Upcoming Event: Campaigning to Protect our environment #Unison Tues 6th October


UNISON North West is hosting a public meeting on the environment during the week of the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester.

The meeting will highlight the growing threat to our environment and how we can campaign to protect it.  Speakers for the event are:

Furqan Naeem, Friends of the Earth North West

Tina-Louise Rothery, Frack Free Lancashire

Allison Roche and David Arnold, UNISON


The event starts at 6pm.

UNISON Regional Centre, Arena Point, Manchester M3 1UN (near Victoria Station)

Tbh I am a bit worried that this will be sage on the stage following by ritualistic Q and A and exhortations that the Next March is the one that will crack it.
But I could be wrong, and it’s worth going along to find out, perhaps.

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Upcoming event: “The politics of pollution promises: Clean Coal 1976 to present.” #Manchester #climate

Next Tuesday, 6th October, 1pm to 2pm, room 2.57 of the Simon Building, University of Manchester (just off Oxford Road).

Is is free, open to the public and there is no need to book.



cleancoalThis seminar is part of the lunchtime seminar series for the Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine (CHSTM). Lunchtime seminars are typically no more than 30 minutes in length, followed by a period for audience questions (ending before 2pm). All are welcome.

Marc Hudson (University of Manchester)

The politics of pollution promises: ‘clean coal’ and climate change, 1976 to the present.

Abstract: Climate change caused by the human species’ appetite for fossil fuels has been theorised for over a hundred years, and worried about since the 1950s. In 1976 a scientist proposed capturing carbon dioxide from power plants and storing (or dumping, depending on your viewpoint) it in the deep oceans. The idea gained little traction, but since the early 1990s more attention has been paid to capturing carbon and storing it in aquifers and now-empty oil and gas fields. This proposed technology (CCS) received a great deal of attention – and some funding – in the 2000s.

This (interactive!) seminar will look at the economic, technological and cultural motives of both ‘clean coal’ proponents and opponents, with special emphasis on Australia, but with instructive detours to the USA, Germany and the United Kingdom.

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Why scrutiny (of #Manchester #climate inaction) is so weak, and so ineffectual

Why does Manchester City Council get away with breaking quite so many of its climate promises, including the simple one where the Executive Member for the Environment promised to set up a blog?

This rant lists structural reasons, personal/personnel reasons and for the failure of scrutiny, before turning to ‘what is to be done’.  Please feel free to comment, or send an email to mcmonthly@gmail.com

Structural reasons (Long-term and global)

a) Neoliberalism gets blamed for everything, so let’s start with that. At a national level, since the 1970s, the ‘market’  has become the measure of all things.  And climate change, as a ‘market failure’ (TM Nick Stern) is not something economists and their ideological slaves, the bureaucrats and politicians, like to think about

b) The hollowing out of the local state.  Thatcher gets blamed (rightly) for that, so let’s continue with that. Local government has become a shell, basically a delivery mechanism for national policies and a shield dented into virtual oblivion.  Manchester City Council ran the white flag up in the second half of the 80s, and it’s been fluttering above Albert Square ever since.

c) The collapse of the media that was supposed to perform a ‘watch-dog’ role.  When was the last time the Manchester Evening News, or BBC North West, ‘broke’ a significant story about Manchester City Council.  Anyone?  They don’t send anyone to scrutiny meetings (no money to do so) and they rely on press releases and ‘leaks’ (yeah, right).  It’s churnalism, basically.

d) The coming of the One Party State – the collapse of a local political opposition
As recently as 2010 the Liberal Democrats had a third of the Council seats.  I am not saying this was necessarily a Good Thing, but at least there was some sort of criticism.  Yes, often misplaced or ill-informed, but it was there.  The Greens, a long long time ago, had a councillor.  Nowt since. So you have 96 Labour councillors. A 9 member Executive that rules them all, and jostling for preferment among the rest, whose future rests in making the right noises and not embarrassing The Party.

e) The lack of social movement organisations that monitor or challenge. Manchester’s environmental scene has basically imploded.  It looked busy a few years ago (e.g. in 2007-2010) but most of those groups are now inactive, and the few that are left basically don’t say boo to the goose or get their acts together (and yes, that includes the ones the author tried to set up).   The focus is always on some event in London, or further afield, and mobilising is usually a substitute for movement-building. There’s currently a very small ‘buzz’ (or drone?’) around Paris, but unless a miracle happens, that will dissipate, because the same mistakes are being made.

