Zero Carbon UK ….. by 2050? A commentary on the new CCC report.

A gas boiler

A domestic gas boiler: these will all need replacing if the UK is to get to zero carbon emissions.

Comments on the CCC (2019) Net Zero Report: The UK’s contribution to stopping global warming.

A guest article by Peter Somerville

This report is a significant improvement on previous reports from the UK government’s independent advisory Committee on Climate Change. It recognises that net greenhouse gas emissions must reach zero by 2050 at the latest, instead of being reduced by only 80%, and it now includes emissions from aviation and shipping in this target. It also provides numerous suggestions for improving policy and practice. However:

Although the report recognises that consumption-based emissions are considerable (69% greater than territorial emissions – pp. 105,163), and consequently that measures have to be taken to make consumers buy or use low-carbon products, the calculation of such emissions still does not include those that are embodied in imported products. So unless countries exporting to the UK make similar reductions in their emissions, the UK will not be net zero GHG by 2050. Given this context, statements such as that the UK has reduced its emissions by over 40% from 1990 to 2018 (p20) are disingenuous and misleading – the truth is that they have hardly reduced at all.

Although the extraction and combustion of fossil fuels is mainly responsible for GHG emissions, this report does not tackle the issue directly but only makes assumptions about the extent to which they will be reduced. Notably, in the section in the Executive Summary on policies to reduce emissions (pp32-5), phasing out high-carbon power is not even mentioned. Currently, the UK government provides huge subsidies to fossil fuel industries, encourages fracking, approves new coal mines, and so on, and finance companies, pension funds and other institutions continue to invest heavily in fossil fuels. This report, however, says virtually nothing about any of these things – just one mention of an inquiry into UK Export Finance investing in and subsidising fossil fuel industry in developing countries (p118). Perhaps we should not be surprised by this because one member of the committee is a senior manager at Drax.

The report states that reducing emissions to net zero ‘would end the UK’s contribution to rising global temperatures’ (p16). This is a common misunderstanding or misrepresentation of the situation. Basically, global temperatures depend on the total amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere (the stock, not the flow), and this carbon dioxide continues to absorb infrared solar radiation for 100 years after it has been emitted, resulting in continuous temperature increases. So, unless it is sequestered in some way, the carbon dioxide emitted up to 2050 will continue contributing to increasing global temperatures for a long time after 2050. A similar misunderstanding appears to occur on p26, where it is stated that ‘minimal residual emissions can be tolerated in most sectors’: this can be the case only if the land-based removals and CCS outweigh these residual emissions, which seems unlikely (the report provides no convincing argument on this point).

Given the extent of change now required to avoid climate catastrophe, it is frankly ridiculous to compare it with the natural gas switchover in the 1970s or the switch to digital broadcasting in the 2000s (p21). What is needed now is not a mere technical switching but a new industrial and social revolution, a radical change in how we live and work. Here, in spite of the increasing sense of urgency and crisis (to which the CCC pays lip service), the report seems to reflect and reinforce the complacency that is still widespread among the general population.

The report sees carbon capture and storage (CCS) as ‘a necessity not an option’ (pp23, 34, 178, 197). Indeed, the report seems to see CCS as a bit of a panacea, mentioning it no less than 273 times. Admittedly, CCS may well be necessary in the future because even if net zero GHG is achieved we will still have to find ways of reducing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The problem here, however, is cost, with the report recognising that CCS is ‘expensive’ (pp131, 253). However, the report does not seem to appreciate just how expensive CCS is likely to be or that long-suffering citizens would have to foot the bill for it. The report acknowledges that ‘global progress has been slow’ (p12) but does not ask why that has been the case (answer: because there is no profit in it!). When it comes to CCS, the CCC’s claims to being conservative seem to be abandoned – for example, ‘the amount of CCS for energy generation from fossil fuels could be significantly lower than we have assumed’ (p197). Although it acknowledges that direct air CCS requires significant energy input (p149), the implications of a large energy input being required for CCS generally are not considered anywhere in the report. One might conclude that it would be more sensible to focus on eliminating GHG emissions in the first place, but that would mean confronting the likes of Shell, Exxon and Drax. So, rather than preventing the horse from bolting, the CCC would seem to prefer to close the door afterwards, thereby assuming reversibility of climate impacts.

