Here’s the short version. A politician who proclaims he cares about the engagement of Manchester’s population in tackling climate change had over 30 young, bright, concerned and enthused citizens for an hour. And he talked at them and basically treated them as ego-fodder. He brought nothing that would explain what he was doing, and collected no information from them. So far, so very very normal. It’s just how (Greater) Manchester operates, has operated, will operate. Until the (quite imminent) apocalypse. …. And tonight, the activists, no doubt, will do something quite similar. Meanwhile – 25th March 2019 for the next round of ‘Mayor’s Green Summit’ nonsense.
Today at University of Manchester Councillor Alex Ganotis, who is boss of Stockport Council and also Andy Burnham’s person on the “Greater Manchester Green Summit” gave a talk, at the invitation of the Student “Energy and Environment Society…” There were 34 normal people there, and me (almost 30 years older than the average age), sat in a tiered lecture theatre watching a glossy powerpoint production full of colourful flowcharts and organograms (this, after all, is the chief output of the ‘Low Carbon Hub’ these last 10 years or so, and the ‘Environment Commission before it’.)
Ganotis spoke at quite a clip, covering the existence of the Green Summit (21st March 2018), the current work programme and “how you can get involved.”
It was all exactly as you would expect, and somebody really ought to do a bingo card – Carbon neutral, Environmental vision, Position city as global leader for smart energy innovation – “if you only take away one point – climate change and environmental agenda is as much about our future economic well-being as it is about avoiding flooding and extreme weather conditions…. ”. Increasing insulation will raise people’ incomes (no mention of them then and spending more on flights…)
I sat at the back, because then you can a) get out early if you want to b) see how many people are checking their facebook etc. And a couple were of course, so didn’t get the full benefit of the usual technocratic stuff, with impressive sounding numbers (pilot projects mostly), jargon, work programs, SCATTER graphs, The Natural Capital Agenda, “innovative delivery and finance” [The same dreadful thinking that got us in this mess] Scale up, accelerate energy efficiency Spatial Framework.
There was a time when I would have dutifully written all this down, reported it, asked you to take it seriously. But these words ARE the action, and there will be a new set of words and wordsmiths along (with new powerpoints) in a few years time… The wheel keeps on turning, as the window of possibility shuts… In the meantime, we have people still gamely talking about ‘growth’ and ‘opportunity’. Because, you know, growth is so compatible with the young people in the audience having any sort of old age. Oh yes.
After just over forty minutes of smacking us over the head with statistics and numbers, Ganotis concluded, leaving a few minutes for a q and a. Drinking from a plastic water bottle, Ganotis answered them.
I started (of course)
“You said the Green Summit “started the debate”. Actually, Manchester’s leaders have been promising climate action since the 1993 ‘Global Forum’. You had 2000 responses to the Summit survey. That sounds impressive, until you realise that the population of Greater Manchester is what, 3 million?
My question is this – is the ‘carbon neutrality’ you talk about by 2038 based on the same mentality that Manchester Airport has, because the Airport claims to be ‘carbon neutral’… Is your carbon neutrality going to be merely on production-based metrics, or the far more challenging – and meaningful – consumption-based metrics?”
Ganotis conceded that yes indeed, there had been previous efforts. Basically he said (I paraphrase) ‘trust me – this time it’s different’. Readers can judge for themselves… There was the usual tactic about when it is pointed out that we are trapped in a pitiful policy paralysis – “I’m here talking about the future.” Ganotis then conceded that the plan he laid out for ‘carbon neutrality ‘”does not include emissions from aircraft….” (He hadn’t mentioned that in his forty minutes. No time perhaps) But it’s okay everyone, “Our plan will be revised every five years.” And anyway “The market for air travel highly competitive… [if Manchester Airport took action] they’ll go to Liverpool” (the drug dealers’ defence)
As for whether the carbon neutrality was production or consumption based- well, he claimed that “Tyndall is leading on this…” (surely though, if the politicians asked for a consumption based approach the scientists would deliver. Seems a bit hiding-behind-the-science. Is Tyndall happy being a stabvest?!)
There were two more questions
Is the 2038 target being revised light of IPCC report about 1.5 degrees?
“We need to have a conversation about that” “Bringing it forward will be an incredible challenge”.
How will normal people find out about it?
“Currently discussing how to promote/inc engagement for next green summit….”
(I spoke to the person who asked this afterwards, who didn’t feel the question had been answered). Also, it’s now mid-October. Unless your ‘engagement’ plan for the next Summit starts in early November, it will get caught up in Christmas, then the January slump, and suddenly it will be February – all you will end up with is the usual suspects.
For, gentle reader, there will be another Green Summit (leaders gotta get their ego fodder), on 25th March 2019, at the Lowry, with capacity for 1,500 people (maybe the MCFly editor will get a ticket this time?! Maybe there will be some explicit criteria). It will “officially set out target policies and a five year plan…”
You have to have a little compassion for these technocrats. Trained in the arts of mission statements, PR, work programmes, powerpoint, they are coming up against a super-wicked problem far in excess of their capacities. As with the activists, they’re scared, and retreating into stock responses (either info dumps or moral exhortation). Nobody knows how to get a fundamental societal transformation going (though some of us are at least thinking about it).
But also this – there were a ton of things Ganotis COULD have done to engage with the students, rather than talk at them.
- He could have talked for less time (40 minutes of powerpoint is not conducive to, you know, engaging)
- He could have asked questions of the students
- He could have collected their emails (at the very least for the Summit mailing list)
- He could have asked them to write to him with ideas
- He could have provided some basic written material for people to take away, about the last summit and the next one.
Finally- has anyone who was on the Summit mailing list, who either got to go or didn’t, heard ANYTHING from the organisers since then? I have not had a SINGLE email from them. Is it that I am a special case, or is it that they just haven’t bothered to keep in touch with anyone?