The #Manchester Climate Change Action Plan “refresh” insultation; MCFly’s contribution

Attention Conservation Notice: This is an open letter to the Steering Group about their “refresh” of the Manchester Climate Change Action Plan. We know it will be ignored, but silence in the face of such disastrous inadequacy is complicity. And the stakes are too high to be so complicit….   Meanwhile, the deadline for responses has been extended by five days, presumably because an embarrassingly low number of replies had come in.

Hi guys,

you do know that you are running a zombie process, right? Nobody really cares about it. In the last three years nobody beyond the very usual suspects (actually, a subset of the usual suspects) has been engaged in it. That’s not their fault, it’s the Council’s fault for showing so little political or cultural leadership (partial exceptions being Richard Leese and Sue Murphy), and the Steering Group’s fault for sitting around and not using the vast human resources (30 members!!) and the potential goodwill of the wider community. This potential goodwill was largely pissed away by the worse-than-useless half day “conference” at the beginning of the year, and ongoing irrelevance, evasion and silence since then.  The zombie will stagger on – too much face would be lost if it folded altogether, but it is basically irrelevant to the actions we need to take to prepare for the worst (and the worst is what we are going to get, as you sort of acknowledge in places in your document.)

Anyhows, before addressing the “substance” of the document, I have a few questions about the nature of your “consultation.” (I personally think it should be called an “insultation”, but maybe that’s just me.)

  • Where is your social media strategy for this, beyond a linked-in group that barely gets used?
  • Does the Steering Group have a facebook page? A twitter account? Your hashtag?
  • Have you made any videos explaining what the action plan is, why it matters?
  • Have you explained to anyone what the refresh is, and how they can be involved without a) attending a bunch of meetings in August or b) downloading a 32 page document and sending in an email.
  • Did you think to post the document as a scribd document, so people can read it without the hassle of downloading and opening as a pdf?
  • Did you think to post it as a series of blog posts, so people can leave comments, and – crucially – see what other comments have been made?
  • Did you think to get Richard Leese to blog about it on the Leader’s Blog? Did you think to get articles in the MEN, or a letter to the editor signed by the Steering Group? Or a story on the BBC (television, radio).
  • Did you think that you could use the fact that three significant environmental groups were having big meetings in the first week of December – FoE, AfSL, MERCi? Did you think to ask for a short slot in each meetings to make the pitch that people should respond? ( There were, for a fact, members of the Steering Group at the FoE and AfSL meetings. Do they have any obligation to help with these “consultations?”)

I think the answer to all of these questions – and others – is short, simple and irritating; “No.”

I could go on, but you are just dismissing this as more venom from Marc Hudson, and I really can’t be bothered; if you are that crushingly inept at communication, then there is no hope.

Right, onto the “substance.” (Or bits of it anyhow- refer to the previous paragraph. A fisking would be a waste of time.)

1.1 (Page 2)
“many agree that a 4 degree rise in global temperature may now be unavoidable – and that radical strategies for both emissions reduction and adaptation are
now more urgent than they were in 2009.”

Show me the credible scientist who thinks that we can adapt to a rise of 4 degrees global average above pre-Industrial levels. We can’t adapt.

(page 4)
“Alongside the strategy document a targeted Implementation Plan for 2012-2015 has also been produced”.
Really?? At the last meeting of the Environment Commission, before it was mercifully axed by Richard Leese, the GM Climate Strategy Implementation Plan was stuck in development hell. Or perhaps the clue is in the weasel adjective “targeted”? Has a bite-sized chunk of the overall strategy been taken and an “implementation plan” been bodged together at last?  Where is this “targeted Implementation plan”? Is there a hyperlink to it? Please consider this a FOIA request if there isn’t indeed a hyperlink.
[UPDATE 28/12/12 – According to the first meeting of the Low Carbon Hub (Dec 2012) the implementation plan is now ready and will be approved at the GMCA Exec Meeting on 25th January 2013. Seeing is believing.]

You don’t admit that you held no conference in 2011, because you simply couldn’t get around to organising one. You don’t admit that you failed to hold elections in 2012, as per your original terms of reference. You don’t admit your website is dead.

1.5 (page 5)
“While there are some signs of this rate slowing in Manchester and in the UK, this progress is not substantial. It is not yet proportionate to the scale of change required for us to play our part in averting potentially catastrophic levels of future climate change nor in preparing Manchester for the direct and indirect local impacts that a changed climate will have on our city in the decades beyond 2020.”

If I had kids, I would be panicking about now. And hanging my head in shame.

2.1 (page 6)
“Against this background, the process of growing low carbon opportunities and generating the momentum for change set out in the plan has not been straightforward. While there may not yet have been significant progress in delivering substantial reductions in Manchester’s emissions, the process of developing programmes, plans and strategies has begun to create a framework for action and there are early signs that ‘low carbon thinking’ is becoming more widespread and more embedded in the city’s culture.”

I think this means “we have done nowt, except write more reports like this one.”

