STEADYSTATE Part Two: The Local and Regional Context

This is the second part of our interview piece  in Manchester’s Now Then magazine.
Click HERE to read the interview.  Thanks to Ian Pennington at Now Then for inviting us and publishing our thoughts.  NowThen

The first part, on the wider context appeared here: STEADY STATE Part One: The National and International Context

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Manchester’s climate change consultation for 2016-2050

Commentary on “Ahead of the Curve” Manchester’s climate change consultation for 2016-2050

pdf version of this article

This consultation closes on Sunday 16th October. Make your comments on it by clicking HERE.

  • A little context.

Manchester has had a climate change strategy since 2010: Manchester a Certain Future. The city council saw the need for such a strategy in keeping with the UK Climate Change Act of the last Labour government. Initial attempts to construct it lacked ambition and a coalition of campaigners from the environmental movement wrote an alternative strategy, Call to Real Action. While its radical proposals were not adopted, its message about involving the community was, and as a result, the existing strategy has emphasised engagement with non-governmental sectors. Why? Because reducing emissions requires action in all sectors of the economy and society, not just in local government which does not have the levers to make these reductions happen. And because most of the expertise on climate change and strategies for addressing it is outside the council, in campaigning organisations, universities and some business sectors. Despite the attempt to bring other actors in, as annual reviews and the current strategy have admitted, the ambition to cut carbon emissions by 41% by 2020 (from 2005 levels) will be missed. Only a 32% cut seems likely. And the level of engagement from other organisations has also been disappointing.

These disappointing results should be viewed in context. The world in general is also failing miserably on climate change with atmospheric carbon dioxide now above the symbolic threshold of 400ppm, highly unlikely to return, and global average temperatures now at least 1ºC above pre-industrial levels. With positive feedback processes that are being triggered (reduced reflection from polar ice, reduction of ocean ability to absorb CO2 and heat, release of methane from frozen deposits in polar regions, forest and peatland destruction and fires….) we are on the brink of a runaway warming catastrophe and radical action is required now to avert it. So far there is no sign of that happening, despite the much trumpeted Paris agreement that sadly has no credible strategy nor commitments behind it.

Manchester was the first industrial city, founded on the exploitation of coal for industrial production. It has a historic debt to the world as a major emitter of greenhouse gases, something it continues to do today via what despite huge inequality and severe poverty in the city, are extravagant and unthinking patterns of consumption, from international flights to private motoring to the importation of foods and consumer goods, to illuminated advertising hoardings urging us to buy more. So while Manchester can only make a small contribution to the global total, it could show inspired leadership and begin to make reparation for is historical (and to be fair, mostly unwitting) contribution to the climate crisis.

  • What does the new strategy cover?

The new strategy covers the period until 2050. That’s a long time – 34 years, by which time I would be 98 and my grandchildren already middle aged. There is nothing wrong with a long timescale for a vision, but action on cumulating emissions is urgent so the next 5 years is critical.

The strategy covers five areas and the summary is worth quoting in full:

Supporting a sustainable economy and jobs – action on climate change will become an increasingly important part of the city’s sustainable, dynamic

and competitive economy. Manchester-based businesses and universities will be playing a strong and growing role in delivering solutions locally and to cities around the world. The city’s businesses will have access to a rich pool of Carbon Literate local talent, fed by our world-class universities, and our excellent schools and colleges. Businesses, workers and visitors will come from around the world to experience our liveable, resilient, green city.

Supporting healthy communities – Manchester’s residents will be leading increasingly healthy lifestyles that are underpinned by access to high quality parks and green spaces, clean air, healthy local food, safe walking and cycling routes, energy efficient homes and affordable supplies of energy.

Adaptation and resilience to climate change – the city’s businesses and communities will become increasingly resilient to the warmer and wetter winters, hotter and drier summers, and extreme weather that we expect to come with a changing climate.

CO2 reduction – recognising the leadership role and carbon reduction potential of cities, we will reduce our emissions ahead of national and international CO2 reduction targets, setting milestones for 2020, 2030 and 2040, on route to the city being zero carbon by 2050.

Low carbon culture change – climate-positive decision-making and behaviours will become progressively incentivised and embedded within the lifestyles and business operations of the city.