Westminster-style  democracy is supposed to work like this: you have an executive made up of big beasts from the party that has the most seats.  They work with the permanent bureaucracy to deliver what they want (which may or may not match what they promised). Hubris and incompetence are kept in check by the close surveillance not just of their own back-benchers, but by the official opposition, by the media, and by civil society groups (unions, thinktanks, charities, etc) from without.  So a rough sort of ‘wisdom of crowds’ keeps from anything TOO stupid from happening.  Yes, there is the occasional outbreak of crude hegemony or group think, but overall, this is the best of all possible worlds.

But Manchester has no opposition party, no media, no civil society.

f) The nature of Manchester City Council; When did the powerful ever welcome long-term and detailed scrutiny?  When did the ‘confident’ ever welcome people who said ‘you’re not keeping your promises, your plans are unrealistic, your bureaucracies clumsy at best’?   It may have happened, somewhere, somewhen.  But in Manchester?  Really?

Personal/personnel reasons 

People become councillors for different reasons.  Basically they fall into three categories

  1. The ambitious who see it as a stepping stone to Bigger Things. Well, they might occasionally bang on the table, but they’re never going to undertake sustained campaigns of questioning the Executive and the bureaucracy.  That would be a Career Limiting Move.  And the ambitious are not into CLMs
  2. The “I can change the system from withins.”  They do exist.  It can take them a while to learn better.
  3. The rest. People who are doing it for the money (£16,000 isn’t much, but it isn’t nothing), for the status (not nothing) or for the business contacts.  Or just want to make the world a better place, be part of the dented shield.

(People shift between these categories of course!)

There are two crucial things for our purposes, in terms of sustained, detailed and brave scrutiny of Manchester’s climate debacles.

Firstly,  very few of the people who are currently engaged in council “climate politics” (for want of a better phrase) were actively engaged in 2009.  Some weren’t councillors back then, or were councillors but had no interest in or involvement in the issues.   It’s hard for them to understand just how wide the (widening) gap is between rhetoric and reality

Secondly, climate change is but one issue among MANY.  Thanks to the Tories trying (successfully) to roll back the welfare state, councillors spend huge amounts of limited time and energy try to help people that David Cameron, Ian Duncan Smith and the rest are trying to stuff down the cracks.
Is the issue the issue?
Some say that climate change is too complex for our pretty little heads, too complex for the current structure of scrutiny.


  1. I don’t see a lot of decent scrutiny being done on OTHER issues. It’s not like climate change is an outlier, the only thing that isn’t getting attention.
  2. Also, it’s actually NOT very complex.  Manchester City Council made a lot of concrete promises in 2009 and 2010, and some more since then.  And it is evidently breaking them.  Yes, the bureaucrats and the executive spin and wiggle and wriggle, and shift baselines where and when they can, and promise reports and not deliver.  But so what, that’s normal.  That’s not hard to spot.  In the words of Sven Lindqvist  “You already know enough. So do I. It is not knowledge we lack. What is missing is the courage to understand what we know and to draw conclusions.”

What is to be done?
So, it’s easy enough to make a list of What Manchester City Council COULD Do.  I did it last year, in  a report that went out last year under the catchy title “The Scrutiny Mutiny.

The point is, Manchester City Council will NOT do these things.  Or rather, they won’t do them soon, and they won’t do them without a fight so fierce that it will probably leave us exhausted and demoralised (and therefore defeated.)

So, “we” (1) have to do these things(2).

  • Who is we? You dear reader, and whoever else you and I can rope in.
  • Or at least, those items that we think a) we can do fairly easily and b) will increase OUR power.