In the Technical Report that accompanies the main report, there is further detail on technologies for greenhouse gas removal (pp275-286). Here afforestation and peatland restoration are no-brainers, and timber-framed construction also sounds eminently sensible, provided that the wood used does not entail further GHG releases. However, the discussion of bioenergy doesn’t really explain where the bioenergy is to come from, so the reader is entitled to be sceptical. Again, there would appear to be an over-reliance on technical solutions, with little thought given to the social and political implications of what is being proposed (e.g. changes in land ownership, land use planning, changes in farming practices, and so on).

The report is ambiguous or ambivalent on aviation. For example, it sees a scenario for net zero as involving ‘more limited aviation demand growth’ (p23). So the CCC still envisages increasing aviation demand, just not at the same rate as now. The emissions resulting from this increased demand will have to be offset by reductions elsewhere – there is a suggestion on p29 and p35 that the aviation industry could pay for the removal of all its emissions, resulting in a corresponding increase in air fares. So presumably the CCC envisages that demand will fall (or grow more slowly) as prices rise. However, it seems clear that the government is already committed to significant aviation demand growth, what with the agreed third runway at Heathrow and the expansion of provincial airports, so the government must be making a big mistake here, which the report does not recognise.

Given the recognised high costs (p179) of building wind and solar farms, and of building and running CCS (estimated at £10-20 billion in 2050 – p29) and hydrogen installations, it is difficult to understand why the CCC can have ‘reasonable confidence’ that ‘costs are likely to be no more than a very small fraction of annual GDP’ (p26). Costs could of course be lower in the future – but they could just as well be higher.

Nuclear power is hardly mentioned at all but I would assume that the statement that ‘overall [electricity] bills need not rise as a result of climate policy’ (p29) rules out the possibility of relying more on nuclear power because it is clearly more expensive than either fossil fuels or renewable energy (see p253). Notwithstanding this, the government is ploughing ahead with Hinckley Point C, and more nuclear power plants are still in the pipeline at Sizewell C and Bradwell B.

P26 states that diet change and major land use changes are needed for a net zero target. But what, exactly – and what part can government play in this?

Overall, in spite of much rhetoric about developing ‘stronger approaches’ (p34), the report’s substantive recommendations to government could be (and need to be) a lot stronger.

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Greater Manchester’s Environment Plan: a truthful version.

A guest piece from Claire Stocks, Manchester Extinction Rebellion.  This is a commentary on the Greater Manchester Environment Plan 2019–2024 (see also Peter Somerville’s critique that we published before the recent Green Summit and the call from GM-CAN to do more faster).  Claire explains her piece like this:

What would it sound like if leaders in Greater Manchester declared a climate emergency? If they spoke with the tone and urgency this crisis calls for; the honesty citizens need to understand the facts; and the mass appeal for help required – for instance from the media sector in this region? This is my take  – part of an in-depth critique of the GM Environment Plan, which despite its good intent sadly fails us all. For instance, it sets out a pledge to for GM to be zero-carbon by 2038 but openly admits double permitted emissions will have been pumped out by then. It ignores aviation – making no attempt to halt a huge expansion of passenger capacity at Manchester Airport. Even so, it contains startling & sweeping changes – e.g. in housing (a mass retrofit programme in every house in the region including getting rid of gas boilers ), transport (a mass shift to electric cars) and energy (solar panels for all). Many of these changes require huge government subsidies if citizens aren’t to foot the bill. And yet there seems no plan or budget to inform & engage people – or facilitate us finding solutions together and ways to go further, faster.

Read the piece on Claire’s Medium pages, HERE.