  • What do we think about the strategy?

In what follows we’ll follow the structure of the questionnaire that the strategy is using for its consultation. We don’t respond to every point in detail.

It is important to note that while we will be saying some critical things, we do respect the integrity of those who have worked hard to pull together this strategy, let it be said, in the face of a dominant economic strategy in the city, country and world, that is absolutely toxic for people and planet.

The focus here is on Manchester, but it is the city region that is the more relevant focus and we look forward to the completion of the GMCA climate strategy with which this Manchester one should dovetail.

    • Consultation questions and our answers

      • 1. How important is it for residents in Manchester to take action on climate change?

Somewhat important (the issue is very important but individuals can only do so much: to over-emphasise personal agency is to distract from the systemic factors).

    • 2. How important is it for businesses in Manchester to take action on climate change?

Extremely important (since they account for a large part of the economy and its emissions, directly and indirectly).

    • 3. How important is it for schools, colleges and universities in Manchester to take action on climate change?

Somewhat important (probably limited in immediate impact).

    • 4. The draft strategy sets an ambitious aim for Manchester to be a zero carbon city by 2050. There are 2 main reasons for this. a) To help make the city a better place to live, work and visit, with lower energy bills, better air quality, more green spaces, new jobs, and many other benefits. Do you think it is important for Manchester to act on climate change for this reason?

Extremely important (to be carbon zero, though 2050 is far too late: rapid and immediate cuts are needed).

    • b) To be a leading city for our contribution to global action on climate change. Do you think it is important for Manchester to act on climate change for this reason?

Somewhat important (very important because of Manchester’s historical responsibility for the carbon-based economy. But let’s not exaggerate the city’s current importance in line with the boosterist mind-set of our city leaders!)

    • 5. Do you think the vision and objectives in section 3 of the draft strategy are the right ones for Manchester

Not ambitious enough

Please explain why you chose that answer.


1) Low carbon economy is fine but it is vital to to state which sectors will need to shrink. Aggregate economic growth will make the task of radical carbon reductions more difficult: you need to set out an indicative reduction strategy for material flows into and out of the economy and translate this into indicative levels and targets by sector. Certain sectors, including private motoring and aviation are particularly damaging and reduce overall quality of life. Just promoting the growth of the green economy on its own is tantamount to denial of the problem. And what about rebound?

The section on improving energy efficiency of all businesses identifies correctly the importance of energy efficiency but fails to indicate the overall levels of energy input reductions that are needed. It is also couched in terms of the overall business growth narrative which is actually the root of the problem: the material size of our economy is too big so we have to find ways to equitably shrink it while maintaining the ability to create and share surplus – it’s not easy, but let’s not delude ourselves that we can expand our way to climate safety.

Appropriate technology is going to be needed but the section has an unfortunate technological, even technocratic optimism, failing to recognise that all our lives and consumption patterns need to change radically to a low energy model.

2) The section on health is vague. How are you / we going to move towards healthier, low carbon, life-styles. How will the dominance of the car, for example, be addressed. What about the health-damaging practices of big business (for example the food industry)? How can Manchester and GM use its place-shaping power and influence to create radical shifts in this area?

3) The section on adaptation is broadly sound. We would add a requirement to add climate shocks and events to the city and region’s disaster risk management planning. Have you engaged police, fire, ambulance and other NHS, army in your plans and consultation?

It would be good to see an options analysis on densification versus a more distributed, model of the city and city region with more local employment/housing/green areas reducing the need to travel within the city region, on a kind of retrofitted garden-city model. The evidence on densification is at best equivocal and nuanced1.

4) Climate science now tells us very clearly that the targets on zero carbon are extremely inadequate2. 2050 is far too late.

Runaway climate change is here already. We need to make massive cuts to emissions and this strategy is mere tinkering. We suggest as a minimum going zero carbon by 2025, and even that is too slow. This requires an energy descent plan as a minimum. We recognise that the power of the city/MACF is limited here, but that does not excuse a timid and fudged target. Rather it defines the work that is needed to bring in the other sectors, and the powers that need to be acquired and assumed.

