This Friday, 10 July 2020, marks the first anniversary of Manchester Labour in the city council declaring a climate emergency.
Manchester Labour recognised the urgency of the challenge of tackling climate change and the need for Manchester to play its full part. It had already committed that Manchester would become zero carbon by 2038 or earlier – at least 12 years ahead of the national target.
Since 2009/10, the Council has already reduced its annual direct carbon emissions by 53.8%.
And in March this year it agreed a landmark Climate Change Action Plan 2020-25 setting out an ambitious target to halve those emissions again in the space of just five years – from around 32,000 tonnes a year to around 16,000 tonnes a year.
In tandem with this, the 60 organisations making up Manchester Climate Change Partnership – the multi-partner organisation driving forward citywide action – brought forward individual action plans detailing how they would contribute to the city’s overall target.
Significant action has already been taken by the Council. Activities are taking place on many fronts, including ensuring that environmental considerations are embedded in all policies, but highlights include:
Action to build Civic Quarter Heat Network
This shared heating system connecting major buildings including the Town Hall, Town Hall Extension, Central Library, Manchester Central Convention Complex and Heron House is taking shape – with its most visible feature being the striking tower of Light. It will save 1,600 tonnes of carbon emissions a year when it becomes operational later this year, with scope for further expansion.
Action to deliver the Carbon Reduction Programme
(The first phase of a programme to retrofit the highest emission Council buildings to improve energy efficiency, saving money as well as reducing emissions, is drawing to a close. It will cut carbon emissions by 3,000 tonnes a year. Work to enable the £15m second phase, which will save another 1,600 tonnes a year, is progressing.
Action to purchase Electric bin lorries
Orders were recently placed to replace almost half of the Council’s diesel refuse collection vehicles with emission-free electric alternatives. The 27 new electric bin lorries, due to arrive in autumn, will save 900 tonnes of emissions per year.
Action on LED street lighting
The £32.8m programme to replace all of the city’s 56,000 of the city’s street lights with more energy efficient LED lights continues and will be completed this year. Annual emissions from street lights have already gone down 73.2% from 15,726 tonnes of carbon a year in 2009/10 to 4,213 tonnes in 2019/20. The new lighting is saving £2m a year in energy costs.
Action on trees
Plans to plant at least 1,000 new trees, 1,000 hedge trees and four community orchards a year are progressing, with locations for planting being identified, and a £1m investment fund to support planting will be up and running later this year.
Action to reallocate road space for active travel
The need to support social distancing and support active travel during the pandemic has seen part of Deansgate, Stevenson Square, Thomas Street and Ducie Street in the city centre go traffic free. The trailblazing CYCLOPS junction, designed to optimise safer cycling and walking, which recently opened in Hulme is part of the £13.4m Manchester to Chorlton cycling route, itself part of a network of cycling routes being brought forward.
Action to progress a Clean Air Zone for Manchester
Consultation on Manchester’s Clean Air Zone will take place in the autumn with implementation due next year. Work is currently being carried out to understand the local impacts of the pandemic on our proposals.
Action on biodiversity and nature-based solutions
Investment in open spaces which can be enjoyed by people and wildlife alike – from parks to ponds, community allotments to canals, is being guided through the Council’s Green and Blue Infrastructure Strategy 2015-25.
Innovative ways of adapting to the impacts of climate change are being found. For example, final works are being completed on a new ‘sponge’ park in West Gorton designed to prevent flooding.
Councillor Angeliki Stogia, Executive Member for Environment, said: “We have made demonstrable progress since the declaration of the climate emergency and established a strong platform for further radical action.
“The climate emergency is exactly what it says. Not every change can happen overnight, and many are complicated to deliver, but we are moving with pace and determination.
“People will understandably wonder whether the huge economic impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic will dilute our environmental ambitions. I would like to reassure everyone that playing our full part in limiting the impact of climate change will be an integral part of the recovery – not only benefiting people’s health and wellbeing but creating new opportunities in the green economy.”
Manchester Climate Change Agency’s annual report, detailing progress towards becoming a zero carbon city for Manchester as a whole, will be published on Tuesday 21 July 2020.
A more detailed progress report will be given to the Neighbourhoods and Environment Scrutiny Committee when it meets on Wednesday 22 July 2020.
Image: Manchester Evening News, June 2019