 

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Open Letter from Climate Activists to Manchester City Council

Greater Manchester Climate Action (GM-CAN), today sent this letter to the leader and executive member for environment, Manchester City Council, with copies to the other councillors who attend the council’s Executive Committee meetings.  This coincides with the debate in the House of Commons called by the Labour Party, calling on the UK government to call a Climate Emergency.

______________________________________________________________

Dear Cllr Leese and Cllr Stogia,

As Parliament today debates the global climate crisis, we the undersigned call on Manchester City Council to declare a Climate and Environmental Emergency at the soonest possible opportunity.

We note the council’s commitment to a science-based carbon budget of 15m tonnes (as its share of the Greater Manchester carbon budget) and that this requires Manchester to make 13% cuts every year for the next 19 years.

However, we also note that even under the measures outlined in existing plans, the city and region are set to emit twice the carbon allowed by this budget by 2038.

Furthermore it is also clear that the actions required, which will fall on a variety of sectors across the city not just the local authority, are not happening anywhere near quickly enough, with few businesses signed up and barely anything done to bring in citizens as partners to help own the problem and work up solutions.

In addition the funding required to help pay for much of this is still not in place.

Yet it is clear we need to go further, faster – which is why we are asking you to take this extra step to maintain the council’s leadership role both locally and nationally.

Because since Manchester announced its carbon target in December 2018, the full scale of this crisis and depth of change required has further emerged. For instance, the following things have happened:-

  • Dozens more councils across the UK have declared a climate emergency and a zero-carbon target of 2030
  • Many have set up Citizens’ Assemblies to plot how communities can work together to meet this challenging goal
  • The government has issued a report admitting the UK will miss its statutory carbon budget from the 2020s and beyond
  • Tens of thousands of people have demonstrated in the streets – hundreds of them from Manchester – and more than 1,000 have been arrested due to the strength of feeling that we need to go further faster
  • Hundreds of children have demonstrated in Manchester City centre, demanding further action here
  • Millions of people were shocked by a powerful documentary on BBC1 – ‘Climate Change the Facts’ in which David Attenborough issued a call to action with the following words: “If we have not taken dramatic action within the next decade, we could face irreversible damage to the natural world and the collapse of our societies”.
  • Parliament has today (1/05/2019) debated climate change – with both Michael Gove and Jeremy Corbyn and other party representatives agreeing we all face ‘a climate emergency’.

Furthermore, on May 6, there will be more shocking reading in the form of a report from the Intergovernmental Panel for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, that will highlight the devastation to our natural world over the past 50 years, warn that tens of thousands of species are threatened, and highlight the risk to humans if this devastation continues.

We therefore believe Declaring an Emergency would signal the urgency and intent that is required for Manchester to come together to tackle this challenge, and is what citizens would expect of its leaders in a time of unprecedented crisis.

It will also help build the public support needed for the necessary actions by the council and its partners and beyond.

We therefore ask that Manchester City Council does the following:-

  1. Declare a Climate & Environmental Emergency at the soonest opportunity – we note MCC’s next full meeting is on 15 May
  2. Urgently review its ‘zero carbon by 2038’ pledge with a view to bringing forward to 2030 (but keeping the same cap of 15m tonnes), for instance by listening to the proposals we set out in our March 2019 response
  3. Take immediate action to further reduce emissions given the imperative to cut most of our emissions in the next few years
  4. Set up a Citizen’s Assembly to help advise on the action needed across all sectors to meet these goals.

Signed:

The Greater Manchester Climate Action Network (GM-CAN)

(coalition of climate and environmental groups* in the city region)

_____________________________________________________

* Members of GM-CAN:

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Let’s reclaim bank holidays: Introducing the climate holiday

by James Scott Vandeventer

Did you enjoy the record-breaking weather across the U.K. over the long weekend, despite a sneaking suspicion that this feels like accelerating climate change? With two four-day weeks, the pressure at work hopefully felt a bit lighter – if you’re lucky enough to have a job that give bank holidays off.