5) Low carbon culture change: The strategy says “The question is sometimes posed whether low carbon culture change initiatives should be focussed on ‘behaviour change’ activities focussed on citizens, to directly try to influence their behaviour, or on low carbon ‘skills training’ in schools, colleges and the workplace to encourage the development of products and services that offer a low carbon alternative to the norm.”
This misses the point. Both these strategies if pursued alone are individualistic: they ignore the context within which behaviour changes. Culture is not reducible to behaviour. Sure critical understanding and information for citizens is important, but without the structures that require, encourage and support them to make change, then such approaches are little better than victim-blaming.

    • 6. Do you think section 4 of the draft strategy [carbon emissions reduction] covers all the areas where action is needed?


1) The setting conditions identified are broadly OK but the content is too weak. We suggest something a little like the idea of “planning agreements”. The idea is that city leaders sit down with leading firms and organisations in each sector and identify the kinds of indicative limits and targets that I’ve mentioned above. These are then monitored and publicly posted so that there can be a cultural shift to accountability with acclamation and shame as key levers.

And yet again, relying on a growth strategy is inadequate – you need to set clear reduction targets and priorities for the damaging sectors. Yes the airport is a problem that needs more than the worthless international carbon trading offset agreement to force change – which means reduction in aviation and the city’s aviation dependency.

2) Energy. Particularly given the problem you identify of Manchester not having autonomy in its energy mix, you will not be able to rely on energy mix decarbonisation alone to reduce CO2. Therefore you need to set clear energy reduction targets.

There are some good ideas on buildings. It is worth trying to get near passivehaus standards imposed for all new build and considering street by street deeper retrofit schemes for existing housing stock.

There is also scope for promoting low embodied carbon technologies in building and retrofitting – see the work of CAT on this.

Indeed concrete is one of the major CO2 emitters but there are alternatives that need scaling up for many construction tasks.

3) Transport. This section is very disappointing, falling under the sway of the fantasist visions of the city and GMCA. Manchester is a car-orientated city. How will the step change to one without significant numbers of cars be reached? How will car travel be disincentivised: car parking levies as in Nottingham, protected cycle space on all but the smallest roads, as in most Northern European

cities? Bus regulation and the taking back of control under the public sector (the norm in Europe) is required as that will facilitate low energy/low carbon options including some further tramway routes, possibly trolleybuses (for faster and cheaper deployment – cf Salzburg), biogas (already in Metrolink) from landfill and possibly some other sources (caution though on imports and tree-based biomass3 ) for buses (see for example Malmö), and new housing development that designs out the car (cf. Gothenburg, Freiburg etc).

Please do stop pretending the airport is part of the solution. If it is not going to reduce, and is even going to grow, then state where the deeper cuts will be made to compensate. Believe us you won’t be able to do it!

4) Green spaces and waterways. This section needs to work towards proper analysis of the carbon sequestration potential of these areas with quantified options appraisal for alternative planting and restoration plans. This needs balancing with biodiversity and other eco-physical dimensions (nitrogen, phosphorous etc). That’s a big bit of work so you need to propose how it will be done.

5) Food system emissions are very very significant and it’s good you mention them, but more detail is needed.

    • 7. Please list all the things you do to tackle climate change?

This question is unnecessary, suggesting that individuals, by changing their behaviour, can make a significant impact on climate. This is only true to the extent that they can exert leadership and act together, politically.

    • 8. What else would you like to do and what support would you need?

So: Anything that amplifies the above actions.

    • 9. What should we do more of as a city to help tackle climate change?

Some ideas:

Press very hard on Greater Manchester Pension Fund to divest from its fossil fuel assets. 5 year plan starting with no new investments, pulling out of coal, fracking and tar sands, with full divestment over 5 years. Reinvestment will help your green economy plans too.

All councillors and senior managers should be required to complete carbon literacy training and a series of workshops held for the graduates with civil society activists and campaigners for radical carbon reduction.

  1. 10. Please leave any other comments here

We make a lot of critical comments but we hope they are also constructive. This whole area is frustrating given the slow progress and we do recognise that it is not easy being an environmentalist who works with a large bureaucracy, with its own logic. It is good that Manchester does have a CC plan and at least officially makes some of the right noises. We need to push for more ambition in this, adequate to the almost stupefying scale of the challenge facing humanity now.

