The Council and democracy Zero Carbon Manchester

What we aim to do 

Manchester’s ambition is to be a zero carbon city by 2038 or earlier – at least 12 years ahead of the national target.  

We are committed to playing our part in achieving that aim. We want the city to be at the forefront of the global response to the urgent challenge of climate change. 

This means not just cutting our own direct carbon emissions, but also using our leadership and influence in the city to encourage everyone to play their part.  

What we have been doing 

In July 2019 we declared a climate emergency. As one of the first councils in the UK to do so, this action was built upon a decade of work that had seen our direct carbon emissions reduced by more than half between 2009/10 and 2019/20.  

But it was also a recognition that we could and should do more to reduce C02 emissions and mitigate against the negative impacts of climate change. 

We have created a Climate Change Action Plan 2020-25 (for Manchester City Council) which translates that declaration into clear and measurable actions. The challenging target is to reduce our direct carbon emissions by a further 50% by 2025.

By March 2021 we were on course to meet that target with progress on a wide range of measures such as:  

  • Replacing all 56,000 street lights in the city with low emission LED alternatives. 
  • Investing in 27 new electric bin lorries to replace more than half of our waste collection fleet with emission-free alternatives.  
  • Installing electric vehicle charging points at the three biggest council depots to support the wider electrification of council vehicles. 
  • Nearing completion of the Civic Quarter Heat Network, a shared heating system that will reduce emissions and costs across prominent city centre buildings including the Town Hall Extension and Central Library. 
  • Beginning work on the 6.5acre Mayfield Park, the first new city centre park for decades. 
  • Completing and opening West Gorton’s new ‘sponge park’, designed to help prevent flooding and a pilot for how nature-based solutions can help combat the impacts of climate change.  
  • Retrofitting Council buildings to cut emissions and energy costs, and to generate renewable energy. In 2021 we secured £19.1m in Government funding to support this work. 
  • Getting underway with the £1m Tree Action MCR programme, which will plant thousands of new trees by 2022. 
  • Securing a further £5.5m in funding for active travel schemes to promote walking and cycling, and better links with public transport, in the city centre and Wythenshawe.  
  • Creating the UK’s first Cyclops junction in Hulme, fully optimised for cycling and walking, as part of the development of the £13.4m Manchester to Chorlton cycle route.  
  • Working with communities in all 32 wards of the city to embed climate change action in ward plans and taking steps to recruit three new Climate Change Neighbourhood Officers.

Next steps 

There is still a lot to do – not just to ensure the maximum benefits from ongoing projects, but also to keep identifying and seizing opportunities as they arise. 

As Manchester emerges from the impacts of COVID-19 we are determined to put green projects at the heart of the city’s recovery. As well as playing our part in worldwide efforts to address a global crisis, we’ll feel the benefits here too: with cleaner air, more welcoming environments, in jobs and in lower energy bills.  

The citywide picture 

The 2016 Paris Agreement set a target for the whole world, to limit global warming to well below 2C, and preferably to 1C, above pre-industrial levels. 

After a great deal of work, we adopted targets in 2018 based on recommendations by the University of Manchester’s Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research. These targets set out how Manchester could contribute towards the overall aim.  

The targets are: 

  • Emit only 15m tonnes of C02 between 2018 and 2100 (we were the first city in the UK to adopt a carbon budget) 
  • Reduce carbon emissions by at least 13% year on year. 
  • Become zero carbon by 2038 at the latest 

The Manchester Climate Change Framework 2020-25 is the city’s overall strategy for how this will begin to be achieved in the next few years; it’s also linked with the work that’s going on at a Greater Manchester level.  

Who is doing what across the city?  

Manchester Climate Change Partnership has 60 pioneering members from a wide range of sectors such as universities, hospitals, registered housing providers and Manchester City FC. They are together responsible for more than 20% of Manchester’s direct emissions and are committed to helping the city achieve its target. Each has produced their own climate change action plan. 

Manchester Climate Change Agency is responsible for overseeing and promoting climate change action in the city. They stress that everyone has a role to play and achieving Manchester’s ambitious aims will rely on us all working together. 

The Council is only responsible for only about 2% of the city’s direct emissions but does have an important role to play, in enabling change as well as leading by example. Having the right policies and infrastructure in place will help organisations, businesses and individual make low carbon choices.  

We want to encourage more Manchester people to take part, helping our city become zero carbon by 2038. Because - while we’ve seen year on year reductions in our carbon emissions - these have not yet been enough to suggest that we’ll meet our target: there is more to do. 

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