Soon enough, though, it’ll be back to full workweeks. Still, with two bank holidays in May, there’s hope on the horizon for a few more breaks from the steady drumbeat of work. I’d like to propose, though, that we reclaim these holidays, and that we go a step further: Let’s change how we act on bank holidays and make them for the people by renaming them ‘Climate Holidays.’ A climate holiday is a chance to slow down, embrace convivial experiences, and give the climate – and yourself – a break.

Why are they called bank holidays, anyway? Originating in an act of Parliament in 1871 and superseded by the Banking and Financial Dealings Act of 1971, the law presently states that ‘No person shall be compellable to make any payment or to do any act on a bank holiday under this Act which he would not be compellable to make or do on Christmas Day…’ Why, then, are the run-up to bank holidays dominated by retailers screaming discounts to try and draw people into their stores and onto their websites? Should we not be free from the consumption hysteria and enjoy our right to relax?

Instead of bank holiday buying mania, let’s embrace a day of calm from the busy world. Let’s spend time with family and friends; do a bit of gardening before the plants erupt in green splendour; volunteer outdoors with great local groups like The Kindling Trust or City of Trees; or just slow life down a bit. If hungry for activity, maybe we join in with an Extinction Rebellion protest to show your support for acting to address the climate emergency (did we mention a Manchester Extinction Rebellion organiser is coming to our AGM on 2 May? Get in touch for details!). Alternatively, maybe we take a train journey to a smaller town, go biking in the countryside, or find other brief respites from the city. Give the climate a holiday, too: don’t fly for a weekend getaway.

Perhaps in an ideal scenario would be that we have climate holidays once a month, backed by a new Act of Parliament. They would happen more frequently than bank holidays – once or even twice a month? – and address the urgent need to take national action about the climate emergency by lowering the amount of days we work. But of course, as the endless news cycle reminds us, the endless self-centredness of politicians quibbling over Brexit is set to continue for the foreseeable future. So instead, let’s take it into our own hands. Forget bank holidays; act to make it your climate holiday!

By making climate holidays about being and acting together, whether with those close to you, by volunteering, through activism, and by being conscious about our decisions about what we choose to spend time doing on climate holidays, we can take a bit of pressure off the planet and lessen the disruption human activity is causing to make the climate emergency worse.

A final thought: let’s not forget service workers, whether public transit drivers, shop workers or others that help make our convivial climate holiday plans come together. These workers deserve days off so they can enjoy climate holidays, too. Preferably ones where the sun is shining!

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Do More, Faster! Greater Manchester Climate campaigners call for serious climate action.

Climate campaigners in action in central Manchester last month – via https://www.themeteor.org

Today at Salford’s Lowry centre, Mayor Andy Burnham’s second Green Summit takes place.  It will launch the Greater Manchester Combined Authority’s 5-year Environment Plan.  Climate campaigners in Greater Manchester have considered it and found it lacking.

GM-CAN, the umbrella grouping for GM’s climate action campaigners, is making a “helpfully impatient” call for more and faster action and will be making that call loud and clear at today’s event.  They call on concerned citizens to reiterate this message throughout the day.  Here’s their statement:

Do More, Faster!

Our Response to the GMCA 5 Year Plan

We’re facing a climate emergency.

The science tells us how much carbon we can afford to emit to keep the climate safe.  We need to live within this carbon budget.

But the GMCA 5 Year Plan fails to deliver, using up the budget twice over.

We have to do more, faster.  We therefore call on Andy Burnham and the 10 council leaders to:

In the next 3 months:

  • Declare a Climate Emergency and appoint a Climate Emergency Commissioner with the responsibility and resources to deliver rapid carbon reductions.
  • Accelerate the actions in the 5-year plan to deliver in line with the Tyndall carbon budget, and act now to deliver a 15% reduction this year.
  • Instruct the GM Pension Fund to sell all holdings in companies involved in the exploration, extraction, refining and distribution of fossil fuels within 2 years, starting with the most polluting (coal, tar sands and fracking).
  • Call on the Government to:
    • Make carbon reduction a statutory duty for local authorities and provide the powers and funding to deliver rapid action.
    • Accelerate grid decarbonisation by rapidly scaling up the deployment of renewable power.
    • Introduce an immediate ban on coal and unconventional oil and gas extraction (including fracking and coal bed methane), and end all direct and indirect subsidies for fossil fuel extraction
    • Reintroduce a zero carbon new build standard, and make retrofit of existing buildings an infrastructure investment priority.
    • Bring forward the date for phasing out the sale of petrol and diesel cars and vans from 2040 to 2030, and introduce a scrappage scheme for the most polluting vehicles.
    • Scrap HS2 and the national road-building programme, and invest instead in walking, cycling, buses, trams and local rail services.
    • Announce an immediate moratorium on airport expansion, update aviation policy in line with the Tyndall Centre carbon budget, and introduce a Frequent Flyer Levy.

In the next 6 months:

  • In each local authority area:
    • Run a series of Carbon Literacy workshops to inform and inspire people to act on climate change, starting with all councillors and council staff
    • Collaborate with the public sector, businesses and community members (making particular effort to involve women and BAME communities) to develop local action plans
  • Set up the GM Environment Fund and provide initial funding to give communities the financial support they need to deliver their local action plan.
  • Accelerate delivery of high-quality walking and cycling infrastructure across the region.

In the next 12 months:

  • Re-regulate our buses to deliver a cleaner, simpler, more frequent and affordable bus network.
  • Implement a low-carbon Clean Air Zone as soon as possible, which covers all types of polluting vehicles including private cars.
  • Set a cap on flight emissions at Manchester Airport, supported by the introduction of a Climate Emergency Levy for departing passengers to contribute to the GM Environment Fund
  • Set up a Climate Emergency Capital Fund, funded by investments from the public, businesses and the GM Pension Fund, to finance a GM-wide programme of retrofit, renewables and energy efficiency measures.
  • Work with employers and education partners to deliver a Climate Emergency Skills Programme to enable the rapid roll-out of retrofit, renewables and energy efficiency measures.

This response has been drawn up by the Greater Manchester Climate Action Network (GM-CAN), a coalition of local climate activist groups.

Let us know your views by tweeting us @GMCAN3 or emailing gmclimateactionnetwork@gmail.com.
If you or your organisation would like to endorse our response, visit: bit.ly/gmcan-endorse

 

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CounterCoin and the Environmental Impact of Venues

by James Scott Vandeventer

This post originally appeared on the CounterCoin website here.

The recent report from Keele University, A Comparison of the Environmental Performance of Sports and Entertainment Venues for a Range of Percentage Capacities (first released here) opens the debate about how to make ticketing at sports and entertainment venues work better. The report, commissioned by CounterCoin, points to ways that CounterCoin and other alternative currencies can make such venues address their environmental impacts, with relevance for Newcastle, Stoke, and beyond. In particular, by helping venues approach full capacity, CounterCoin could help these venues avoid the unnecessary overuse of energy. The report begins to show the environmental benefits of CounterCoin, which are in addition to its clear social impacts. This piece reflects on the report and some of the implications it has for CounterCoin and other similar mechanisms for inclusion.

Alternative currencies like CounterCoin, which recognises volunteering with coins redeemable for discounts at local places like venues, can help lower the barriers that exclude people from participating in cultural exchange. In other words, CounterCoin promotes a more inclusive approach to local sports, entertainment and cultural events. The report makes an important contribution to how CounterCoin works by considering the environmental impact of sports and entertainment venues. It considers the energy wasted when those venues do not reach full capacity and leave seats empty. By equating empty seats to gas and electricity usage per seat, and then showing that having empty seats is equivalent to thousands of km driven or to entire forests of trees unplanted, the report demonstrates that including more people in events at sports and entertainment venues and striving for higher capacity is not only inclusive to more people – a key aim of CounterCoin – but also avoids some of the environmental impacts of unused seats. In short, by filling more seats through inclusive mechanisms like CounterCoin, sports and entertainment venues work better.

It is worth noting a few implications of this report. Firstly, while the report does not consider the social impact of including more local people in cultural events, an undoubtedly positive way of helping build stronger communities and a core emphasis of CounterCoin, it does reflect how the environmental and social benefits of inclusion in sports and entertainment venues are closely interrelated. This should catch the eye of those of us, including policy-makers, concerned about the environment and social justice.

Secondly, the report only briefly addresses the significantly different gas and electricity usage between large sports stadia and smaller entertainment venues. The authors mention economies of scale as an explanation of why smaller entertainment venues have a higher impact per seat. However, smaller venues that provide things like theatre, music, or childrens’ events are essential to strong communities and a more viable economy. So, there must be a balance between small and large venues, which may not be easily measurable based solely on environmental impact. In looking forward, both types of venues ought to be encouraged to seek to fill seats through CounterCoin and similar tools for inclusion. Third, the more radical implication of this report is that, by filling venues to capacity, it may be possible to have fewer events and thereby deliver a lower overall environmental impact while still ensuring cultural exchanges that promote stronger, inclusive local communities. This final point should receive further attention we consider a more viable future for Newcastle, Stoke and the U.K.

Overall, what the report makes clear is that CounterCoin and other mechanisms for lowering the barriers to inclusion for cultural events could help contribute to lower environmental impacts of sports and entertainment venues by addressing the wasted gas and electricity of empty seats. Despite its specific focus on environmental venues’ energy use, the report also reflects the need to better understand the close connections between environmental and social impacts for inclusion, which suggests an agenda for further investigation. Still, waiting for further research, and meanwhile doing nothing, is not an option. The time has come to take action toward a truly inclusive approach to our local communities that has environmental and social benefits. CounterCoin stands ready to make that a reality. Will policy-makers step up to embrace this new paradigm? Or will they remain spectators to this transformation?

Here again are links to the announcement of the report,
and to CounterCoin.

Thank you to Mark Burton for comments on an earlier draft of this post.

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GMCA’s draft Environment Plan for 2019-2024

Moorland Fire

Climate change comes home to Greater Manchester, 2018

GMCA’s draft Environment Plan for 2019-2024.
A guest commentary by Peter Somerville

The Greater Manchester Combined Authority has published a Draft 5-year Environment Plan for 2019 to 2014. This is the first Environment Plan that the Authority has produced, and follows the first Green Summit on 21 March 2018, extensive consultations, and the Springboard to a Green City Region report in August 2018. This draft plan will be presented to the second Green Summit on 25 March 2019 (next week) for approval.

The plan sounds ambitious, with GM envisaged to be carbon-neutral by 2038, achieved by 15% year-on-year GHG emission reductions. Looked at more closely, however, it has some serious weaknesses and omissions, and in some respects is not nearly ambitious enough. The introduction to the plan states that it is expected to be finalised by 29 March, which suggests that there is little time to make any substantial changes, though these are sorely needed.

On clean air, for example, the plan refers to 152 stretches of road where concentrations of nitrogen dioxide exceed the legal limit. One might imagine that the GMCA would give the highest priority to obeying the law, particularly as this issue has been raised for some years now as one requiring urgent and immediate action, but actually the plan is for GMCA to be compliant only by 2030 (p14), which makes it look as though a further decade of law-breaking is acceptable to the authority. If these stretches of road have actually been identified, surely action to secure compliance should already be underway?

A general problem with the plan is that it is not based on any clear evidence about the sources of GHG emissions in GM. All we get is Figure 4 on p13, which tells us that the main sources of emissions are (in descending order) buildings, industry and cars, but these are not broken down in any way (e.g. by type or by area). We are told later on that commercial and public buildings account for 70% of the total emissions from buildings, which is helpful, but more detail would not go amiss. As with other statistics produced by Anthesis, however, one suspects that they are merely artefacts of disaggregation and not measures of the actual GHG emissions in GM (the stated large reduction in emissions from 2015 to 2020, for example, seems scarcely credible).

