The Council and democracy Zero Carbon Manchester

What we are doing: Projects

We have identified 43 actions that will help us reach our 2025 target. We have organised these into five thematic workstreams, with actions i) for the Council and ii) that contribute to the bigger picture: the city and beyond.

A summary of our commitments in each area is included here - for full details see the Climate Change Action Plan 2020-25 Appendix 1: Actions.

Buildings and energy

Our commitment is to reduce CO2 emissions from the Council’s operational estate and streetlighting by at least 50% by 2025, and set up plans for a further reduction of 50% between 2025 and 2030. We will support building retrofit and energy generation across the city’s buildings and ensure future development across the city is as close to zero carbon as possible.  

Buildings and energy - key achievements 2020-2021: 

  • £6.3m invested into the Council's estate to implement energy efficiency measures between April 2020 - March 2022. Once fully operational, this will save 1,300 tonnes of CO2 per annum. 
  • £19.1m invested from the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme (PSDS) to support further measures to drive energy savings, decarbonise heat, and increase renewable energy generation capacity in 12 of our buildings. This will save 1,800 tonnes of CO2 per year when fully operational. 
  • Developed a new Manchester Low Carbon Build Standard to reduce the carbon impact of new-build developments and retrofit projects that we deliver. 
  • Delivery of a feasibility study on the potential for large-scale renewable energy generation to meet our energy needs.  
  • Completion of a three-year programme to replace all 56,000 streetlights in the city with a low emission LED alternative. 
  • We are nearing completion of the Civic Quarter Heat Network: 2km of district heat transmission pipes, power and communications cables have been installed, along with the Tower of Light. This shared heating system will reduce emissions and costs across prominent city centre buildings; when all buildings are connected it will save 1,600 tonnes of CO2 a year.   
  • £7.8m secured from the Social Housing Demonstrator Fund to be used to retrofit hard-to-treat concrete construction homes in Beswick in partnership with One Manchester. 

Transport and travel

We will reduce the Council's direct emissions by replacing fleet vehicles (including waste) with electric vehicles and installing charging infrastructure. Our commitment is to reduce our emissions by 35-45% by 2025. We will also support the shift to sustainable and active travel for all through our work with Transport for Greater Manchester, Greater Manchester Combined Authority, and the Government. This includes reviewing and acting on research carried out by the Tyndall Centre for Climate Research to assess how airport emissions can be managed in line with the Paris Agreement

Transport and travel - key achievements 2020-2021: 

  • We invested £9.8m into decarbonising waste collection and improving air quality by purchasing 27 electric refuse collection vehicles to replace more than half of the refuse collection fleet. Saving 900 tonnes of CO2 a year.
  • We secured £5.5m from Government’s Active Travel Fund to invest in active travel schemes in the city centre and Wythenshawe to promote walking and cycling, and better links with public transport.
  • The first of the Greater Manchester Mayor’s Challenge Fund for walking and cycling routes have been completed: Princess Road and Medlock Street roundabout have both undergone transformations to create a safer environment for cyclists and pedestrians.

Reducing consumption-based emissions and influencing suppliers 

All Council premises will phase out the use of single use plastics and other non-recyclable products by 2024. This extends to businesses operating on Council-owned land. Through procurement and commissioning and other levers such as licensing, we will influence other organisations to become more sustainable.  

Reducing consumption-based emissions and influencing suppliers - key achievements 2020-2021: 

  • We are one of the first local authorities in the UK to introduce an additional 10% environmental weighting into procurement processes, helping to reduce our consumption-based emissions from the purchase of goods and services from external suppliers.  
  • 74 city centre traders at the Arndale Centre and Church Street Markets have committed to use recyclable, compostable and biodegradable consumables as part of their licensing agreements. 
  • Across the city’s parks, 21 caterers have committed to reducing and eliminating single use plastics. 
  • We have pledged to be single-use-plastic free by 2024, in line with the Plastic Free Greater Manchester Pledge. 
  • The LED Christmas street decorations, first used in 2020, are made from materials derived from sugar cane and recycled aluminium, making them recyclable. 

Climate Adaptation, Carbon Storage and Carbon Sequestration  

Nature based solutions will be developed to support delivery of our Green and Blue Infrastructure Strategy. We will establish an intelligence-led approach to tree and hedge planting, with the species and quantity of hedges and trees across the city being informed by a dedicated tree opportunity mapping assessment: planting the right trees in the right places.  By doing this we are committing to ensuring the city’s infrastructure is more resilient to climate change.  

Climate adaptation, carbon storage and sequestration - key achievements 2020-2021: 

  • With our £1m investment the Tree Action MCR programme began, which will see thousands of trees planted across the city over the next two years. So far we've planted over 1,000 trees, over 1,100 small hedge trees and four community orchards.  
  • City of Trees received £2m DEFRA funds for new woodland planting across Greater Manchester, which will support the Tree Action MCR programme.  
  • Work began on the 6.5-acre Mayfield Park, the first new city centre park for decades.    
  • The opening of West Gorton’s new ‘sponge park’ created a new community park that showcases nature-based solutions to climate change adaptation needs. The natural flood alleviation measures were tested by Storm Christoph and proved effective at diverting excess rainwater into swales.

Influencing Behaviour and Being a Catalyst for Change 

Although the Council’s direct CO2 emissions only make up approximately 2% of the city’s total CO2 emissions, we have a unique role to lead by example and influence the behaviour of others. We are committed to using every opportunity to engage, empower and equip our staff and elected members with the knowledge and skills to make a positive difference. We will influence behaviour change, develop positions to lobby and work in partnership with Greater Manchester and UK Government bodies to take more action to tackle the climate emergency. 

Influencing behaviour and being a catalyst for change - key achievements 2020-2021: 

  • The Carbon Literacy Project awarded “Silver” status to our carbon literacy training initiative. 
  • Over 300 residents attended face to face community events focussed on climate action, while others attended similar online events. 
  • Our Neighbourhood Investment Fund programme has awarded £52,000 towards 41 climate action projects.  
  • We organised the second Youth Climate Change Action Summit, held at Manchester Central Convention Complex. 
  • Manchester Climate Change Agency and its partners have secured £1.1m to help support community-led climate events and a climate resilience project. 
  • Manchester was one of the first cities to join the international City Business Climate Alliance initiative, a programme supporting business collaboration on climate action. 
  • An Economic Recovery and Investment Plan has been developed as part of the city’s response to COVID-19. This plan sets out Manchester’s commitment to be a green, zero-carbon and climate-resilient city as the driving force behind economic recovery. 

View our quarterly reports and annual reports for detailed updates on our progress. 

Emissions savings

Meeting the target of halving our emissions by 2025 requires a reduction of around 13 per cent every year. At 25,501 tonnes of CO2, emissions in 2020-21 were 21% lower (-6,783 tonnes CO2) than in the previous year (2019-20).  The carbon savings have been created by a range of proactive measures as detailed within the Annual Report, additional savings were delivered by the decarbonisation of the national grid and by the changes in Council operations brought on by the pandemic.  

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