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Green Summit heralds bold green future for Greater Manchester

The Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, together with local leaders, wants to bring Greater Manchester’s date for achieving carbon neutrality forward by at least a decade to 2040.

Climate change experts say this move is necessary if Greater Manchester is to meet Paris Agreement targets.  The new commitment would be one of the UK and Europe’s most ambitious carbon neutrality targets. 

To achieve this, the city-region is exploring radical proposals that include building zero carbon homes, an emissions-free bus fleet, doubling the provision of charging points for electric vehicles, a Greater Manchester energy company, and a plastic-free city-region campaign.

Initial investment in green technologies and policies would bring huge economic benefits and jobs to the region, said Mayor Andy Burnham speaking ahead of the summit.

"We can't afford to wait."

He said: “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. For Greater Manchester, today is that first big step.

“Greater Manchester has never been afraid to be a pioneer – and today’s Green Summit presents us with a fantastic opportunity to be bold in our ambitions and become a UK and European Leader.

“More local renewable energy is achievable, and is increasingly becoming cheaper and cleaner than carbon fuels. Although initial investment can be expensive, the long-term rewards and savings are huge. What we can’t afford are the long-term costs of carrying on as we are.

“Retrofitting our homes to make them more energy-efficient would help reduce carbon emissions and fuel bills; carrying out the work could also bring tens of thousands of jobs to the city-region within this sector alone.

“All businesses need to become green businesses, and the quicker we make this change, the bigger our economic and environmental advantage. And by bringing together this burgeoning green industry with a robust work and skills programme through our schools and universities, we can develop a homegrown skilled workforce that’s ready and able to meet the demands of today, and tomorrow.

Leading the way

“The sooner we start making these changes and take that leap, the sooner we can start to see the rewards – cheaper running costs for our transport fleets, a healthier population, and a thriving green economy on our doorstep.  Greater Manchester is going to lead the way for others as we move towards a cleaner, greener future.”

The current target is for Greater Manchester to reduce emissions by 80-90% by 2050 (from 1990), in line with the UK’s target, but local leaders, including the Mayor, want to bring that target closer by at least a decade to mitigate climate change and capitalise on the economic opportunities presented by the renewable energy industry.

Key proposals on the table at the summit include:

  • Ambition for Greater Manchester to become carbon neutral at least a decade earlier than 2050 – using science-based targets to set our ambition and pathway.
  • Public sector agencies to consider vacating premises that do not meet minimum energy performance standards.
  • Move to an emissions-free bus fleet and, if possible, speed up the process using new bus powers available to Mayors.
  • Establish a new public-sector-led commercial model for the Greater Manchester electric vehicle charging network this year, and double the size of the present system.
  • 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 groundbreaking ‘Made to Move’ report.
  • Use the rewritten Greater Manchester Spatial Framework to specify a date by which all new homes built across Greater Manchester should be net zero carbon.
  • Explore the creation of a Greater Manchester Environment Fund, funded by public and private investment, to support our environment strategy and carbon-neutral ambitions.
  • Develop, this year, a Greater Manchester Infrastructure Strategy to include energy, digital, transport, waste, waste water and natural environment infrastructure.
  • Work with central government to deliver those things that require national action – for example decarbonising the national grid and transport infrastructure.
  • Consider how we develop a Greater Manchester energy company that is able to invest in energy generation and storage to generate revenue for investing in the Greater Manchester Environment Fund.
  • Examine the affordability of retrofitting existing homes to make them more energy efficient, leading to the creation of a potential 55,000 jobs.
  • Hugely oversubscribed, today’s summit brings local people, academics, climate change experts and business leaders together to put forward their commitments for delivering a greener, carbon-neutral Greater Manchester.

Greater Manchester’s Green City lead, Cllr Alex Ganotis said: “Reducing our carbon footprint and making our economy more sustainable – these are massive global challenges. On a local level they can’t just be tackled by local government, but what we can do locally is to work together and start to build a new model – a new greener, way of living in Greater Manchester.

“The Green Agenda is not just about protecting our environment, it’s very much aligned with the wider Greater Manchester agenda on inclusion and the proposals we’re making will also help people save money on their fuel bills.”

Speaking ahead of her keynote speech at today’s event, Emma Howard Boyd, Chair of the Environment Agency, said: “The challenge climate change poses cities in 2018 is to reduce the increasing risk of floods and drought, while attracting investment for a healthy, green place to live.

“In meeting its ambition to be one of Europe’s greenest city-regions, the world’s first industrial city can be an economic trailblazer again. The Environment Agency will do everything we can to help Greater Manchester realise these aims.”

The event is being livestreamed on the Greater Manchester Combined Authority website, and online audience participation has been promised to give everyone a chance to have a say and get involved.