We could start by

  1. Figuring out what items really really matter to us. My personal vote is for ‘resilience rightly understood-  class-race-gender-age-aware disaster preparedness and the (lack of) ward plans around climate change.  We should be starting to take actions ourselves BEFORE hassling the Council to help us (because they won’t, not quickly anyway).
  2. Building teams of people who know what skills each other have, what skills and knowledge each other WANT, and going from there. That would be novice lines etc.
  3. Attending scrutiny committees (especially Neighbourhoods) and writing/filming/tweeting about them with verve, clarity, accuracy and all necessary cynicism (plus a bit more).

We need to be thinking

  1. How can we do this without dying of boredom or wanting to kill ourselves in despair?
  2. In what ways can people too busy or just-plain-sensible to set foot in Castle Greyskull to get involved (and how can we learn from their skills and knowledge) and stay involved (how can we share our skills and knowledge, and maybe even score some wins).

Meanwhile, the Green Party could actually put the sterling work of those brave enough to attend the horrorshows in the Town Hall not on a basically hidden page of their website, but front and centre. If folks are doing the hard work, they should be rewarded.

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Upcoming Event: Carbon Co-op Social, October 16th #Madlab #Manchester

Carbon Co-op header

Carbon Co-op Social – Thurs 15th October 2015

Meet other members, socialise, discuss

At October’s Social we will be launching of a series of video profiles of members, funded by the Green Open Homes network to showcase homes that have been benefitted from energy efficient improvements. Each film is 4-5 minutes long and highlights a different aspect of retrofit such as triple glazed windows or internal wall insulation.

Also, Matt will be introducing the latest collaboration with OpenEnergyMonitor on the a Community Smart Grids project we will be piloting in 2016.

As always there will be complimentary snacks and drinks and lots of opportunities to chat and mingle.

Please RSVP to let us know if you will be attending (the event is open to non-members).

Routes to Retrofit seminars – November 2015

Planning and Delivering Energy Efficiency Retrofit works for householders

We’re running another series of seminars on planning and procuring retrofit works. These sessions always sell out, so do book early to reserve a space!

WHAT: Planning on an eco-home make over to reduce energy bills and do your bit for the environment? Confused about what to prioritise, which professionals to appoint and how to approach contractors?

Carbon Co-op are hosting two specialist seminars run by industry professionals on the practicalities of commissioning eco-retrofit works.

Attendees also receive supporting materials and access to an online webinar.

FOR: householders planning an eco-refurbishment or retrofit project who already know the kinds of measures their home requires and are seeking to take forward works. Householders who have had an energy assessment carried and want to commission some of the recommended measures.

For more detailed information on course content view this webpage: http://carbon.coop/news/2015-09-22/routes-retrofit-seminars-autumn-2015

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#Manchester Literature Festival – #climate events, inc George Monbiot


Literature and Landscape

From nature writing and memoir to psychogeography and climate change, authors and non-fiction writers reflect on our relationship with the earth and the landscapes around us.

Simon Armitage
Thursday 22nd October, 6.30pm
Central Library

Granta Presents: What Have We Done?
Sunday 25th October, 12.00pm
Whitworth Art Gallery

Sarah Hall & George Monbiot
Sunday 25th October, 2.00pm
Whitworth Art Gallery

Oliver Morton
Sunday 25th October, 4.00pm
Whitworth Art Gallery

Box Office: 0843 208 0500
MLF Office: +44(0)161 832 5502

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More pathetic spin from #Manchester City Council about its carbon emissions. #climate

Back in 2013 Manchester City Council tried to spin an increase in its emissions as a decrease. They were laughed at then. They have, of course, learnt nothing, and they’re claiming decreases that are basically illusory and not what was actually promised anyway. Ann Onymouse reports…

The council has put a news article on their website which begins “Figures show carbon emissions down over last five years. New figures show Manchester City Council’s carbon emissions have decreased by 13 per cent over the last five years. “

It is interesting that the council have chosen to lead with those headline figures, rather than the headline figure of the carbon emissions going UP 4.8% over the past year. The news post mentions that the target is for a 41% reduction between 2009 and 2020. In order to make that target, the council should have reduced its carbon emissions by over 20% by this point [actually, by 2014!]. Another appropriate title would be “Figures show that carbon emissions haven’t gone down enough over the past 5 years.”

