The Council and democracy Climate Change

Zero-Carbon Manchester

What is the emergency?

We declared a climate emergency in July 2019.

We did this to show our commitment to responding to the critical challenge posed by climate change, and play our full part in tackling that threat. We felt that the council should lead by example.

We have set ourselves the aim of making Manchester a zero-carbon city by 2038 or before – at least 12 years earlier than the national 2050 target.

To achieve this citywide, emissions will need to reduce by 13 per cent every year until 2038.

But we haven’t suddenly woken up to this issue: in 2009, we played an integral role when residents, businesses and other organisations came together to produce the first ever climate change strategy for the city; Manchester: A Certain Future. We are a key member of Manchester Climate Partnership, which brings together over 60 organisations with collective responsibility for more than 20% of the city's emissions. The Partnership is coordinated by the Manchester Climate Change Agency.

We have almost halved our own carbon emissions since the 2009/10 baseline – exceeding the ‘41% reduction by 2020’ target we’d set ourselves. But the declaration of a climate emergency recognises that both the council and the city can – and must – do more.

It also responds to the concerns recently voiced by many Manchester people, particularly the younger generation, and recognises a renewed sense of urgency.

What’s the plan?

We will bring forward a detailed Zero-Carbon Action Plan (this is due to be approved in March 2020) setting out how we at the council will contribute to this radical reduction in the city’s carbon footprint.

We will attempt to lead by example, through our own actions, spending and behaviour.
Examples of initiatives already underway include:

  •  Street lighting: between 2017 and 2020 some 56,000 street lights have been (will be) replaced with low energy LEDS.
  •  Energy efficiency: a carbon reduction programme to significantly improve the energy efficiency of 13 key council buildings.
  •  Civic Quarter Heat Network: a shared heat network for council-owned properties and some private properties around the Town Hall will slash energy use and emissions.

Work is also underway to make sure that our policies and decisions help reduce, rather than add to, Manchester’s carbon footprint as far as possible.

We will also use our influence to bring organisations and people together, and support communities that want to make a difference and encourage change.

We do not pretend that any of this will be easy or instant; new policies cannot be written and adopted overnight. Some projects or developments that are already underway – or very far advanced – will proceed.

There will be contracts that need to run their course before we can make ‘greener’ choices. Climate change considerations will need to be weighed against other factors that affect Manchester people’s health and wellbeing, and – occasionally – these things may appear inconsistent with the overall ambition.

But we are 100% committed, as a matter of urgency, to get to a position where the push for zero-carbon is at the heart of both the Council’s day-to-day operations, and its decision-making. 

This isn’t something we can do on our own (indeed the council’s direct emissions account for only around 2% of those of the city as a whole) but we want to show leadership. Manchester has a proud history of being radical – working together we can lead the way in tackling climate change.

How do you square the growth of the city's economy and population with the zero carbon agenda?

The two things aren't mutually exclusive - we need to support both. We have signed up to the Greater Manchester Local Industrial Strategy which has helped shape and establish the UK's first city region Clean Growth Mission. This is all about seizing opportunities in the green economy and carbon-neutral living. 

What can you do to make a difference?

Manchester Climate Change Agency have come up with a list of 15 steps which every person and organisation in the city can take to help meet the zero-carbon target.

Further reading

July 2019, Climate Emergency declaration 
October 2019, Climate Change Sub-group - progress update 

December 2019, Executive - Climate Change update

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