Mark H Burton

for Steady State Manchester

1 Waters, J. (2016). Accessible Cities. In D. Simon (Ed.), Rethinking sustainable cities: accessible, green and fair. Free download from

2 McKibben, B. (2016). Recalculating the Climate Math | New Republic. Retrieved October 10, 2016, from



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The circular economy: is it the solution to resource depletion and pollution?

opened up circular arrowsThe main promoter of the circular economy (CE) defines it like this:

A circular economy is one that is restorative and regenerative by design, and which aims to keep products, components and materials at their highest utility and value at all times, distinguishing between technical and biological cycles1. (Ellen MacArthur Foundation – EMF).

It sees waste products being fed back into the production cycle as resources, reliance on renewable energy and other resources, and overall zero waste. Proponents distinguish it from the dominant economy which is linear: matter is extracted as resources, transformed by production and then ends up in environmental sinks. The CE is meant to be based on three principles:

1) Preserve and enhance natural capital by controlling finite stocks and balancing renewable resource flows. 2) Optimise resource yields by circulating products, components, and materials at the highest utility at all times in both technical and biological cycles. 3) Foster system effectiveness
 by revealing and designing out negative externalities2.

The basic ideas are sound: closing cycles and ceasing to treat the environment as unlimited resource pool and sink for pollution. The problems lie in the extent to which a CE can allow “business otherwise as usual” with little change to our pattern of life, our levels of consumption and the continued expansion of the economy. To illustrate the problem, here are three criticisms of the CE: practical, political and physical.

1) Practical: the implausibility of matching waste products to inputs.

Circular systems also maximise use of end-of-use bio-based materials, extracting valuable bio-chemical feedstocks and cascading them into different, increasingly low-grade applications3.”

To what extent can waste outputs and resource inputs be matched? There is no reason to think that these two things are going to cancel out, resulting in a near zero-waste and low-extraction system. Moreover, different industries are located in different places, so even if outputs could all become inputs, there will be substantial energy inputs needed to close the loop, transferring outputs from one site to be used as inputs in another site. And the outputs are not generally usable as inputs: they will typically need processing, which again requires energy and in many cases other primary resource inputs.

2) Reformism: the CE advocates generally support a growth economy model, promoting what is perhaps a more sophisticated version of the “green growth” fudge. In a recent report from the EMF, the following claim is made about the CE if implemented in Europe:

The modelling for 2030 suggests that the disposable income of European households could be as much as 11 percentage points higher in the circular scenario relative to the current development path, or 7 percentage points more in GDP terms.4

However, as the economist Christian Arnsperger notes5, citing work, commisioned by Veolia, by François Grosse, the benefits of a circular economy only apply under the following conditions:

An annual raw material consumption growth rate below 1%.

A very high recycling rate (more than 60 to 80%) in order to delay significantly the resource depletion rate.

Grosse notes that:

As a whole, the relative impact of cumulative present-day recycling becomes negligible after a few decades in view of global production growth.”

Now it may be objected that Grosse only considers recycling, in this analysis, but this is the most concrete element of the proposed CE,

To illustrate how the CE is wedded to the growth model, consider this quotation, again from the EMF report cited above:

A circular economy could greatly benefit the environment and boost competitiveness and resilience. A circular economy would decouple economic growth from resource use.

As readers of our work will be aware, the decoupling hypothesis has poor support, or at best, economic growth makes it much harder to reduce material throughputs (and hence both resource use and emissions)6.

3) Physical: the CE cannot suspend the laws of thermodynamics.

Ultimately, the goal of endlessly recycling and regenerating the substrate for the industrial system is impossible: materials get dispersed and degraded through their transformation and it becomes infeasible to identify and collect every fragment: think of the tyres on a bus or train brakes which are in the process of being degraded to powder and gas. Or think of the many volatile solvents that are necessary for industrial processes: they too disperse, into the atmosphere over time. Those particles are never going to be reclaimed, and these are just the most obvious aspects of the trend to dissipation of all materials, and of energy too7.

