This Wednesday the Environmental Sustainability Subgroup of Manchester City Council meets -in public – at MERCi, in Ancoats. First item on the agenda is “leadership” and a workbook for climate-concerned councillors has been circulated. MCFly takes a bash at answering the questions in the first exercise…
a) What are the opportunities for showing leadership on climate action in your council area?
There are already “plans” in place in Manchester. The shortage is not of plans but of political will (attention, scrutiny, speaking out, credibility) to make those plans into reality.
Let’s remember; the goal was for 1,000 organisations to endorse the Manchester Climate Change Action Plan (2009). As of September 2013, about 220 have. Endorsing organisations were then supposed to create their own implementation plans – as of September 2013 two have – the City Council and Northwards Housing.
Let’s have a closer look at the City Council’s latest plan.
It claimed a 7% reduction in emissions, from a 2009/10 baseline (even though the Climate Change Action Plan gives 2005 as its baseline). But actually, as is admitted in the small print, this so-called reduction was due entirely to traffic lighting becoming TfGM’s responsibility. Actually, emissions were UP by 1.8%.
Has the Climate Change Action Plan been sent to Executive for approval yet? No. Every previous plan has, so why not this one?
Leadership you, as councillors, could show
- Insist that the Annual Carbon Reduction Plan 2013-4 plan goes to Executive – finally– in October, and that both members of the Consultative Panel and members of the public can ask searching questions of it.
- Make sure the process for the 2014-7 plan is open, iterative and honest
- commit to challenging the Executive members thoroughly and regularly on the Council’s climate change plans. e.g. Getting quarterly progress reports on the 2013-14 plan wouldn’t hurt.
- Make sure that all future City Council plans use the correct – 2005 – baseline
- Renew efforts to get more organisations endorsing the plan, and writing their own implementation plans.
- Climate change is going to affect ALL areas of life in Manchester City Council’s area, and therefore all scrutiny committees should be dealing with it as a regular item. This idea has been raised before, kicked into the long grass. It will not go away.
- Establish, in addition to the above, a permanent Environment and Climate Change Scrutiny Committee,
- Write about climate change and its local impacts on your local websites and blogs. If you do not have websites and blogs, start them.
- Challenge the next Executive Member for the Environment to communicate regularly and widely on these successes and failures that Manchester is experiencing with its climate change work. They could even have a regular column in the Manchester Evening News on Saturdays, where the “digital economy” is currently being addressed.
- Undertake an exercise in “backcasting” – imagining yourselves in October 2014, and how you want the Council and councillors to be operating. Then figure out what skills, knowledge and resources are needed to get there. Publish your results and make some firm commitments on which you can be judged.
These are just my ideas, and only some of them. (I circulated another list at the July Neighbourhoods Scrutiny Committee – most of these did not get properly discussed.)
But here’s the thing; I am only one person. There are thousands of people in Manchester who are passionate about this agenda, and thousands more who would be if they were properly involved.
Some guy recently said this in Brighton –
only if you reach out and listen can you do the most important thing a leader can do, the most important qualification in my view for being Prime Minister. Only then will you have the ability to walk in the shoes of others and know who to fight for, whoever your opponent, however powerful they are, guided by the only thing that matters: your sense of what is right. This is what I believe, this is where I stand, this is the leadership Britain needs.
(b) What ward-level priorities could council action to create low-carbon, climate-resilient communities help address?
Why is there nothing in ward plans about climate change?
Why is there nothing in ward plans about extreme weather events? What ward-level plans are there for how to cope with a summer 2003 style heatwave, that killed so many in Paris and elsewhere?
What about flooding?
What about using meanwhile land for food growing, instead of flogging it off for take-aways?
(c) What local organisations can you work with to help realise opportunities within your ward?
That’s at the ward level, and so I could only really speak – and not from an expert position – about Moss Side.
On the wider issue though – from past and recent experience, I can say there is a fair (and growing) amount of distrust and cynicism about the Council’s ability and willingness to listen and engage in partnership-working outside the charmed circle of people who keep getting the grants and so censor themselves when talking to councillors and officers. And even they will roll their eyes in private.
d) What obstacles to action are there? How can they be overcome?
Inertia, apathy and, above all, unwillingness to rock the boat. If you want preferment and advancement in this city, it doesn’t pay to ask awkward questions more than once.
The Tory-Lib Dem cuts have, I agree with Richard Leese, fallen disproportionately on Manchester. But they are a fact of life. We cannot use them as an excuse to not crack on with local action
There is, in fact, £14.5million for a so-called “Clean and Green Spaces” Initiative.
There are good reasons the Council should welcome a full public consultation on this, by the way.
Maybe some councillors might like to support the Wythenshawe Constituency Party’s motion to City Party on the evening of Thursday 3rd October?
(e) What questions should I ask of my council decision-makers to help achieve change?
What hasn’t gone well over the last 4 years?
Besides blaming the Tories, what explanations do you have for this?
How will it be different in the future? What will the Council do differently to help get a different result?
How are we going to engage and re-engage people who have wandered- or walked – away from the “green” agenda in recent years. How are we going to engage those who never did?
What kind of fiendishly difficult questions can we put to the new Steering Group chair when he appears in front of this sub-group? Do we have enough thumb-screws?
We are losing the game. We have to change the rules if we want to win.
Sept 30th 2013