2.3 Embedding ‘low carbon thinking’ in the lifestyles and operations of the city

Nowhere do you say how many organisations have actually endorsed the climate change action plan. And how many you aimed for. And how many groups that have endorsed the plan have gone ahead and written their own implementation plans.
And what you intend to do about it.
Why not? Could it be that the numbers are just crushingly embarrassing?

“The involvement of Government as a partner in delivery through the GM Low Carbon Hub, secured through GM’s City Deal, has created the opportunity for the national contributions to emissions reduction in the city to be captured in our plans.”
Ooh, Low Carbon Hub. That sounds exciting!! Didn’t there used to be a commission about Environmental matters? What was it called again? Best to pretend that it never existed, isn’t it, since in its three years it only ever produced more reports promising more action…

In no part of this draft consultation do you ask the obvious questions
What hasn’t gone well?
Why? (beyond whining about things beyond your control)
What. Are. You. Going. To. Do. DIFFERENTLY?
Why should people believe the next round of shiny promises??

3.5 Role of the Steering Group
“The MACF Steering Group was established in 2010, set up to represent the views of the city’s stakeholders, engage them to undertake their own climate change action, and to oversee and steer the plan’s delivery. This role has evolved over the last three years, much as the plan itself has. In tandem with the drafting of this Refresh, the Steering Group has undertaken a review of its role, to ensure that it can add most value to the plan’s delivery and continue to engage ever-wider groups of stakeholders to play their part.
From 2013 the Steering Group will be focussed on a refreshed headline aim; ‘to ensure that the climate change action plan for Manchester thrives’.
Fulfilling this challenging role, for a plan which contains such a breadth and depth of activity, will be achieved through a range of Steering Group activities.
Among them, one of the biggest developments since 2010 is the establishment of sub-groups for each of the five themes in the plan, enabling focus and momentum on each area to be maintained at all times. And allowing the Steering Group to maintain oversight of the whole, driving and communicating our collective progress to stakeholders across the city and beyond.”

Who do you think is paying attention to this guff? Who have you engaged? Who do you represent, how? That you can write “one of the biggest developments since 2010 is the establishment of sub-groups for each of the five themes in the plan” without any apparent sense of irony is perhaps the saddest thing I will read all year.

Section 4 (page 19)
“Thus our headline actions will be implemented so that they reflect other priorities in the city and respond to the pressures and opportunities presented by government initiatives and policy and the state of the national and global economy.”
Wiggle Room. That’s all that paragraph means. Wiggle Room.

Page 22
“The Universities, NHS Hospitals and the Council all have plans to reduce emissions from their estates – mostly in line with the MACF objective – by 2020. All will need to make significant progress against these targets by 2015.”
“mostly”. Well, that’s alright then, isn’t it? Extraordinary.

“The South Manchester Environment Forum will be helping to run and promote a number of schemes to engage local residents in climate change action.”

That would be the same SMEF whose funding runs out at the end of 2013? And seriously, SMEF is a lot better than it was, but the fact that it is one of only four “priorities for action” in South Manchester tells you everything you need to know about the city’s response to climate change.

The silences in your document are, of course, more revealing than the “content.”  You are basically silent on aviation. You are silent on the likelihood of disruptive events in the coming years, and the need for genuine community-level and led “resilience.”  You are silent on the need to increase the amount of food grown locally at mind-boggling speed. You are silent on the shameful silence of elected leaders and officials in promoting genuine dialogue and open-ness about the core challenge of the coming decades. You are silent on the failures of the process to date, choosing instead to blame national and international factors.  You are silent on the problem of growth. You are silent on everything that matters, and hopelessly verbose on everything that doesn’t.

Marc Hudson


About manchesterclimatemonthly

Was print format from 2012 to 13. Now web only. All things climate and resilience in (Greater) Manchester.
This entry was posted in Climate Change Action Plan, Democratic deficit and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to The #Manchester Climate Change Action Plan “refresh” insultation; MCFly’s contribution

  1. Dave Bishop says:

    I’ve lost all faith in “Action Plans” (That’s such an inadequate statement. It’s hard to adequately express my lack of faith!). If the ‘Climate Change Action Plan’ is anything like the ‘Biodiversity Action Plan’ then it expresses nothing more than a vague aspiration, i.e. in an ‘ideal world’ (a world in which we are neither in a phase of frantic economic growth nor in a recession) a healthy environment would be nice to have … possibly? Let’s face it, in the ‘real world’ – the world of (unsustainable) ‘economic growth, ‘development’ and mad, resource devouring greed – the environment has NO priority. I suspect that when the big eco-catastrophe hits us, in the near future, the powers-that-be are hoping to use paper ‘Action Plans’ as a fig leaves to protect themselves from the massive ‘kick-in-the-cods’ they richly deserve (look, we did our bit, we wrote an Action Plan)! But don’t worry lads – you can stop wasting our money on these worthless bits of paper – in the long run, it’s never people like you who suffer.

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