.

The summit began with a welcome from the Mayor, who compèred the whole proceedings.

“Digitalisation and decarbonisation. That’s the future. They’re so important in terms of jobs and prosperity and that’s where the thinking behind this event came from”

– Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester

Greater Manchester’s green agenda is a high priority for The Mayor, who has repeated his ambition for making Greater Manchester one of the leading green cities in Europe, and organised the Summit to accelerate this ambition.

The Mayor kicked off proceedings by declaring that the Green Summit would be an excellent opportunity to set out an agenda that would help to bring forward the date by which Greater Manchester might become carbon neutral.

“2050 is too late,” says the Mayor. “If we follow this, the damage to the planet will be irreversible. I’m proposing that we must bring the carbon neutrality date forward by at least a decade. But that date must be agreed by all sectors. Everyone must challenge what they do and be prepared to work together.”

He then discussed the region’s role as a pioneer of significant political and technological movements including the industrial revolution and women’s suffrage, and how we now need to use advancements in technology to develop a 21st century revolution that gives people good jobs, as well as cleaner air and more green spaces.

“Digitalisation and decarbonisation. That’s the future. They’re so important in terms of jobs and prosperity and that’s where the thinking behind this event came from.”

He then called on Green Summit attendees to engage with the day’s talks and workshops to help make a real difference.

“I want you to test, challenge and debate these issues, with others and yourselves, so that we can accelerate the agenda around climate change, and make the changes that we need to make.”

Following the Mayor’s rousing opener, Professor Kevin Anderson, Deputy Director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, set out what Greater Manchester needs to do to keep within COP21 Paris commitments, a legally binding and universal agreement on climate which aims to keep global temperatures, “well below 2°C.”

Kevin began by outlining the various tactics or “facades” employed thus far to attempt to reduce the effects of climate change, including offsetting and emissions trading, which have all been virtually ineffective.

“In 28 years we have not tried to cut our CO2”, says Kevin. Every scam, but not cut our CO2.”

On a national scale, the UK has seen significant growth in renewables and renewed efficiency, guided by the 2008 Climate Change Act and the Committee on Climate Change.

But the UK remains a high carbon society and there is still much to be done.

“Real mitigation and a cap on global temperatures to below 2°C is possible – just – but it demands a holy trinity approach,” explains Kevin.

Kevin summarises this as a commitment to “Cogency...Integrity...Courage” and explains it as follows:


It begins with an awareness of the science and maths of it all. We need a global carbon value – a carbon budget – and must divide this equally between all countries. In this context, and based on research developed in conjunction with the Tyndall Centre, Greater Manchester’s ‘portion’ of carbon (from 2018-2100 onwards) would be 71 million tonnes of CO2.

At current levels of CO2 emissions in Greater Manchester, we would be through this amount in 5-6 years.


Secondly, we need to be aware of what this carbon budget comprises and remain true to this. The budget includes factors such heating, transport, industry, agriculture etc and excludes CO2 imports and emissions from international aviation and shipping.


Thirdly, what do we need to do?

Kevin argues that we need an immediate deep and rapid change in our behaviour and practices, specifically those of the biggest emitters, including academics and policy makers.

“If the top 10% of emitters, who are responsible for 50% of global emissions, reduced their emissions and lead the way, it would create a significant sea change across Europe.”

Next up to speak was Councillor Alex Ganotis, leader of Stockport Council and Greater Manchester’s lead for environmental issues and climate change, who was tasked by the Mayor with pulling the Green Summit together.

“It’s about our wellbeing, economy and health as much as it is about tackling the causes of extreme weather.”

– Councillor Alex Ganotis, leader of Stockport Council

In May last year, Alex was appointed by Andy Burnham as the GMCA’s lead member for the Green City Region portfolio, focusing on Greater Manchester’s efforts to improve and protect the environment, green spaces and air quality.

Cllr Ganotis set out the big issues that need to be overcome for Greater Manchester to tackle climate change, explaining that the green agenda is aligned with the wider Greater Manchester agenda around inclusion, jobs and the economy.

“The green agenda is central to everything we do,” says Cllr Ganotis. 

“It’s about our wellbeing, economy and health as much as it is about tackling the causes of extreme weather.”

Cllr Ganotis began by explaining how the Green Summit had come together and highlighted the importance of the cutting edge SCATTER research in informing the city region’s green agenda.

