EXPERT COMMENT: Mayor’s Green Summit – one month on

Dr Carly McLachlan is the Director of Tyndall Manchester, an interdisciplinary climate change and energy research centre based at The University of Manchester, and was on the Steering Committee for the Green Summit.

It’s been a month since the Mayor of Manchester, Andy Burnham, held the city’s first ever ‘Green Summit’ - a full-day event with 700 delegates from across business, policy making, the research community and charities, plus a group of school children.

I have been around energy and climate change debates and discussion in Manchester for a while –, the billed event held great promise, but would it actually deliver something new, exciting and useful?

Here is my summary of where we are a month after the event took place and what I think needs to happen next!

Tyndall Manchester, the University’s interdisciplinary climate change and energy research centre, has led on setting city region-level carbon budgets that are consistent with the Paris Climate Agreement.

Our research* shows that Manchester drastically needs to reduce its emissions If it is to play a ‘fair’ role in limiting global warming to the 2 degrees threshold identified as ‘dangerous’ in Paris. It also shows we need to do it much quicker than is generally accepted by many academics, businesses and policymakers alike.

We were asked to provide an evidence-based target date for ‘carbon neutrality’ for Greater Manchester (GM). Following our analysis, the approximate date we determined was 2038. That’s just 20 years hence to become carbon neutral.

Dr Carly Mclachlan
It’s a tough but necessary challenge and the need for change is immediate. There is no ‘wait and see’ or ‘do it later’ option.  
Dr Carly Mclachlan

To reach this goal a minimum of a 10% CO2 reduction is needed every year. This is based on the idea of us having a portion of the global carbon budget and playing our role in bringing emissions down.

It’s a tough but necessary challenge and the need for change is immediate. There is no ‘wait and see’ or ‘do it later’ option. So, all of the things we have known we need to do – retrofitting houses, building only zero or carbon positive homes, deploying electric personal and public transport, making it easy to roll out renewable developments – we need to get on with. As in right now, today!

Such is the significance of change required that I think Andy Burnham is absolutely right to include people and institutions from across Greater Manchester in the decision making. A series of 45 ‘listening events’ were organised to feed into the Green Summit on topics ranging from carbon literacy to natural capital.

There has been some criticism of the Summit for not announcing or committing to enough practical action – I share this thirst for action and practical delivery. However, it is important that the outputs of the listening events and the discussions at the Summit itself actually shape the plans if they are to be delivered successfully. Time needs to be allowed for this but the momentum needs to be maintained.

Plus, some good stuff was announced at the Summit itself, including:

  • a smart energy plan by Sept 2018,
  • a review of retrofitting needs and finance mechanisms,
  • £50m per year for 3 years investment in cycling infrastructure,
  • exploring the creation of a GM energy company able to invest in low carbon technologies and projects,
  • a directory of council assets to help community energy groups identify sites and develop projects,
  • the setting of a date by which all new homes need to be net zero carbon
  • moving to an emissions-free bus fleet
  • developing a GM Infrastructure Strategy to include energy, digital, transport, waste, waste water and natural environment infrastructure.

But we need more and we need it fast – so whilst Andy has committed to us coming back together in the next 12 months, I call for no delay in getting actions underway and say let’s do it in half that! We need to come back together within six months and we need to have set actions in motion in the meantime. This captures the urgency of the agenda we have laid out in terms of our carbon budget and targets.

So, what could we push for and see movement on over the next six months? Here are a few ideas from me, but I’d like us all to be pushing for progress and supporting where we can:

  • Carbon neutral homes. These are not a new idea – we already had this policy adopted in 2006 at a national level – but this change needs to come in now.
  • Amend our spatial plans to favour and support renewables deployment.
  • Introduce a new decision making requirement for every public spending decision across GMCA to shift us to a lower carbon economy – if you want to spend a GM pound it has to act to deliver a sustainable future for GM.

To deliver at the scale and speed we need, sustainability now has to be central to everything we do. It has to become part of the Greater Manchester DNA – not an extra, a nice to have or a cost burden - sustainability isn’t an add-on but a pathway to delivering a better quality of life for citizens – with good stable jobs, clean air, efficient transport and comfortable homes.

We have to keep the pressure up – on Andy Burnham and GMCA but also on our own spheres of influence – so that we all deliver on the ambition outlined at the Summit. The hard work starts here – but the rewards will be transformational.


Energy is one of The University of Manchester’s research beacons - examples of pioneering discoveries, interdisciplinary collaboration and cross-sector partnerships that are tackling some of the biggest questions facing the planet. #ResearchBeacons


*The team at Tyndall Manchester, led by Carly McLachan and including Jaise Kuriakose, John Broderick and Kevin Anderson, have been working for with Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) and Anthesis (a sustainability consultancy) on the SCATTER project (Setting City Area Targets and Trajectories for Emissions Reductions), funded by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). 


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