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Q&A: Councillor Alex Ganotis, Chair of the GM Low Carbon Hub

You’re leading on Greater Manchester’s efforts to improve and protect the environment, green spaces and air quality. Why are these issues important to you and how do you intend to achieve these ‘green goals?'

My main ambition is to improve quality of life for people across Greater Manchester through the environment they live in.

In the past green issues weren’t regarded by people as a massive cause for concern and were seen as separate from their day-to-day lives.

This attitude is changing now but we have more work to do. We need to convey the message that if we don’t get our approach to low carbon right, people will suffer.

Inclusivity is key to this. People most affected by poor air quality tend to live in more deprived areas and also lack sufficient quality green space, so they need our help. 

We’re doing this by developing ambitious and inclusive policies and solutions around transport, energy, buildings, natural capital and waste/consumption – and putting people at the heart of this.

How are plans for the recently announced Green Summit 2018 progressing? What will the event involve and why is it so important?

The Green Summit will be led by an expert panel of some of the brightest environmental minds in the UK, including academics and researchers from the University of Manchester.

Members of the public, businesses and other key stakeholders across Greater Manchester will also be able to contribute views and ideas through a wide public engagement process.

A lot of work needs to be done between now and then. We’ve currently set ourselves the target of becoming carbon neutral by 2050. Is this right? Or is it too far in the future? Should we bring this date forward and be more ambitious for Greater Manchester?

"The Green Summit is not just a talking shop for the usual suspects to preach to the converted"

We want to make sure our goal is realistic and figure out how best to go about achieving it by holding workshops and stakeholder groups to determine what sort of policies will reduce our emissions and create the sustainable jobs of the future.

My key areas of concern and priorities for discussion are:

Buildings – how does carbon relate to buildings, how we can improve efficiency and roll-out?

Energy – how can we decarbonize the energy we use?

Encouraging the take-up of electric vehicles, and also improving public infrastructure to provide more alternatives to car use.

Waste – how can we generate less waste get rid of it in carbon efficient way?

The Green Summit is not just a talking shop for the usual suspects to preach to the converted. We want to test policy and get the right people on board. That means extending our reach to residents, community groups and businesses. Without this inclusive approach, it just won’t work.

How does your role as Leader of Stockport Council influence your work as chair of the Low Carbon Hub?

My role as council leader is crucial to my position as Hub chair. As a community representative and policy maker I can see the impact of the decisions we’re making and the consequences of not getting them right.

"Economic growth that doesn’t come at a price is key to a prosperous Greater Manchester going forward, and together, this is what we must aspire to"

For example, I’m aware of the problems associated with poor air quality in and around Stockport town centre and the insufficient amount of green space people have access to.

I’m also heavily involved in the borough’s development, from meeting our housing needs to improving transport infrastructure.

My connections with the Hub ensure that all of these issues are grounded in a fundamental regard for our environment and economy.

In your opinion, what is the importance of the low carbon agenda for Greater Manchester generally and what are your hopes/aspirations for the low carbon sector?

The low carbon agenda is critical to Greater Manchester. We can’t carry on as though the environment isn’t an important issue.

It affects our health and we need to make sure that, as a city region, we’re ahead of the curve and meeting both our national and European obligations in terms of emissions reduction.

We have an opportunity to capitalise on a new wave of technology and an influx of new jobs for our residents.

Economic growth that doesn’t come at a price is key to a prosperous Greater Manchester going forward, and together, this is what we must aspire to.