With funding from BEIS we are developing a city region transition pathway to move Greater Manchester towards its carbon targets by 2050. The research can be used to develop low carbon pathways that will help to inform what a future carbon neutral target date should be.

Five SCATTER workshops were held last year for industry experts on the topics of Transport, Energy, Buildings, Sustainable Consumption and Production and Natural Capital.

In addition to the SCATTER workshops, there were also 42 thematic ‘Listening Events’ to engage community groups, industry professionals, and the general public and discover which issues matter most to local people and businesses, as well as an online consultation on environmental issues facing Greater Manchester which generated 2,200 responses and 20,000 individual comments.

The consultation was useful in ascertaining public opinion on environmental issues facing the city. People are uncertain about how these issues might affect them, but are concerned, and are keen to make changes that will benefit future generations.

“We’re bringing climate change into main stream thinking,” says Cllr Ganotis. Our way forward is based on science and evidence and local voices and opinion. It will be a challenge, but if we don’t rise to it, who will?”

All of this research and evidence has helped to shape the Green Summit agenda and will help to shape Greater Manchester’s environmental charter.

A video message from Claire Perry, Minister of State for Clean Growth and Energy delivered a message of thanks and a reassurance that national government is in full support of the city region’s efforts and commitments.

“Britain has led the world so far in reducing carbon and growing the economy and important events such as this will help to redouble our efforts and drive this agenda,” says Claire.

“We’ve put money into local energy hubs and though there is much to be done, I look forward to seeing the outcomes from today, particularly in working out how we can overlap and address multiple issues such as transport and heating in one strong concerted approach.”

Emma Howard Boyd, Chair of the Environment Agency, took to the stage as part of the summit’s inspirational ‘TED style’ talks.

“It’s clear that we cannot just carry on as usual – the time has come for action”

– Emma howard Boyd, Chair, Environment Agency

Emma explained that it is cities that will bear the brunt of climate change issues.

In the UK, increased flooding is the biggest threat, with climate change bringing heavier floods than those seen in Greater Manchester on Boxing Day 2015.

Pollution is also destroying our urban environments. A recent study found that the River Tame in Denton, Greater Manchester has the worst level of microplastic pollution ever recorded anywhere in the world.

Alluding to this shocking fact, the Mayor echoed Emma’s concern and reiterated the dire need for change, “It’s clear that we cannot just carry on as usual – the time has come for action.”

Emma then pledged to stand by Greater Manchester police to tackle environmental crime, outlining the importance of proper waste management and disposal and identifying those responsible for it as “unsung environmental heroes.”

And as for a possible solution?

“Promoting a universal understanding of Natural Capital and bolstering climate resilience as we strive for a Circular Economy is a useful target to aim for and will point us to a better way of organising ourselves,” says Emma.

“Ultimately,” she reassures confidently, “The Environment Agency is here to help.”

Next up, Mike Barry, Director of Sustainable Business at Mark & Spencer shared the perspective of business and the economy.

“We will not build a sustainable economy unless we take people with us"

– Mike Barry, Director of Sustainable Business, Marks and Spencer

Mike began by admitting that we live in an unsustainable economy, and though efforts are being made to rectify this, the approach is often disparate and diluted.

The retail sector is feeling the full force of the effects of climate change, right the way through the supply chain.

“I’ve seen M&S stores flooded across the UK, from Sheffield to Carlisle, and factories badly affected by the effects of climate change, with operations delayed and products damaged,” explains Mike.

“Marks and Spencer is committed to addressing these issues. Our Plan A initiative has seen 297 commitments delivered to achieve sustainability within the organisation and soon every product we sell must have a plan A story to tell.”

Mike pointed to a plethora of environmental issues affecting the global food system, including increased arctic temperatures, an alarming concentration (10 million tonnes) of plastics waste in our oceans, a significant decrease in species population and biodiversity and food waste.

“If food waste was a country it’d be the third biggest emitter after the US and China.”

Mike then commended Tyndall’s SCATTER research programme, calling for a more joined up approach to climate change and the economy to rectify these issues.

“We need to build a whole system to drive change,” says Mike. It needs to be methodical and joined up for us to reap any significant benefits.”

And though climate change is a global issue, engaging people on a local level is key to this, asserts Mike.

“We will not build a sustainable economy unless we take people with us, but there’s a right and wrong way as to how we engage them. We need to localise the problem and show that we can deliver tangible outcomes that will directly benefit local people.”

The morning session concluded with half of the attendees breaking off to contribute their thoughts to a series of thematic “listening project” discussion groups. Themes included: transport, energy, buildings and natural capital.

Outcomes from the discussions would be fed back by sector representatives during a panel discussion at the end of the Summit.

The remaining attendees listened to a series of 5-minute talks from various speakers who discussed local successes around the key themes.

The panel was hosted by actor Cel Spellman and explored topics such as using social media as a positive platform for environmental change, using innovative technology to develop hydrogen projects, improved and increased retrofitting of buildings, the radical reallocation of road space and the importance of natural capital in Greater Manchester.

Speakers included:

Georgia Bulled, Manchester Metropolitan University - Theme: General

Eric Brown, Energy Systems Catapult - Theme: Energy

Amer Gaffer, Greater Manchester Hydrogen Partnership – Theme: Hydrogen

Jonathan Atkinson, Carbon Coop - Theme: Buildings

Rosslyn Colderley, Sustrans - Theme: Transport

David Brimelow, Duo UK – Theme: Sustainable Consumption and Production 

Dean Rogers Govender, Dean of Manchester - Theme: Education

Anne Selby, Lancashire Wildlife Trust – Theme: Natural Capital

“The whole Blue Planet 2 series spanned 420 minutes. Plastics were discussed for no more than 10 minutes, yet it affected viewers more than anything else.”

– Alice Webb, Director, BBC North

Following lunch, the afternoon’s proceedings began with a talk from BBC North Director Alice Webb.

Passionate about the BBC’s presence in the north, Alice told the audience about the importance of communicating well to encourage change and what her organisation has already done to increase its environmental performance.

Key to Alice’s talk was the powerful effect of the Blue Planet 2 documentary, specifically a segment that depicted the plight of the oceans and the alarming concentration of plastics being dumped in them.

When surveyed, 90% of people said that the plastics footage affected them, and 70% of those people said it would encourage them to change their lifestyle.

“The whole Blue Planet 2 series spanned 420 minutes. Plastics were discussed for no more than 10 minutes, yet it affected viewers more than anything else.”

The footage was informative, not preachy or judgemental, and empowered viewers with the knowledge to make a choice about how they wanted to treat and leave the planet.

Alice also discussed the changes she has seen within BBC North to increase sustainability.

They have meat free Monday’s, have removed all plastic cutleries from their canteens, and are using their extensive research to inform and influence policy at a national level.

Alice’s speech was followed by Steve Mogford, Chief Executive of United Utilities, who outlined the important role that both gardens and individuals play in ‘slowing the flow’ of our surface water.

Steve explained that sustaining the day-to-day supply of drinking water, making sure it is safe, and ensuring that communities are resilient to instances of both drought and flooding are crucial.

“We have a lot of land to manage and need to use these areas cleverly to improve water quality, resilience and biodiversity whilst increasing access to green space – this is a tricky balance to attain.”

“Our water supplies are fragile because they’re entirely dependent on rainfall. This means we’re putting waste water back into the supply chain and we need to be mindful of the pollution that is present.”

In terms of surface water, with the help of local authorities and developers, we need to look at where it goes and not overload our wastewater drainage infrastructure, as it is a leading cause of flooding. Sustainable urban drainage schemes and mass storage are helping to manage this issue but we need to do more.

As individuals, Steve explains, we can help to ‘slow the flow’ of surface water by celebrating our gardens and encouraging them to thrive. Gardens and trees in particular are excellent at absorbing surface water and reducing flooding. In a day-to-day context, we can also be mindful of the wastewater we generate and whether it’s necessary or superfluous.

An expert panel then took to the stage to summarise feedback from the breakout sessions and engage in a Q&A, chaired by Lindsey Chapman, Presenter of BBC Springwatch.

Panel members included:

Buildings - John Alker, Director Of Policy & Places, UK Green Building Council

Energy - Paul Bircham, Commercial Strategy & Support Director, Electric North West 

Transport - Pete Abel, Manchester Friends of the Earth information & Policy Officer at BikeRight

Natural Capital - Chris Matthews, Head of Sustainability, United Utilities

Sustainable Consumption & Production - Lucy Danger, FareShare 

Education/Communications - Prof. Beth Perry, UK Director, Realising Just Cities

Delegates offered their opinions on where priorities for future investments should focus.

Key outcomes included:


  • High quality, sustainable built environment is a high priority for Greater Manchester
  • Collective challenge that requires democratic engagement – we all need to be on board
  • Planning policy to drive up standards in all buildings, specifically net 0% carbon
  • Use planning to improve natural environment and biodiversity
  • Commercial buildings offer great potential to cut carbon – leading businesses should stand up and pioneer this
  • Stricter targets for property owners and consequences if they are not met
  • Workable business model for retrofitting 


  • Encouragement and support for the proposed actions but a hunger for more details and for some really tangible, fast actions.
  • The establishment of an energy company in Greater Manchester that invests in renewable energy was warmly welcomed, largely because of the joined up thinking it will hopefully herald.
  • Transport:
  • Emissions are going in the wrong direction and need immediate attention
  • More frequent, affordable transport is key
  • We need to improve and extend our bus services and allocate proper space for bus routes and empower people to use public transport
  • For most people cycling still doesn’t feel safe. It needs to be an easy option for everyone
  • Better connections between the district centres is important, not just into the city centre, we need to improve these orbital routes.

Natural Capital:

  • People want to be proactive to protect and enhance their own green spaces
  • People don’t know where their green spaces are – we need to tell them where they are! Could we use new technology to do this?
  • Natural capital is a technical term that people struggle to engage with – we need to make it more accessible
  • We need a nature/green space plan for Greater Manchester to deliver the proposed actions
  • Planning and development process must integrate natural capital. Net gain through development could be an exciting opportunity for us.
  • Community buy-in and connecting people to nature/helping them understand its importance is key to all of this.

Sustainable Consumption and Production:

  • We need a whole systems approach, from manufacturing right the way through the supply chain
  • Integrating waste management is key. Linking up with commercial waste and incentivising businesses to be more responsible
  • We need strong leadership and accountability
  • More support for food growing initiatives, specifically the work of the Food Poverty Alliance
  • The food agenda gets overlooked and having an overarching, governed plan will help us drive this issue


  • We’ve known what to do for a very long time – how do we put it into practice?
  • There is a role for a traditional model of education but it is out-dated. Educate young people but also empowering them to lead debates and lead on issues is key
  • Full system approach: how can we link between schools, alternative education providers and business owners?
  • Rethinking expertise: getting the right knowledge together and delivering it in the best way
  • Listening to and addressing people’s concerns: People feel inspired about change but also anxious and wary about the future

“A green future is there for the taking if we just take that first step to go for it. We can do things differently in Greater Manchester and today’s event will help to shape the future of our green policies for our city region.”

– Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester

Following this lively discussion, the Mayor was then joined on stage by ex-footballer and property developer Gary Neville, who says that Greater Manchester could be a leading city for energy innovation, however change needs to be financially viable and affordable for people to retrofit buildings, buy low carbon vehicles and put PV on roofs.

Both agreed that Greater Manchester could be a sustainability pioneer, but currently legislation is too slow and change isn’t happening fast enough.

As part of a pioneering pledge fronted by Gary Neville, the Mayor then brought together representatives from the region’s tourism and hospitality sector to join a drive to wipe out single-use plastics by 2020, calling on organisations to get rid of not only straws but also throwaway coffee cups, water bottles and single-portion pats of butter and jam over the next two years. 

This is an exciting and ambitious target and, if realised, a significant step towards tackling climate change.

“If we’re successful in our efforts to drive down our use of single-use plastics and accelerate our ambitions for carbon neutrality, there’s no reason why similar models couldn’t be adopted across the UK,” the Mayor says.

In his concluding address, the Mayor announced plans for a second, similar event, one that will capture all of the findings from the Green Summit and set a future path:

“A carbon-neutral city region needn’t be some far-off ambition, the reality is that we can’t afford to wait; climate change is happening now.”

“A green future is there for the taking if we just take that first step to go for it. We can do things differently in Greater Manchester and today’s event will help to shape the future of our green policies for our city region.”

The Summit ended with local business leaders pledging their commitment to a greener future for Greater Manchester.

The day’s events were live-streamed on the Mayor’s Twitter feed with viewers encouraged to contribute to the debate by using the hashtag #GMGreenCity.

If you’ve been inspired by the Green Summit, there are lots of things you can do to get involved and help make Greater Manchester a cleaner, greener, leading city-region

Head to to make your own plastic-free pledge and make a green city pledge to commit to an action that will have a positive impact on the environment and climate change by a specific date.

Further information can also be found on the GMCA website.