Questions to Environmental Sustainability Subgroup

Dear Kate and Eleanor,

sadly I cannot be at the meeting today.

I submit these questions and observations about the first two documents that are being discussed.

I do hope you are able to supply paper copies to the committee members (I will email some of them, but they are unlikely to see them in time).

I am especially interested in the progress report and paragraph 2.5. My questions –

Who is the “external expertise” that has been appointed?
Was there a tender process?
What, specifically, are their roles and responsibilities?
How long is their contract?
What is their remuneration?
Why is this information not contained in the report?

Climate Change Progress Report

1.1 The commitments made were not just around carbon reduction and “leadership and influence”, they were around the creation of a low carbon culture. It would be useful if the entire text of the two goals of the MACF document were reprinted every time we have these documents, otherwise they have a tendency to “slip.”

That second goal – “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.”

1.2 There is a claim that the early plans are designed to “build strong early momentum”. Well, what of the 2012-3 performance, where emissions, by the Council’s own admission, went UP? I see no evidence that the Council is willing to learn from that failure.

1.3 There was an agreement at July Neighbourhoods for a 3 year plan. There was no agreement that it would go to Executive in February, nor that it would go there without first going to Scrutiny! To quote the minutes –
“From next year a new three-year action planning process would be put in place to enable programmes of work to be developed and delivered that would enable the Council to meet its 2020 targets.”

2.1 The plan does indeed talk about the council direct, indirect and citywide emissions. It does NOT talk about goal two (see above). Where is the delivery plan for goal two? If we are to be told these actions are folded in, that is simply not good enough

2.5 Who is the “external expertise” that has been appointed?
Was there a tender process?
What, specifically, are their roles and responsibilities?
How long is their contract?
What is their remuneration?
Why is this information not contained in the report?

2.11 The MACF promised a Total Carbon Footprint. It is just sad and embarrassing and demoralising to see that that promise is reduced to a single paragraph full of gibberish.

2.12 It would be good to see some proof of these claims having “been successful”. And even some reporting, on a quarterly basis.

3.1 Why is the completed plan not going to (multiple) scrutiny committees before being presented to the Executive? Who made this decision? What on earth is their rationale?

Generally – in 2012-3 the Council’s emissions went UP. There seems to be no acknowledgement of this. And therefore problems that are not acknowledged will be repeated.

Council Decision Making and Environmental Sustainability

2.3 “The process of action planning, led by individual services, with input and support from Environmental Strategy, was successful in starting to build the embedded capacity and knowledge required to ensure that, over time, environmental sustainability would become an integral part of Council decision making.”
Well, if the Council has the embedded capacity and knowledge, how come it is having to hire external consultants? (see 2.5 in report above)

2.9 “The Council’s framework of Overview and Scrutiny Committees (OSC) provides the mechanism for public review and discussion of the city’s priorities and progress towards their delivery.”
So why isn’t the 3 year plan going to Scrutiny before Executive?!

Members of the Neighbourhoods Scrutiny Committee in July 2013 voiced interest in having quarterly progress reports. It was agreed that the Exec Member for the Environment would look into this. What has happened about that?

It has also been suggested, by campaigners, that ALL scrutiny committees look at the implications of climate change for their areas (community cohesion, mental health etc). This would help embed climate literacy in councillors’ expertise.

2.13/4 Re the “Capital Gateway” – Has any project/development been turned down because of its carbon impact?

2.27 “This ongoing process has provided the opportunity for citywide environmental strategies and programmes to be embedded and translated into locally tailored policies and projects.”
So, can someone point to which ward plans contain specific and “locally tailored” climate goals ?

3.2 “Reports are also taken to other groups within the authority as required, including the Chief Executive’s Strategic Management Team, Overview and Scrutiny Committees, and the Executive Committee.”
Well, the Annual Carbon ‘Reduction’ Plan 2013/4 never got sent to Executive, did it? Why not?

If climate action in Manchester were working

  • we’d have tens (hundreds) of thousands of people “carbon literate” by now
  • there would be a thousand organisations having endorsed the MACF, with implementation plans of their own
  • all 96 councillors would have done carbon literacy training
  • all 32 ward plans would have climate elements
  • the Manchester Evening News would be running columns about the climate plan and its results, rather than endless boosterism for the ‘digital economy.’
  • the Council would have actually reduced its emissions last year, instead of seeing them go up
  • the Council wouldn’t be needing to hire external expertise

And much, much else.

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