As this passage from a European Academies Science Advisory Council report notes:

Recovery and recycling of materials that have been dispersed through pollution, waste and end-of-life product disposal require energy and resources, which increase in a nonlinear manner as the percentage of recycled material rises (owing to the second law of thermodynamics: entropy causing dispersion). Recovery can never be 100% (Faber et al., 1987). The level of recycling that is appropriate may differ between materials.8

As Christian Arnsperger suggests, to retrieve the idea of circularity requires a second concept, that of sufficiency, of “enough”. Without that, it is at best a way of postponing the inevitable crash, and at worst a way of giving false credibility to the growthist delusion. So the idea of resource cycling loops needs combining with the radical reduction of consumption, long product durability, re-use and repair.

Mark H Burton

3See previous citation.

7For an accessible treatment of physical constraints on the economy see

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Knowing that climate change is an emergency engages some people and encourages others to run a mile

What do we know about best ways of communicating and influencing decision-making about climate change? Both people with responsibilities for this in Greater Manchester and Steady State Manchester supporters are signing up fast for our cafe conversation on Thursday 20th October 6.30- 8.30pm.  Book now to ensure your place if you would like to be there.  Continue reading

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Lots of interest in Universal Basic Income (UBI) but perhaps not its time yet?

Within 10 days of us announcing  a ‘learn in’ about UBI 60 people signed up for it! The learn in was hosted by Steady State Manchester and the Social Change and Community Wellbeing Research Group at MMU  on September 8th . People came from all sorts of organisations  (or from none) and with different background knowledge and personal stakes in something like UBI Nicola Waterworth, @nicwaterworth, a participant, wrote a great blog sharing what she got out of it and see our report for details of what emerged from it. Matthew Taylor from the Royal Society of Arts, who are strong advocates, has made some interesting points about the need to build support before introducing policy if it is to succeed. We are planning further events, so please let us know if you would like to be involved.


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STEADY STATE Part One: The National and International Context

NowThenThis interview piece appears in Manchester’s Now Then magazine.  A second installment, on the Greater Manchester context will appear in the next issue.
Click HERE to read the interview.  Thanks to Ian Pennington at Now Then for inviting us and publishing our thoughts.

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Greater Manchester climate campaigners not convinced by Pension Fund’s arguments

Steady State Manchester is part of the coalition that came together as Fossil Free Greater Manchester (FFGM) to campaign for the largest local authority pension fund to divest from fossil fuels.  It is consistent with our thinking on the regional economy that this £1.3 Billion, now invested in many dubious entities globally, is redirected to where it is needed, to our local economy and to sectors that rather than damaging the environment and climate, positively contribute to its restoration and protection.  As part of the campaign’s efforts to influence Greater Manchester Pension Fund we have been in correspondence with the chair, councillor Kieran Quinn, who is also leader of Tameside council.  The Fund’s answers do not convince us.

Fossil Free logoPRESS RELEASE from Fossil Free Greater Manchester

Thursday, 14 July

Greater Manchester climate campaigners not convinced by Pension Fund’s arguments.

Fossil Free Greater Manchester is not persuaded by Greater Manchester Pension Fund that its strategy for a low carbon economy can work. And we continue to draw attention to the risks to pensions of continuing to hold fossil fuel investments.

We wrote an open letter in May to councillor Kieran Quinn chair of Greater Manchester Pension Fund. We received a reply (Cllr Quinn response 6th June) and have published our response (below & also available here

We asked cllr Quinn how much money the fund has lost on its coal stocks. He says that there is no loss until the stocks are sold. This is true, but a Micawber strategy of “waiting for mining shares to recover” risks a greater eventual loss while continuing to fund climate damaging coal extraction.

The Fund has not yet agreed to divest its fossil fuel stocks, preferring to engage with companies. We asked what the specific aims of engagement are and what evidence there is for its success. We have not received a direct answer and conclude that the aims are vague and the results unimpressive with respect to the major threat of global climate change.

Mark Burton from Fossil Free Greater Manchester said

While we believe the Fund does want to help reduce the threat of serious climate change, we have seen no evidence that its strategy is anywhere near effective. We call on the Fund to launch a responsibly managed divestment process in keeping with its duties to Fund members and the wider population of Greater Manchester”.


