In a bid to keep our readers awake and me sane, this report is only of the key decisions and interesting debates that took place at the Environment Commission’s 21 March meeting (1). It is not an official record of the event. If you’re interested in that, it will be part of the upcoming meeting’s documents which you can find here.
First things first – the agenda. It was good to see that the draft of the delivery plan to help Greater Manchester fulfil its Climate Change Action Plan promises was on the agenda. In a previous article, we revealed that the sign-off of the delivery plan was delayed from March to July 2012. We were told that this had no effect on the implementation which would be be backdated to March and that the Environment Commission would be looking a draft of the report the same month to keep the ball rolling.
The main message coming from the officers in charge of putting together the delivery plan was that it was in some way a resources plan. It was looking at what money, time and officers they had and what jobs they could allocate to these. Richard Sharland, who is in charge of the plan, pointed out that at the moment they have a skeleton crew and more resources would mean that they could put in and get out more from the plan. He also added that they were eager to get the support of the government, even if this meant further delays to approving the plan.
Neil Swannick, chair of the Greater Manchester Waste Disposal Authority, suggested that they try and get European funding on the grounds that their work was regional and this was an agenda which would be supported.
Officers also promised that a priorities list would be circulated to the members of the commission well before July when the final plan would be up for AGMA approval. It was also suggested that they ensure that all influential and useful organisations and business across GM as well as other GM commissions get the chance to contribute to the delivery plan. Once the plan has been approved, the tasks will be delegated to the priority areas in May. It was also revealed that a report will be published in June which will deliver a benchmark on how the Environment Commission performed in 2012.
The Green Deal – if you’re not sick about hearing about this, you will be soon. But let’s trudge on. In the last Environment Commission (EC) report, we highlighted the fact that the GM councils were still considering all their options in terms of how to react to the Green Deal. A decision of sorts has been made. AGMA won’t be leaving the Green Deal to its own devices and have opted to either act as A) facilitator/marketer of Green Deal providers or B) a large scale Green Deal provider. The next step is to narrow this down to their final decision.
There is no particularly rush, as AGMA are hoping to launch their plan a year after the policy details of the Green Deal are announced in October. (Well, it turns out the government may be taking a little longer to make their final announcement anyway). There is a £45k budget associated with the development of a business case for GM’s Green Deal. £39.5k is allocated from the GM Environment Team budget.
A really interesting point that Michael O’Doherty made was that localised energy advice centres – such as the one being closed down in Manchester due to DECC’s plans to go for a national phone line instead – were one way to encourage uptake of energy efficiency technologies. He added that the timescale for setting up the new national service was very short as the old centres close in March and the new call centre opens in April. O’Doherty, who is head of Climate Change at Manchester City Council said: “We have been in touch with DECC to put forward our concerns and we are looking at AGMA funding and other sources to see if we can keep it (the Manchester Energy Advice Centre) going in case it’s something that we want to use as part of our Green Deal work.”
A decision will be made in mid-April over whether the centre will be stay open.
The final bit of news coming from the Commission is that the Energy Plan will be launched by the new Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change at the end of March. Neil Swannick, who will not be able to lead on this publicly due to the elections that will be taking place, hoped that this would help make the EC more visible. Edward Davey may also be paying the Manchester United Stadium a visit as they managed to score highly on the Carbon Reduction Commitment Index. Although were some cynical mutters of ‘hot air’, Sharland insisted that the visit may help encourage further action.
The next meeting is the 13th of July 2012.
(1) Environment Commission has been meeting now for a three years. Manchester Climate Fortnightly covered its birth (here and here) early progress (here, here, here, here, here, here and here). The basic idea is sound – get a group of councillors from different local authorities, some other interested parties from business and the ‘third sector’ (charities, etc), and support them with a bunch of officers. Then hope that they can, with their smarts and their contacts books, start Greater Manchester down the path to a greener, safer (and fairer?) future, with the occasional kick in the pants from the political leaders of the 10 local authorities that make up AGMA/GMCA – via Marc Hudson.