As planned, the Communities and Neighbourhoods Overview and Scrutiny committee met today to look into Manchester’s progress with regards to its climate change targets. Introducing the report (which we dissected here) was Nigel Murphy, who is the executive member for Environment, Michael O’Doherty who is head of climate change at the council and Johnny Sadler who is part of the environmental strategy team.
They were keen to point out that Manchester was at the forefront of work in the country dealing with climate change and the council was recently voted the top four local authority taking action on climate change issues. (Murphy has previously pointed out that that this relied on ‘plans’ rather than actions and so the true measure would be coming years). They then briefly looked at the major highlights of the report- again, see here for the juicy bits.
Marc Hudson, co-editor of MCFly, was then invited by the chair to say a few words and ask any questions he felt were relevant. Whilst welcoming the report and noting the previous reports, he suggested reports be published online in more accessible formats and also contain explicit reference to unachieved goals and future challenges.. For example, the progress report had failed to mention the fact that both the Stakeholder Conference and Ecocities conference (of which the council along with Bruntwood and Manchester University are the key players) were cancelled.
Murphy replied that the council were one of many partners working on the stakeholder conference and were happy to allow the Steering Group take the decision on how best to plan the conference. The issue of funding was also raised as in 2010, there was twenty thousands pound budget from the council and this time around, there was a very limited budget to work with. More time was needed to explore funding streams and bringing on partners. It was also added that the Ecocites conference was delayed as part of a conscious effort to make it a better event with high profile speakers and that time was needed to do so.
All councillors had interesting questions to ask (full report to follow). Councillor Bernard Priest (Labour, Ardwick) successfully suggested that in the future the committee will hear from all directorate heads on their carbon reduction plans, and other big employers to come. Councillor Ian Hyde (Labour, Chorlton Park) raised the issue of the solar panel work and the impact of the government Feed-in-Tariff cuts. Nigel Murphy explained that their plans had been badly affected and that in the end less than 500 roofs were fitted with solar panels before the December 12th deadline. He also added that they were currently working with other local authorities to lobby the government to increase the feed-in-Tariff rates to a level which would work for housing associations and energy providers.
With regards to monitoring the progress of the report and targets from existing plans, Murphy highlighted their efforts to devise metrics that would apply to all organisations and across local authorities. And on behaviour change, the second crucial goal of the council climate change plans, Saddler pointed to current plans.
Other items that were mentioned include the airport’s emissions (and interesting point that saying the airport is carbon neutral from its ground-level work is like saying a car without any fuel is carbon neutral), working with third sector in the current dire financial climate, green transport plans, the Green Deal and the work other departments in the council are doing on climate change.
A blow-by-blow account will appear very soon.