/contd – notes

Notes for Editors

1) Fossil Free Greater Manchester is a coalition of organisations and individuals campaigning for the Greater Manchester Pension Fund (GMPF) to take its money out of fossil fuels.  This is part of an international campaign for divestment, thereby building up pressure on governments and business to leave the vast majority of fossil fuels in the ground – our diminishing chance of averting runaway climate chance.

2) Greater Manchester Pension Fund manages the pooled pension fund of the councils in Greater Manchester and those of some other organisations. It has some £13Bn in assets, of which approximately 10% are invested in fossil fuel stocks, either directly or indirectly via institutions such as banks and insurance companies. It is the largest such fund in the country and has one of the highest proportions of assets in fossil fuel stocks.

3) The text of the full letter follows:

4) For our previous open letter see

Fossil Free Greater Manchester

c/o Manchester Friends of the Earth
Green Fish Resource Centre
46-50 Oldham Street
M4 1LE

Wednesday 6 July, 2016

Councillor Kieran Quinn,
Chair, Greater Manchester Pension Fund,
Guardsman Tony Downes House
5 Manchester Road
M43 6SF

Dear Councillor Quinn,

Your letter of 6 June in response to our open letter.

Thank you for taking the time to write a detailed response to our open letter, which as you have separately acknowledged is consistent with your aspirations for transparency.

We are pleased to see you have taken our concerns seriously and that GMPF aspires to act constructively to mitigate the serious threat of climate change. However, we are not persuaded that the strategy you have adopted towards the fossil fuel companies is adequate to meet this ambition.

Our position

Fossil Free Greater Manchester believes that a responsibly managed divestment from fossil fuel shares is not only key in facilitating a rapid transition to a low carbon economy but also necessary to prevent exposure to large losses for the fund in the long term. We are supported by the 5,000 people who have so far added their names to our petition and shown support for the campaign, showing their concerns about the amount of money GMPF has invested in fossil fuels. Meanwhile, 87 per cent of the 177 local candidates in Greater Manchester, cross party, who responded to the Manchester Friends of the Earth election survey last month also said the Fund should divest from fossil fuels, like 68 other Pension Funds worldwide.

Our concerns regarding GMPF’s strategy

Firstly, we would like to recognise the positive steps GMPF has taken which demonstrate commitment to your ambition. Namely recent investments in wind power, utilising the carbon tracker as well as engagement tactics. However, although these actions demonstrate a desire to achieve positive results we are sceptical about the effectiveness of your strategy. Our concerns were not mitigated when you did not directly answer two of the three questions we asked you; the specific goals of your engagement strategy and what objective results you have achieved through this method.

We do acknowledge that engagement with companies is an essential part of the tool-kit of responsible investors. But a tool-kit needs more than one tool. The evidence is that the fossil fuel companies have shown no moves away from strategies of further exploration and extraction of fossil hydrocarbons. There is no prospect of them becoming integrated energy companies. We note that GMPF apparently divested 95% of its Exxon holdings between 2014 and 2015. This is consistent with the Fund’s ethical duty in the face of this particular company’s failure to respond even to anodyne shareholder resolutions. As advised, we have studied the engagement reports from LAPFF and can find neither objectives nor outcomes commensurate with the scale of change that is necessary in these companies’ practices. The content of the “Aiming for A” resolutions to the three big mining companies, for instance, goes no further than “…reducing operational carbon emissions, maintaining a portfolio of assets resilient to future energy scenarios, and supporting low-carbon energy research and development” but nothing directly related to the enormous emissions from the continued exploitation of fossil fuels.

Whilst we acknowledge that GMPF will not make losses on coal until stocks are sold, it is important to recognise that their valuation has radically decreased and by holding onto these stocks GMPF runs the risk that these volatile stocks do not recover in the long term. We note the good performance of GMPF in the past, but can’t see evidence that would attribute this to the Fund’s high exposure to fossil fuels. The world is changing for good, so strategies that worked in the past when fossil fuels stocks were deemed to be “defensive” investments may not work in the future and perhaps this is already recognised in the management panel’s continued challenge to your contracted fund managers.