The news article mentions that “more work is being planned to make the council’s building more efficient. This includes undertaking a huge building by building survey of all council buildings”. The report to the council, however, states that “15 buildings have been identified (11 in our top 25 carbon intensive buildings) that will be subject to energy audits… This work is subject to the approval of a business case which is currently being taken through internal sign off processes.” So will only 15 council buildings receive an energy audit, or will all buildings receive this after these 15 have been completed?

In the scrutiny meeting where the report was discussed, it was mentioned that 203 tonnes of CO2 were emitted by the council that were not contained in the report. This means that the emissions have actually gone down by only 12.7% over the past 5 years and up by 5% over the past year.

Posted in Manchester City Council | 1 Comment

Will someone not kill off this undemocratic and worse-than-useless “Stakeholder” “Steering” “Group”? #manchester #climate

What do you call an organisation that promises and then cancels elections to its board?
What do you call an organisation that unilaterally cancels day-long community-focused conferences and replaces it with a 90 minute talkfest by three old white men?
What do you call an organisation that couldn’t even run its own website and sighs with relief when instead it gets swallowed by a joke of North Korean -style ‘everything is awesome‘ s(h)ite?
What do you call an organisation so inept and obviously pointless that can’t even get funding from the City Council’s “Clean City Fund”, even though it has long been the Council’s climate change stabvest?
What do you call an organisation that won’t even allow elected members of Manchester City Council – let alone members of the public – attend its meetings?

I am sure you can think of plenty of names. But “Stakeholder Steering Group” (SSG) is unlikely to be among them, now, is it?

Gavin Elliott, the second (and hopefully last) chair of the SSG, finally appeared before a group of councillors today (the Neighbourhoods Scrutiny Committee, one of six scrutiny committees that is supposed to keep tabs on the Council’s elected and unelected bosses.). He had been due to appear two years ago to the “Environmental Sustainability Subgroup”, but Council officers never quite seemed to be able to coordinate diaries for him.

Elliott started by claiming that the Stakeholder Steering Group’s very existence was down to discussions between Council Leader (since 1996) Richard Leese, the first (and last) ‘Director of Environmental Strategy’ (Richard Sharland) and Steve Connor (first SSG chair). Most everyone who was actually engaged in climate politics in this city at that time – 2008 to 2010 (Elliott was not)- would raise an ironic eyebrow at the characterisation.

Elliott then did NOT to mention that the Climate Change Action Plan that the Steering Group is supposed to be steering on had two headline goals – a standard emissions reduction target (which he conceded we are missing) and – well, let’s quote it in full

“To engage all individuals, neighbourhoods and organisations in Manchester in a process of cultural change that embeds ‘low carbon thinking’ into the lifestyles and operations of the city. To create a ‘low carbon culture’ we need to build a common understanding of the causes and implications of climate change, and to develop programmes of ‘carbon literacy’ and ‘carbon accounting’ so that new culture can become part of the daily lives of all individuals and organisations. Every one of the actions in our plan will contribute in some way to the development of ‘carbon literacy’ in the city. However, achieving a new low carbon culture – where thinking about counting carbon is embedded and routine – can only be delivered as a result of all the actions together, in an overall co-ordinated manner. Enabling a low carbon culture in the city will be particularly important if the challenge of meeting even more demanding carbon reduction targets between 2020 and 2050 is to be met.”

And since he didn’t mention it, he also didn’t mention that that goal was continually characterised by Sharland, in 2010-2 (i.e. before he got involved) as MORE important than the first goal, since only with a low carbon culture could we hope to make the much much deeper cuts needed AFTER 2020.

