That “Stakeholder” “Conference” – another attendee’s report #Manchester #climate #acertainfuture

MCFly reporter Laurence Menhinick attended the recent “conference”, and has this to say. See here for the first account we published)

Here is a quick roundup using the new five themes from the NESS1 themes:

Some changes:
First, it was much shorter [than previous years], but timekeeping was erratic (the second workshop suffered in that respect), and there were fewer opportunities to mingle and meet or indeed ask questions…

Second, I was actually pleased to sit at round tables for the workshops– no repeat of last years’ large groups scattered in corners and talking over each other’s noise, thank goodness.

Now, there were also significant shift to this conference: not only with the decision by the Steering Group to adapt the 5 themes from the Greater Manchester Climate Change Strategy, but also to broaden our perspective by opening up to “The Northern Way”. Hmm, delegates were Mancunian stakeholders, here for a Mancunian effort and solutions, but this is not just about Manchester any more but also Liverpool and Leeds and their own visions and plans.

Some presentations:

*The slides from the presentations, together with transcript have already been uploaded here by the Chairman- I must admit this is very efficient! *

– Chairman Steve Connor and Sir Richard Leese (slides 1-65) introduced in turn the Refresh updated document and all good things Manchester (the MACF stakeholder approach, the Green Deal, the GMCA, the City Deal, the Low Carbon Hub Board, the GMCCS, the Carbon Literacy Project)

– Mark Knowles, Head of Low Carbon Economy Liverpool City Region, Local Enterprise Partnership, (slides 66 – 84) who introduced an impressive renewable energy emphasis in his area, including 4.2GW capacity offshore wind energy hub in the Irish sea, complete with skills development and job opportunities. Obviously Liverpool have found their niche as he also mentioned the untapped tidal and wave energy potential and potential hydrogen economy Runcorn could even play a part in.

– Melanie Taylor, Green Economy Lead, Leeds City Region (slides 84-end) on her region’s sustainable approach. This presentation was dealing with the challenges relating to such a widely spread out area with a 40% emission reduction target by 2020- she introduced the green economy agenda supporting retrofitting and low carbon agenda as well as the adaptation opportunities Leeds can develop. (see the Green Infrastructure Strategy for info)

Some news:

– The plan has been updated using the five GMCCS themes mentioned earlier: transport, green and blue infrastructure, sustainable consumption and production, buildings and energy with TCF ( total carbon footprint) interim targets set.

– On the Environment Agency’s Carbon Reduction Commitment performance league table, ranking Energy Efficiency Schemes in the UK, MCC has come #1 public sector organisation and 4th overall based on 2097 participants. (when the Department of Energy and Climate Change is in 153rd place…)

Some workshops:

The workshops themes were the same as above, and we were asked to answer a specific set of questions:

What are group members currently doing in this area?

What do they feel inspired to do in addition?

What barriers need to be overcome to achieve this?

A consideration of the resources available.

Followed a hands-on creative session ( read play dough, glue, pompons, pipe cleaners and feathers art set here) to demonstrate how overcoming barriers will be achieved.

“Buildings”, were I was, was full of really interesting people, we had a great presentation by Steve from Northwards Housing followed by interesting comments but overall we all knew the same barriers and struggled to find a vision beyond networking… Interestingly the second buildings workshop came up with a very similar same play dough model as we did. Coincidence? I wonder. Short of plagiarism, I am starting to wonder if our answers were not stirred in the same direction…

“Green and blue” was rushed as something along the way had taken too long; again good attendees (you must admit there were some really interesting people there) but discussions still inconclusive. At least we did create our artwork, which will be appearing in a gallery near you I’m sure.

Some… things missing:

– People disappeared between the first and second workshop session, there were a lot of empty chairs at each table (ours had 5/12 empty)

– Overall discussions of the whole group were missing2: we could have debated solutions to reach isolated communities, issues surrounding the airport and air transport emissions, re-localisation of the economy, even the actual process of the MACF. No Q&A session either.

– “The man on the 42 bus” ie the public, community groups (faith groups, health providers, citizen associations), students, manufacturers, bankers… or well known local environmental bloggers 3

Finally as I reflect on the day and write this summary, I am suddenly stricken with the vision of having to explain the relevance of our peculiar childish displays to islanders in the Maldives or other drought stricken poor souls facing the full force of climate change as I speak- trying to convey how on that day, that was how I made plans and discussed how to tackle the biggest threat to mankind with pipe cleaners.

Life’s most persistent and urgent question then4

Laurence Menhinick


1 New Events Summary Strategy
2 I left 8 minutes early so maybe all of this happened in the last 8 minutes.
3 Although I can’t check who was present as I didn’t seem to get the list of attendees in my plan pack, maybe others did?

