Explanations of terms in the Open Letter to #Manchester City Council on #climate action

This came today –

Dear Marc,
It was good to meet you again last week.  First, I must say that your newsletters are always interesting and often useful.  Your work rate is amazing.  However, I often don’t have time to read them.

Consequently, I am not familiar with some of the terms that you use.  So I am copying your text below, with some highlighting of these terms, and have attached a list of definitions below that I would find useful.  Maybe I am not the only one who needs these definitions.

Sign the Open Letter advocating 9 actions

Climate change threatens the health and prosperity of Manchester’s citizens. The City Council’s Executive meets on Weds 12th February (10am, Manchester Town Hall), to endorse the Climate Plan 2014-17.
We call upon the Council to:
1) Ensure all 96 councillors are “carbon literate” by year’s end.
2) Double signatories of the Climate Plan to 400, with 40 having implementation plans, by year’s end.
3) Ensure the Plan’s second goal – the creation of a “low carbon culture” – appears in all climate communications, and work with interested parties to create robust metrics by year’s end.
4) Create an Environmental Scrutiny Committee of equal standing to the existing scrutiny committees, examining progress on climate, biodiversity and Green and Blue Infrastructure.
5) Produce quarterly progress reports for scrutiny committees, published prominently online.
6) Encourage the six existing scrutiny committees to investigate climate issues.
7) Ensure the 32 ward plans (and Strategic Regeneration Frameworks) include concrete actions with SMART goals around reducing carbon emissions and minimising risks due to floods, heat-waves etc.
8) Hold regular “Q&A” sessions with all Executive members on their climate and fuel/food poverty actions, and encourage them to follow the Leader in blogging regularly.
9) Fund the Stakeholder Steering Group, once its meetings are public, its membership elected, and Annual Stakeholder Conferences revived. We offer our help in achieving these goals
[sign by emailing mcmonthly@gmail.com ]

(1) Carbon literate: This term could be interpreted in many ways. MCFly: Indeed. What is meant by this is that all 96 councillors (and there will be some new ones after the May 22nd local elections, have undertaken both the half-day’s e-learning AND the workshop around climate issues. The Carbon Literacy Project is here. And you can find out more about the debacle that has been Carbon Literacy for Councillors (unpopular e-learning followed by cancelled-at-the-last-minute workshops) here. The good news is that the new Executive Member for the Environment wants to change this tragic trajectory.

(2) Climate Plan; Also, question whether it is up-to-date and realistic; and is it a plan that is under-pinned by scientific evidence? MCFly: Indeed again. The “Manchester Climate Change Action Plan”, also – for no good reason – known as “Manchester A Certain Future” was written, collaboratively, in 2009. Its headline goals were for a 41% carbon reduction so that Manchester  would be be “doing its bit” to keep to 2 degrees of warming and the creation of a low carbon culture (see below). Well, the Council – for reasons best known to itself – is using a 2009/10 baseline instead of the one promised in the Plan (2005 as baseline year).  But far more terrifying is the fact that the science has moved on, and so have the emissions.  Few credible climate scientists think we have much hope of keeping to the so-called ‘safe’ limit of 2 degrees above pre-Industrial levels.  Short version: we are heading for extremely interesting times. The 2014-7 Plan referenced above is the Council’s own internal “plan” about how it is claiming it is going to meet its commitments. Until July 2013 it was regularly proclaiming it would achieve 20% of its 41% reduction target by 2014, and playing funny buggers with the figures.  Now it admits that it will be lucky to achieve 13%. But don’t worry, everything’s under control…

(3) Low-carbon culture  MCFly:  Indeed!  Nobody has bothered to define this.  Goal Two of the Climate Change Action Plan states “To engage all individuals, neighbourhoods and organisations in Manchester in a process of cultural change that embeds ‘low carbon thinking’ into the lifestyles and operations of the city. To create a ‘low carbon culture’ we need to build a common understanding of the causes and implications of climate change, and to develop programmes of ‘carbon literacy’ and ‘carbon accounting’ so that new culture can become part of the daily lives of all individuals and organisations. Every one of the actions in our plan will contribute in some way to the development of ‘carbon literacy’ in the city. However, achieving a new low carbon culture – where thinking about counting carbon is embedded and routine – can only be delivered as a result of all the actions together, in an overall co-ordinated manner. Enabling a low carbon culture in the city will be particularly important if the challenge of meeting even more demanding carbon reduction targets between 2020 and 2050 is to be met.”

As they admit in their latest “State of the City” report, Manchester City Council has made no efforts to figure out how you’d measure that.  Which is why we’ve asked for an action around this.  If you want to read a recent interview with anthropologist Dr Hannah Knox answering just this question, among others, see here.

(4a) Progress on climate: Would this be political, social, technological or psychological? MCFly:  Bureaucracies are very very uncomfortable with anything that can’t be (easily) measured.  For me progress reports would look at (lack of) progress on a) the Council’s own efforts to reduce its own emissions and get its staff and elected members to undertake carbon literacy, b) progress towards these nine actions and c) progress of Manchester more generally towards climate sanity.

(4b) Green and Blue Infrastructure  MCFly:  This means parks, verges and trees(Green) and canals, waterways and lakes (Blue) spaces.  A strategic plan on this is constantly promised and never – as yet – delivered.  See here for the latest MCFly blog post on this.  It may go to Neighbourhoods in March, since Councillor Kevin Peel asked for it and the committee backed him. But don’t hold your breath.

(5) Quarterly progress reports: Would they compare actions or results with the Council’s plans or with needs defined by climate scientists?  MCFly:  I like your thinking, sir!  I had meant quarterly progress reports towards what I wrote in 4a) above.  Perhaps I was not ambitious enough!

(6) Investigate climate issues  MCFly: At present, climate change has been siloed – vigorously-  within Neighbourhoods, with a brief foray by Economy. This does not reflect the reality – that climate change will affect everything For instance; community cohesion (what if there is war between two countries which have large diaspora populations in Manchester. What if the 2011 recur with flooding/heatwaves as the “spark”, how do we finance adaptation, what impact is climate change going to have on our physical and mental health, what do young people know and think and want to do about climate change? The bold words are the names of the other 4 scrutiny committees.

(7) Concrete actions with SMART goals MCFly: The easiest thing is for some generic text to get cut and pasted into Ward Plans “take actions to reduce emissions and improve resilience.” – There, job done. So each ward’s vulnerabilities and opportunities are different. The cultural capital is different. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timeframed.

(8) Leader: Who is he or she? MCFly: Richard Leese has been a councillor (Crumpsall) since 1984. He has been Leader of the Council since 1996. He blogs (well, not recently) here. He is a highly-skilled politician, seemingly tireless, and absolutely wedded to economic growth.


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 #mcrclimateplan, Climate Change Action Plan, Manchester City Council. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Explanations of terms in the Open Letter to #Manchester City Council on #climate action

  1. joskin69 says:

    Marc, I admire your tireless commitment to educating people, even reading this in this way helped me (as a person who reads all of MCM articles) to see the obvious lack of leadership/action/care by what seems to be an illiterate city council.
    Please, please keep spelling it out, maybe they will get it and hopefully it won’t be too late.
    The Climate Clock is ticking folks, we are already late.

    • Thanks Jo,

      I am far too text-based to be properly effective. I have started doing “fun fact” icons, and will put these up soon. But need to be doing more videos etc, and teaching more people how to do them too (hopefully they will then swiftly over-take me in terms of skill!). Once the Moss Side Community Allotment Hub is finished, we can be doing skill swaps in there…
      All best wishes


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