The plan identifies three priorities for energy supply: 1) increase local renewable energy generation; 2) decarbonise the heating of buildings; 3) increase the diversity and flexibility of electricity supply. It is not clear where these priorities come from or what evidence or argument they are based on. The summary of actions on p19 contains a number of worthwhile proposals, and there are elements of a plan to meet priority 1, but there are no clear plans for priorities 2 or 3. It would also be nice to have some idea of what effects the proposed actions would be likely to have on reducing GHG emissions. One problem here is that the decarbonisation of heat and of electricity are largely outside of local control and are dependent on decisions made at national level, e.g. on decarbonisation of the national grid and the availability of renewable alternatives to gas-fired heating. Given these constraints, I would have expected the plan to prioritise the sourcing of renewable energy from outside GM as well as inside: consider what the effects might be if all GM residents and businesses switched to renewable energy suppliers – wouldn’t this solve a lot of the other problems?

On travel and transport, the plan is flawed in two respects. First, instead of reducing the amount we travel as the SCATTER analysis suggests we should (p28), the plan envisages a 15% increase in journeys by 2040, with only a slight decline in those made by car (from 3.4 to 3.2 million) (p25, Figure 6). Second, the plan does not recognise that switching to electric vehicles makes little difference to carbon emissions unless electricity is decarbonised, but the need for electricity decarbonisation is not even mentioned in the list of ‘What we need from government policy’ on p32.

On buildings, the goal is for all new development to be net zero carbon by 2028 (p33) but arguably this is a policy that should be introduced immediately, if only to save on the cost of retrofit in the future. The priorities stated are all about reducing heat demand, so it seems logical that the actions listed on p35 are all about increasing energy efficiency. It seems to be assumed, again, that electricity is decarbonised, there are no actions on using renewable energy, and there is no clear plan for up-scaling retrofit.

On sustainable production and consumption, I was unable to find any clear proposals for action, but only well-worn thrift mantras and exhortations to cut waste and live more sustainably.

On the natural environment, no one could disagree with the ‘plan’ to plant a million trees by 2024 but I’ve been hearing this for over two years now but I don’t know if any trees have actually been planted. This section of the plan does not really address issues of rurality or biodiversity or the ownership and exploitation of land and material resources, and I am not convinced of the desirability of a natural capital approach to nature conservation.

I agree that ‘Sustainable funding and financing is key to delivery’ (p71) but there is no clear plan here to address this issue.

As with the Manchester Climate Change Framework 2020-2038 this plan has nothing to say about aviation emissions, nothing to say about divestment from fossil fuels, nothing to say about working with organisations and networks that are trying to challenge fossil fuel incumbency, nothing about what GMCA could contribute to achieving a just transition to a low carbon society (e.g. nothing about redeployment or retraining for fossil fuel workers), and nothing to show that GMCA recognises that a whole world exists outside its little bubble.

Looking back at my earlier comments on the GM Springboard Report in August 2018, I find that most of the criticisms made there apply equally to this plan, namely:

1) There is insufficient information about the main sources of GHG emissions in GM;
2) There is no substantive information about what has been achieved in GM so far in reducing GHG emissions (reference to earlier strategies or plans is lacking);
3) Key responsibilities for taking the various actions proposed are not assigned;
4) The plan does not recognise the crucial role of putting an end to the extraction and combustion of fossil fuels, irrespective of whether this occurs in GM or not;
5) Priorities for action seem to be identified on an ad hoc basis rather than on a strategic basis such as in terms of how much a proposed action is likely to contribute to reducing GHG emissions.

Peter Somerville, 12.3.19

 

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Steady State Manchester’s response to the 2019 Greater Manchester Spatial Framework

Here is our response  PDF Download

To give a flavour, the consultation first asks this question:

Is the approach that we have outlined in the plan reasonable?

[We said that we] Mostly disagree

What is the reason for your answer?:

Our principal reasons are as follows. More detail to support our points will follow under specific topic questions.

