Third time lucky? Unlikely! The farce of the Manchester Climate Change “Agency” staggers on…

The Manchester Climate Change “Agency” has a useless website (check out its events page) with the address manchesterclimate.com

It should, of course, be manchesterclimate.con

It was set up, as a Community Interest Company in 2015, after the so-called “Manchester Climate Change Stakeholder Steering Group” had failed to steer anything anywhere, had failed to hold elections and then denied these had ever been promised, had unilaterally abolished its annual climate “conference”, had refused to hold meetings in public (not even elected councillors could attend!), held meetings with two present and eight apologies, had been unable to even publish minutes of its meeting, or fill the “energy portfolio” vacancy… we could go on.

The beauty of a Community Interest Company is two-fold. One, it is immune from Freedom of Information Act requests. Two, it can be as shady as it likes about governance. And the “Agency” likes it very very shady when it comes to governance, success metrics etc.

It is (almost) entirely funded by Manchester City Council (it has received bits and pieces of other funding, here and there). It is an arms length stab vest, where the Council can deflect questions, which then cannot be answered (no FOIAs).

So far, so predictable. That’s how this shit works, as you figure out within a few months of observing the Manchester mafia at work (promotion purely by loyalty and sycophancy – talent can fuck right off because talented people tend to be too independently-minded, and also want to see results rather than boosterism).

Academics invent words that mean industrial disease, but also post-politics, depoliticisation. Ranciere this, Badiou that. So it goes.

But there’s trouble in Paradise. The boosterism is bumping up against inconvenient reality. In 2018, almost ten years after the late and unlamented Steering Group was supposed to create a “low carbon culture” and reduce the city’s emissions by 41%, a new wheeze was invented. The new target would be “zero carbon by 2038, and look, here’s a shiny carbon budget to go along with it. We asked some tame scientists to lend us their cred and the credulous needy saps did!

Last July the “Agency” tried to bury the bad news as deep as they could. In the first two years of the budget, the city had burnt through 26% of its budget for the entire twenty-first century.

Ooops.

The Council advertised for a Director (at last) for its Climate Change “Agency.”

Failed to appoint, failed to tell anyone, until a Really Fucking Irritating (RFI) activist asked.

Later in 2020 they readvertised. Extended the deadline at least once.

In early 2021, RFI (i.e. me) asked again. ” Someone’s been offered the gig. Announcement soon” came the reply.

Ooops. The person turned it down (details unclear). We only know this because RFI asked.

And here we go again: like a dog returning to its vomit, eating it, vomiting it and eating it AGAIN…

They’ve readvertised it AGAIN.

No more money than before.

Previous applicants need not apply.

Despite having failed twice before to recruit, the job advert is open for… 4 weeks.

Why the haste in readvertising without re-jigging? Why the short deadline?

RFI (again, me) would hazard three guesses.

a) they don’t want the lack of a Director (after almost 18 months) on the table as an election issue in key wards – Ancoats and Beswick Deansgate, Piccadilly etc. The margins might be very very tight there.

b) they would really like someone in place, or at least appointed, by the time the two year anniversary of the Climate Emergency Declaration rolls around, since there is bullshit to be spun, and ugly truths to be deflected, minimised (would anyone bet against a third of the carbon budget for the 21st century having been blown in three years?)

c) worst case scenarios, they’d like someone’s feet under the desk well in advance of the COP26 fiasco, which is clearly on their PR radar (their self-regard, self-delusion never fails to impress. Sorry, depress.

But srsly, what idiot would take this job, when there is clearly

a) no appetite for change

b) the Council’s actual credibility (distinct from various Councillors’ imaginings) is in the toilet with that sector of the population that gives an actual active damn about the issues

c) there are serious ructions at the top (Strategic Lead for Growth and Development gone in less than a year, an Exec Member not continuing in her role, a denial-nobody-believes about the CEO?).

Will they appoint the nearest warm body and hope for the best? Will they extend the deadline, and extend it again, as they did in the past? Will they give up on the idea of a Director altogether?

Who knows. But all the indications are they won’t find the talent they are looking for/need, and that they will prevaricate, spin and evade while there is any breathe in their feeble bodies.

Manchester is saddled with a climate bureaucracy that has had ten long long years to show what it can actually achieve.

It has done that.

That bureaucracy has – barring some glossing booklets of dubious-to-nil aesthetic merit, and keeping itself in mutually-generated applause – achieved nothing.

While the species has burnt carbon, the Council has burnt credibility and goodwill.

We’ve been playing, at a global level, a game of chicken between our predilection for extractivism/using the atmosphere as a sewer and real-world consequences.

In Manchester, the chickens (yes, it’s a mixed image, so sue me) the chickens, well, they’re coming home to roost.

About manchesterclimatemonthly

Was print format from 2012 to 13. Now web only. All things climate and resilience in (Greater) Manchester.
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