“Low carbon culture” came up – for literally a minute – later in his presentation. The only metric that has been developed, apparently, is per capita emissions. Seriously. Elliott did not mention that last year the Steering Group actually had a presentation from the authors of a report on Manchester and a “Total Carbon Footprint” approach. (The Climate Change Action Plan, as well as committing to everyone in Manchester having received a day’s carbon literacy training by 2013, also said the Council would move to ‘consumption-based metrics’ by 2013. Neither happened). Elliott also didn’t mention that a report was produced (by this author) about “What is a Low Carbon Culture?” Wonderful stuff.

There was more, but the key bit (and if you need a reason to kill yourself, you can watch the whole thing here), but the gist of it was that Manchester’s emissions have been tracking the other ‘core cities‘ (Liverpool, Leeds, Birmingham etc), albeit at a slightly higher per capita level. And a chunk of the reduction to date may well be down to the recession, so as growth returns, so might emissions growth.)”

None of the councillors (and there’s a separate blog post to be written about the structural as well as personal/personnel reasons why scrutiny in this city is QUITE so useless) asked the very obvious question.

“If all the other core cities have carbon footprints that have matched Manchester’s (at a slightly lower level) and yet most of these cities don’t have ‘Stakeholder Steering Groups’, then isn’t it the case that your group has probably had NO IMPACT on carbon emissions?” (The obvious next question, given the answer is ‘yes’ – And so, at present, are you are not wasting your time and ours?)

None of the councillors asked about the cancelled elections, the cancelled stakeholder conference (replaced with an ‘AGM’), the lack of a website, the lack of events, the feeble social media presence (No youtube account, no facebook – 442 twitter followers? Really?)

We are more than half way to the 2020 target date, and yet Elliott is still talking about ‘early steps’. After two years in the role,he neglects to mention his abolition of the stakeholder conference, holding two short AGMs and claiming that there are four meetings a year (they actually managed 3 in 2014. I haven’t bothered to count this year; according to the MACF’s eventbrite page there was nothing between last December and the AGM in July 2015-

macf events

Apparently being a community interest company and being able to get European funding (in theory) is progress. In 2015. Seriously.

Elliott was then asked a straight-foward question by the chair of the Neighbourhoods Scrutiny Committee – are meetings of the Stakeholder Steering Group open for members of the public – and indeed elected councillors – to come and observe (a meeting in public, as opposed to a public meeting)?

Elliott twisted and turned on the hook, resorting to the feeble ‘I’m sure the meetings are too dry and boring‘ line (i.e. ignoring the fact that in a democracy it’s up to adults to decide how and when they will be bored, and that a group that calls itself a Stakeholder Steering Group that forbids stakeholders from attending its meetings is, well, um…)
Gillard pointed to the fact that five of us had turned up at the NSC meeting and were still mostly alive.
Elliott twisted and wriggled on the hook some more, and refused to give a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’. So, that would be a…..?
Elliott quickly moved to Gillard’s other question, which was about the obsession with economic growth to the exclusion of all else.

Readers of MCFly may remember that in 2010 the Council committed to looking at Steady State economics (after the current author spoke at a scrutiny committee). And that process ended in farce, when the bureaucrat who volunteered to write it delivered a useless page and a half and then failed to consult, as later asked to, by a croup of Economy Scrutiny Committee councillors, and this then led to an alternative report that…

Oh, look. If you believe that our elected representatives, or the bureaucrats at the Town Hall, are acting at the scale and speed required to prepare Manchester for the challenges it will face around climate, then you clearly have not been paying attention for the last 7 years or so. We’re toast. Carpe the diems.

As for what you’d call the Steering Group – One of the names I can think of for it is “joke”. But it’s not a funny one, and when Manchester finally (and too late) comes to take climate change seriously, if we ARE serious we will
a) learn from the multiple multiple failures of the Steering Group
b) not let any of the people who committed those failures, over and over and OVER again, anywhere near the levers of power.

Posted in Manchester City Council, Steering Group | 5 Comments