For #climate action #Manchester needs more ‘tories

Signatories. On the Climate Change Action Plan.
MCFly editor Marc Hudson* recounts a sorry tale of missed targets, responsibility-shifting and “is it worth it”-ness. And asks the non-rhetorical question – is there any point whatsoever to the Stakeholder Steering Group?

In 2009 (ahead of the climate change conference in Copenhagen), Manchester came up with a Climate Plan. And unlike many other such documents, this wasn’t concocted in the bowels of the Town Hall by policy-monkeys who’d been chained to desks and were fed biscuits in exchange for paragraphs of jargon.
No, this was as genuinely a collaborative and interactive piece of work as you are ever likely to see in this city (or many others).
The headline goals were a 41% reduction of the City’s carbon emissions by 2020 (not just the Council’s emissions!) and engaging everyone in the creation of a “low carbon culture”.

The plan was to get 1000 organisations to sign up to the plan and then make their own implementation plans.

In the first few months, 220ish did indeed sign up. And only two of those ever produced implementation plans.

Then the wheels fell off. (We won’t go into that, since we don’t have a time machine.)

In January 2014 an Open Letter was created and sent to the new Executive Member for the Environment, Councillor Kate Chappell. One of the nine actions that it advocated was that there be a clear-out of the 220 (since some no longer exist) and that a new campaign be launched to get 400 signatories (tories, geddit?) by the end of 2014, with 40 of these having implementation plans.
These numbers were picked to be challenging but doable.

Councillor Chappell replied to the open letter, writing

This action would sit with Manchester- A Certain Future [i.e the Steering Group]. I understand from the most recent meeting of the Steering Group that signing up to the Climate Change Action Planw as an activity that took place at the launch of the Plan, but has not been available as an option since.

So, with dread, we wrote to the Steering Group

“for an on the record statement about item two – commit to doubling the number of signatories to 400 by the end of 2014, with at least 40 organisations having completed implementation plans.
The Council has thrown that over to MACF.
Does MACF accept that it has responsibility?
If so, will it accept these above as its target?
If not, why not?
And if it DOES accept, who (a named individual) will be responsible for leading on this?

and we got (in part) this from the chair, Gavin Elliott.

… Based on these discussions [with colleagues] my understanding is:

·         As you rightly say the original M:ACF Plan drafted in 2009 contained a statement targeting 1000 signatories to the plan
·         Circa 250 organisations did ‘sign up’ initially
·         Thereafter very few organisations have ‘signed up’ not least because it required them to ‘put in place an implementation plan’ which not all of them felt able to do, and hence the number of new signatories diminished.
·         Furthermore, as time has elapsed, the idea of becoming a signatory to the 2009 plan has begun to seem less relevant, and largely ‘historic’

No one seems to recognise the ‘400’ figure which you mention to Kate. I suppose, strictly speaking, the target is still 1000, although self-evidently we are way off this. As you know from our conversations, we’re (I’m) presently engaged in a process of trying to transform M:ACF to address some of the criticisms that have been made of us, not least by MCM. In all these discussions, about a whole range of issues, the 1000 signatories ‘issue’ has never been discussed, as our priorities have been elsewhere, but that’s not to say it couldn’t / shouldn’t be a future Agenda item.

So; the Council uses the Steering Group as a stabvest and the Steering Group points to its lack of money and authority. It’s 2012 all over again. Everyone says “someone else’s job, matey.” And – scarier – they say “is this actually worth doing?”

On that “worth doing” thing. Well, to quote my reply to Kate Chappell;

“You ask for my opinion about whether to reinstate the concept of signatories. I personally don’t see any other option. Either we are trying to get the two headline goals endorsed and enacted by individuals and organisations across the city or we are not. The response given in the past by council officers has been to mumble something about the Environmental Business Pledge. Well, what if you aren’t a business?!”

One of MCFly’s suggestions around this item was that the City Council basically insisting that groups participating in things like Pat Karney’s “Manchester Day Parade” have to endorse the Climate Change Action Plan in order to take part, and commit to producing an implementation plan within twelve months of endorsing. Gavin Elliott wrote

speaking personally, I quite like your idea of making certain actions related to demonstrating a commitment to carbon reduction a pre-condition of membership of the ‘Manchester Family’. However neither I nor M:ACF have the power to do this. All we can really do is to use our role to try to persuade the policy-makers that this is something they should consider – just in the same way that  you have done – and in the meantime try to get on with some of the more tangible things we are trying to do..

In the 2010-2020 plan there is a lot of talk about the Council’s role as a leader. They even occasionally used the r word – “regulator.”

But not any more, it seems.

MCFly says: If the Steering Group isn’t willing or able to get signatories, or even signaliberaldemocrats, then what is the point of it? To stage more hopelessly small and inward-looking networking events? To pretend that activity that is happening anyway is in some way related to the existence of MACF? To be a club for the greeniscenti, or the 100 months club that never took off?

A while back, at one of the Steering Group meetings held behind closed doors (they all are), one member asked “when are we going to stop talking and start doing something?” It’s a good question. She didn’t, we’re told, come back to any more meetings to find out if there was an answer. But she – and everyone else – has that answer now, it seems.


* MCFly is edited by Marc Hudson (former co-editor Arwa Aburawa has been demoted to working for Al-Jazeera). Marc Hudson is NOT a member of the Green Party. Or the Lib Dems. Or Labour. Or the Tories. Or the People’s Front of Judea. Never has been a member of any party.  i.e. not a party animal.


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, Manchester City Council, Steering Group. Bookmark the permalink.

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