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Manchester: A Certain Future five years on

At last’s week AGM, MACF launched its first annual monitoring report describing how progress is being made against the plan it first published in 2010 to cut emission across the city. It shows that since then, when Manchester committed to a 41% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2020, based on 2005 figures, the city has reduced emissions by 14.2%. That means a further two thirds needs to be cut in the run up to 2020, a figure that  MACF Chairman Gavin Elliott describes as ‘challenging’.

However, he also points out that it would be wrong to see the last five years as a wasted opportunity, with many new partnerships forming in this period, and new  strategic bodies such as Greater Manchester’s Low Carbon Hub beginning to have an impact, while a whole new bank of data and knowledge has been developed which will play a key role in the push to further reduce emissions.

The MACF plan offered a detailed overview, co-ordinated by Manchester City Council, of how reductions could be achieved. The new report shows that many projects have made a positive difference, including ‘top-down’ projects such as the Metrolink expansion, the ‘VeloCity Project’, which has increased cycling in the city, and numerous small scale ‘grass roots’ community initiatives which are now ready to be ‘rolled-out’ across the city.

“Carbon reduction is not a linear thing, it is always going to happen in steps,” explains Elliott. “A lot of this stuff is about capacity building, setting in place programmes such as carbon literacy or significant infrastructure investments like Metrolink – things that can deliver a tangible outcome once they’re in place.”

But emissions remain high and there is a consensus amongst those working to tackle climate change in the region that Manchester won’t become a green city without the support of Mancunians. “The council can provide recycling bins, but they can’t make people use them,” says Elliott. “They can provide a new tram system, but they can’t make people leave their cars at home. Education and behaviour change remain an important part of the project."

“If Manchester is to deliver on its aspiration to become a prosperous low carbon city, a huge effort will be required from the public, private and third sector, as well as individual citizens, to transform their behaviour, and prioritise ‘low carbon thinking’ in their business and personal lives,” he continues.

“This action plan for Manchester is a plan for the entire city. Everyone has their part to play and its successful delivery will rely on us all working together, whether that's homeowners, community groups, businesses or public agencies.”

According to Kate Chappell, Executive Member for Environment at Manchester City Council, MACF has played a pivotal role as an umbrella group, bringing together all those groups and individuals within the city with an interest in making Manchester low carbon.

“I think we’ve got the right people round the table and the right people involved,” she says.  “The nature and the scale of the task has become much clearer and that’s really helpful in focussing peoples’ minds.”

Chappell believes that a new wave of projects will also help to edge the city closer to its targets, investment-ready ideas that can tap into funding from Europe, the Green Investment Bank and individuals who want to back low carbon projects. “That’s the big challenge for the city in this coming year,” she says. “If we get more of those ideas on the table then we could make a big difference.”

Further Metrolink expansion, with the system due to reach the airport by 2016, will help, as will the expansion of the city’s cycling routes and bus priority lanes. Numerous programmes, such as the Green Deal and Community Retrofit, will also improve the efficiency of the city’s housing stock, while many hospitals are actively introducing new energy saving measures, too.

“I think the passion’s still there to do something in Manchester and do better than we’ve done,” says Chappell.

Elliott also remains upbeat and while it’s tempting to look at what’s been achieved internationally in cities such as Amsterdam, Freiburg and Copenhagen, he says, it’s important to remember that what can be achieved in one place, isn’t necessarily true of another.

“All cities aren’t the same in the sense of their history, their geography, their culture, their attitudes and levels of affluence,” he says. “They don’t all come from the same base.

“Is Manchester going to become like Copenhagen overnight? I very much doubt it but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t aspire to… You have to learn from it, not just copy it, because every city is different.”

The report can be viewed at: