In a bold move, Council leader Richard Leese and Executive Member for the Environment Kate Chappell are publicly announcing this morning that they have “CLAP”. But don’t worry, it’s not what it sounds like. Instead, today, the two prominent Council figures will today unveil the Council’s new “Carbon Literacy Action Plan”.
The ambitious plan sets a target to have all 96 councillors ‘carbon literate’ by the end of 2016, with an additional bold goal of having 100,000 of Manchester citizens trained up. Although far short of the original goal of all 1,000,000 people who live work or study in Manchester receiving carbon literacy training by the end of 2013, both Leese and Chappell are at pains to call it an encouraging start.
Speaking exclusively to Manchester Climate Monthly, Richard Leese said. “As I said when the last Liberal Democrats councillors were kicked out of the Town Hall by the voters of Manchester, ‘we have to ensure we hold ourselves to account within this chamber and we also need to ensure that citizens – and people that have voted for us – are able to hold us to account on an ongoing basis.’
“And, to be honest, carbon literacy training has fallen off the to do list. Although I launched it back in 2012 or so, between the trip to Shanghai and preparing my run for the GM Mayor, it fell through the cracks. But I’ll lead by example now.”
Sir Richard conceded that his response to questioning on carbon literacy at the recent launch of the latest ‘Community Strategy’ had been less than precise, and had in fact been an impetus for ‘CLAP’. “I’m grateful to Manchester Climate Monthly for keeping this issue on the agenda – it’s the sort of engaged and non-sycophantic citizen action that Manchester Labour party welcomes, and in fact cultivates.”
Councillor Kate Chappell, the Executive Member for the Environment echoed her Leader’s comments, and added. “I’ll soon be putting up a post on my blog detailing the tough but achievable schedule for the coming months. We’ve given £13k to MMU to help us with this again. This time there is a contract though.“
“Carbon-literate councillors will be leading on this issue in their own wards. They’ll be making sure that ward plans include not just adaptation and disaster-management plans, but also opportunities for people to learn more about climate change locally, in their community centres, mosques and churches. We’re even in talks with the ‘Antwerp Mansions’ venue – which I’ve personally supported for years – about “Carbon Literacy Inspired Music – Awesome Team Event”, (CLIMATE) which we think will show young people how cool and ‘with it’ the Council is.”
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a senior council official conceded the acronym for the scheme was unfortunate. “We spent £5k from the ‘Clean City Fund’ on some branding consultancy advice. It came down to ‘CLAP’ or ‘Carbon Literacy Information Taskforce.’ And we felt that many of the male councillors wouldn’t be able to find it, and if they did somehow stumble across it they wouldn’t know what to do. Or wouldn’t care.”
Other climate-concerned bodies are less impressed. Gavin Elliott, with the “Manchester A Certain Future” Community Interest Company told MCFly. “It’s good that the Town Hall is finally acting, but we’ve been setting them a good example for a long time now on carbon literacy“
Friends of the Earth told MCFly. “The plans are probably quite good, but would have been strengthened if there were more extensive community consultation – something at which the Council excels.”
A backbench councillor, up for re-election and therefore unwilling to be named on the record, told MCFly “Carbon Literacy? The course could be passed by a monkey repeatedly slamming his fists on the keyboard during the multiple choice tests. That monkey could then go on to high office in the North or East of the city. Possibly Central too in some seats. Definitely Wythenshawe as well…”
New Green Party co-leader Matt Schreibke [interviewed here] dismissed this scheme as just more cynical and fear-driven greenwash from Labour. “They’ve obviously looked at the polling and realised that they’re vulnerable in marginal wards like Whalley Range, Cheetham and Bradford. Perhaps even Ancoats & Clayton. By this time next year – April 1st 2017 – what with our showing in May and possible by-election victories, we will have a strong presence on Manchester City Council, alongside the resurgent Liberal Democrats. Then, and only then, we will be able to engage in forensic scrutiny of the council’s dismal record.”