Our proposal remains that in keeping with its duty to beneficiaries, members and the wider population, GMPF,

  • Immediately freezes any new investments in fossil fuel companies;

  • Divests from any company which is involved in the exploration or production of coal and unconventional oil or gas within two years, and from all fossil fuel companies within five years;

  • Works with the Greater Manchester Combined Authority to develop and fund a low-carbon investment programme for Greater Manchester.

We would still appreciate a direct answer to our two questions on engagement:

Could you set out the specific goals of your engagement strategy?”


Could you say what the successes of your engagement strategy have been so far? Is it possible to quantify them in terms of saved emissions or investments in alternative energy?”

You might also consider a further question on engagement:

What criteria do you use to decide that engagement has not been successful and that exit from those stocks has become appropriate?”

Thank you for your attention.

Yours sincerely,

Chris Smith, Tamara Williams Barnes, Mark Burton, Ali Abbas

for Fossil Free Greater Manchester

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Steady State Manchester and the People’s Plan for Greater Manchester

photo from an earlier SSM meeting

photo from an earlier SSM meeting

A meeting of SSM members was held on June 27th to consider the proposed process of developing the People’s Plan for Greater Manchester. David Fernández Arias gave an introduction to the rationale and purpose of the People’s Plan. In the face of the undemocratic DevoManc and the associated Combined Authority’s Strategy for Greater Manchester ( a group is planning to develop a People’s Plan, to present to candidates for the mayoral election. The key objectives of the People’s Plan and its development include:

  1. Input: Civil society and citizens are to be helped to have a meaningful say in the Devolution strategy
  2. (ii) Output: To be able to find constructive improvements of the greater Manchester Strategy that will benefit all.

The timetable outlined was as follows:

Now: crowdsourcing of resources

Involvement of individuals already from universities; voluntary and community social enterprises; campaigning groups; businesses; local councils

July-August ’16: Continue crowdsourcing.

Work up social media. Make people aware of what is going on.

Sept-October ’16: Primary input phase.

  1. Online – trade off to be made between something quick (e.g. Survey Monkey questions) and opportunities for greater contributions to be made. Process depends on available people with theory and practice experience.
  2. People’s Plan events across the 10 areas of Greater Manchester
  3. Themed events across Greater Manchester
  4. Feeder events – how existing civil society groups might include People’s Planning into their normal core activities and feed data into the planning process.
  5. Trade Unions and professional associations
  6. In-workplace opportunities for People’s Plan discussions.

November-December ’16: data processing and summarising.

Anticipated to be a mixture of Greater Manchester Strategy strategic themes and others to emerge.

January ’17: Communications

What can the People’s Plan deliver?

May ’17 Election of Mayor for Greater Manchester

Candidates to be presented with People’s Plan and asked to address it in their election campaigns.

Working Groups

  • So far there are working groups :
  • Question design for online survey
  • Data processing
  • People’s Plan events and organisational logistics
  • Connecting, networking, liaison re. feeder events

In the future working groups to be formed:

  • Fundraising
  • Others as required

Offers of help with working groups to David Fernández Arias via us: click to email us

Points raised by SSM on the process

  1. Overall support was given for the development of a People’s Plan and some offers of involvement were made: further information was needed before other SSM members could commit to active involvement in the process.
  2. It would be useful if there were greater transparency about who was involved already, representing what groups
  3. A statement of principles or values, giving an overall sense of direction for the People’s Plan would be useful form the start, framing a clear statement of invitation to groups and citizens to be involved.
  4. It would be useful to have explicit mention of culture (alongside social environmental, economic and democratic dimensions) to the plan. Culture is important both in terms of how the norms and ways we live are represented and how society is reproduced through this representation, and as a useful process of engagement for input to the People’s Plan.
  5. SSM could perhaps offer a critique of the Greater Manchester Strategy
  6. Governance: it would be useful to include a stage of endorsement of the Plan – either in its entirety or endorsement of parts of the Plan.
  7. SSM could probably mount some Feed sessions providing input into the Plan.
  8. More engaging forms of democracy could be an integral part of the plan – and the online resources available could be used for citizen engagement.
  9. It will be important that processes of involvement are engaging and varied, relevant to particular groups or areas in order to get a diversity of ideas.
  10. It was noted that Greater Manchester does not provide a meaningful source of identity for most citizens even if it does for politicians.
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