4“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?” Martin Luther King Jr.


About manchesterclimatemonthly

Was print format from 2012 to 13. Now web only. All things climate and resilience in (Greater) Manchester.
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3 Responses to That “Stakeholder” “Conference” – another attendee’s report #Manchester #climate #acertainfuture

  1. smalltownguy says:

    Interesting that Laurence found the event more positive than previous reporter David Mottram…
    Although playtime round the tables does sound too awful to contemplate, information sharing from regional neighbours Liverpool and Leeds seems a useful step.
    There’s an existing structure in AGMA ( Association of Greater Manchester Authorities) and climate related discussion does take place in committees but there’s no public engagement.
    A major challenge then is to get the other Greater Manchester councils up to speed and acting in concert.
    Small groups outside MCC have little success in pushing the agenda, especially now with the ‘cuts’
    How about MC monthly and say Manchester Friends of the Earth at least starting a conversation about this with a view to creating a critical mass ?

  2. Did Mark Knowles say anything about the wind turbines along the dock front and the Silent Revolution wind turbines, further up the Mersey. I know AFC Energy: has a hydrogen cell unit at the Chlor Alkali plant in Runcorn. The electricity produced will be used on site, so I do not know how this would serve Merseysides hydrogen economy. At least Merseyside has done a lot more on renewable power than Manchester.
    Disclaimer: I have shares in AFC Energy and an Australian company

  3. Martyn Cowsill says:

    As something of an outsider, and having first been invited to attend the “refresh meetings” last summer, I wonder whether a fresh pair of eyes is worth anything? If they’re not, then don’t read on, but if anyone would like the view from the SME installer side of renewable energy and energy-efficiency technologies (insulation, building fabric measures, plus the usual PV bling) who comes to MACF as a novice of its history, then I’d say this: Last summer, at the first meeting I attended, the comments and facial expressions I received from those around the table when I said “I don’t know anyone in the industry in GM who has heard of MACF” were a signal that all was not well. The reaction was generally “But! everyone’s heard of MACF!” … er… No. Secondly, I was stunned to hear that this was in fact the third year and that this whole wave of “refresh” meetings was simply to update a plan that had been put in place some years previously, but which had acheived …. er .. what exactly? The discussions around the tables were punctuated by the faciliatator asking for any evidence at all of any activity, however tangential, that might be attributed to the efforts of MACF. It was clear that nothing could actually be attributed to MACF. So I asked why. The answer I was given by one of the people organising the event: “We forgot to asign responsibilities after the first plan was put together, so nothing has actually been achieved.” Now, she might have got that wrong. Her view might have been poisoned by some personal experience, but since that first couple of meetings last summer I have tried to find evidence of real results that can be attributed to MACF. I haven’t given up searching yet, but other things have happened that make me wonder
    The steering group asked last autumn for nominations to head up sub-groups. Telephone interviews were held, emails apologising for the delays were sent out and then ….. nothing.
    Whether one agrees with the style of this most recent “workshop” with the plasticene, and the expensively produced brochures etc. is open to debate and taste, but the more important questions are about its content. Why is it, I ask myself, that in the 4th year of MACF, the facilitators at the tables are asking us what we think should be done. I thought the idea of planning was to pave the way for action rather than more planning. None of the “objectives” that I have seen in the first plan for MACF nor in the refresh, are SMART. They are all aspirational, of course. Nothing wrong with aspirations, but shouldn’t we by now be arriving at Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timed objectives? Shouldn’t we be able to point to a level of success, or is this all about telling ourselves that we are doing a great job of it?
    This may not be important to most people. Most people are more patient than me, but it is important to me and to others in the industry. Why? Because from the industry’s side of the fence we’re getting a bit fed up of the prowess shown by the “powers that be” in planning and strategising. Three years ago, there was a lot of noise made about Manchester being named as the first “Low Carbon Economic Area for the Built Environment”. Flags out, trumpets blown, back patted. Meanwhile Bristol, Leeds and London were busy doing it. Now the LCEA has been superceded by the “Low Carbon Hub”, so presumably we will now need to set about another three years of strategising and planning. Yes, the landscape has changed, but it will change again in another three years, so the value of the plan that is being re-written, is … exactly what if it is never put into action? I can’t fault the planning and the strategising and the formulation of policy. Ten out of Ten for that. But what exactly have we done compared to ReFIT? I’m not determined to have a go at the MACF forum, but I really don’t see what the benefit is. Help me to explain to the industry that this is not a giant waste of public money. Tell me, please, that I have misunderstood and that there really is some tangible result to point to.

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