How seriously is Greater Manchester taking its 2038 climate pledge?
'Sufficient detail has not been gathered'
Four years ago, Andy Burnham announced to the world that Greater Manchester was taking climate change seriously. At the 2019 Green Summit, the mayor told delegates that his city region would be carbon neutral by 2038, much sooner than the government’s target of 2050. “It’s bigger than any challenge, bigger than Brexit, the future of our planet,” Burnham said.
On stage at The Lowry, a gaggle of young people held placards reading things like: “change is no longer an option, it’s an obligation”. “You can see that ambition on the cards over there,” Burnham said, beckoning to the kids. “Hold them up everyone!” Four placards were lifted to read “2038”.
There could be no doubt about the message of the summit. Greater Manchester was positioning itself as a leader in the green transition — a place that would show the way for decarbonising homes and transport. The summit also featured Lemn Sissay reading a poem about the environment and members of Greater Manchester’s youth parliament highlighting the number of weather records that had been broken that year.
Rousing the audience, Burnham said: "Make sure we leave here — all of us — committed, completely, to carbon neutrality by 2038, and Greater Manchester as the UK's leading green city region.”
So, how is it going so far? Good question — we’ve been trying to work that out. Last week we watched a “scrutiny committee” tracking local efforts to decarbonise the economy which suggested a lack of urgency — or at least a chronic lack of information — about Greater Manchester’s progress. Since then, we’ve been trying to ascertain from officials how they are tracking their efforts to reach carbon neutrality, and why they aren’t sharing proper numbers.
Trying to get to grips with stories like this takes time and persistence. The first answer you get from the authorities is usually unsatisfactory and it’s only when you push several times that you start to build up a picture of what is going on. It’s the kind of journalism we need your help to do — we’re delighted to have so many Millers on our free email list, but the reporting we do isn’t free. Today’s story took up five working days for our staff writer, that’s what is required to hold local government to account, and we can’t do it without your support.
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Your Mill briefing
A leaked email from Rochdale Boroughwide Housing told employees that the housing association was “not a racist organisation”, reports the MEN. The email was sent in the wake of the inquest into the death of Awaab Ishak, a two-year-old whose family — who are Sudanese — said they were discriminated against by RBH staff. A Housing Ombudsman report published on Tuesday found a “disturbing picture of residents being judged entirely by staff members’ held prejudices, lazy assumptions and an attitude towards asylum seekers and refugees that is wholly unacceptable”. Jabeer Butt, the chief executive of the Race Equality Foundation, said the Ishak family were the subjects of “clear racism”.
Manchester City and Manchester United are thought to be amongst a collection of Premier League clubs avoiding tax via a practice called “dual representation”. It’s where football agents are paid to represent players and clubs in various negotiations, including transfers. Tax Policy Associates, a non-profit that provides lawmakers with tax policy advice, says this reduces the tax paid on agent payments and that, between 2019 and 2021, over £250m of tax was lost to the practice. Since 2015, it’s estimated nearly half a billion has been avoided. HMRC have said they are investigating “a number of clubs” but haven’t said which.
A man wanted for a murder in Tameside has been arrested in Suriname, South America. Police had been looking for John Belfield, 28, on suspicion of the murder of Thomas Campbell, who died as a result of his injuries after being tortured at his home in Mossley. Belfield was arrested on suspicion of drug-related offences by Suriname authorities, who are now working with GMP to bring him back to Manchester for questioning.
And finally: an 85-year-old charity runner from Stockport has become the face of an Adidas advertising campaign. Barbara Thackray runs 10k twice a week and started running to raise money for St Ann’s Hospice in Heald Green. She featured alongside Mo Salah in the Adidas campaign and said: "So long as they were prepared to make a significant donation to St Ann's Hospice, I felt ok about it."
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One great shot
Chorlton-on-Medlock, October 1945. Just after the end of the Second World War, Manchester held the fifth Pan-African Congress, a series of meetings designed to address the issues facing Africa as a result of colonialism. Modupe Alakija, a barrister from Lagos in Nigeria, photographed above, spoke on behalf of African women to advocate for higher standards of education. As one Mill writer explained in an email to us, the Congress was “all about working out how to end British colonisation and bring about self-rule”. According to the organisers, it was “the first time after WW2 that emerging Africans took on the leadership of the struggle to demand self-rule and freedom from British colonialism, supported by allies from across the world”.
Carbon neutrality is Greater Manchester’s ‘top priority’ — or is it?
By Jack Dulhanty
A few months after the 2019 Green Summit at which Andy Burnham made a public commitment to carbon neutrality by 2038, he wrote to the prime minister announcing that Greater Manchester had declared a climate emergency. A press release announcing that move said the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, or GMCA, “believes that the impacts of global temperature rise above 1.5°C are so severe that governments at all levels must work together and make this their top priority.”
But has it been Greater Manchester’s top priority in the four years since? There are signs that it might not be.
Last week, a key committee met to scrutinise the city region’s progress against its most important goals — the goals set out in a document called the Greater Manchester Strategy, or GMS. Everything that happens in the city region is supposed to be driven by the ambitions of the GMS, which sets out a vision for a “greener, fairer more prosperous city region.” One of the key goals, of course, is the “science based target of being a carbon-neutral city-region by 2038.”
The committee that met last Wednesday is called the Greater Manchester Overview & Scrutiny Committee and its job is to hold Burnham and other local officials to account for how they are doing against their big pledges. The people asking the questions are leading councillors from across the ten boroughs.
The missing numbers
As I scrolled through the agenda for the meeting last week, something caught my eye. In a part of the document about the 2038 target, there was a box that read: “the collective efforts required to achieve carbon neutrality by 2038 are not evident across the breadth of thematic areas and activities at present”. I think that means: “we aren’t doing enough”.
On the next page was a “Carbon Assessment” of each of the Greater Manchester Strategy’s themes. But the problem was, they were all marked black, meaning “Not best practice and/ or insufficient awareness of carbon impacts.” Every single area — from new build residential buildings to active travel — was rated black.
Why? Under “mitigation,” the report wrote: “Sufficient detail has not been gathered for this progress report to assess these elements.”
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