  1. As a prospective strategic plan for Greater Manchester the draft GMSF begins from the wrong premises. In the publicity for the consultation, the question is posed: “What kind of place do you want Greater Manchester to be?”. It is a good question but not one that is answered by the document which is dominated by the economic perspective. Instead we propose that the plan starts from consideration of “retro-fitting” the city region [see https://steadystatemanchester.net/2017/03/07/greater-manchester-towards-a-retrofit-garden-city/ https://steadystatemanchester.net/2018/05/22/we-need-a-a-social-ecological-spatial-framework/ ] as a network of localities that are relatively self sufficient (cf. the “20 minute neighbourhood” concept developed in Portland and adopted by Melbourne see https://www.eugene-or.gov/1216/What-is-a-20-Minute-Neighborhood ; https://www.portlandonline.com/portlandplan/index.cfm?a=288098&c=52256 and https://www.planmelbourne.vic.gov.au/current-projects/20-minute-neighbourhoods). This would imply a highly polycentric conurbation, where citizens’ needs are mostly met locally, reducing travel and resource use, increasing local community ties and social capital, supporting local business and community enterprise, and protecting the natural world. Building on the new emphasis on town centres, the strategy would strengthen district centres throughout the region, putting most development there, utilising sites within the urban area, and making best use of existing buildings. The construction of “growth hubs” that pull people and resources into themselves would be resisted in favour of strategies for local community wealth building and plugging the leaks by which wealth and money leaches out of both the local community and the city region. Economic growth would not be sought in the aggregate although some parts of the economy would grow, just as others would shrink, so helping Greater Manchester to minimise its ecological footprint while improving population well-being.
  2. Economic growth projections are inflated. The consultancy used by GMCA, Oxford Economics, routinely makes forecasts at the upper level of the class of UK economic forecasters, as evidenced in their own paper on their GM Forecasting Model.
    So:
    GMFM 2018 baseline cumulative GVA growth 2017-2023 = 12.38%
    AGS 2018 scenario cumulative GVA growth 2017-2023 = 13.93%
    OBR forecast, (UK economy) applied to GM 2017 actual: 2017-23 =9.13%
    AGS forecast 2017-2038 is a 59% increase in the scale of the economy. This endless growth is not sustainable on a finite planet, nor in a Greater Manchester that aspires to be one of Europe’s greenest cities.
  3. Housing need projections are based (apparently at government behest) on outdated population figures (2014 rather than the latest, 2016 figures that take brexit into account).
    The Housing Minister, Kit Malthouse MP, stated in a Westminster debate on 22 February 2019 and reiterated in a letter to Jim McMahon MP, that the housing need target is not mandatory and an inspector would accept a lower number if there are constraints such as Green Belt. We do appreciate that the guidance from central government has been unhelpfully contradictory but propose that this means that it is inappropriate to attempt to plan for a 20 year period in these circumstances, given that a 20 year plan is not required by central government.
  4. The plan is not sufficiently explicit about the green space that will be lost, only quoting net Green Belt loss in its main document. We provide the full figures in our response to question 56.
  5. Identifying so much Green Belt allocation over a 20 year period is unreasonable, given the uncertainties: the danger is that once identified for building it will be difficult to reverse the allocations should building not be required.
    We recommend a 15 year horizon for the revised GMSF. Since there is sufficient land supply for this period this will be a win-win resolution. The plan can always be rolled forward with revisions as trends, needs and supply become clearer.
  6. There is no analysis of the carbon consequences (baseline and opportunity cost) of building on green land, nor of the preferred “Accelerated Growth Scenario”. We have made some estimates based on our own calculations and present these later on, but this should have been part of the integrated assessment or the supporting papers.
  7. There is only token reference to food production.
    Destruction of farmland for housing and commercial development increases reliance on imported food and destroys farming livelihoods. Leaving the EU, from where much of our food is imported, together with the looming threats of climate change and geopolitical supply chain shocks, mean that this is not a good time to increase our reliance on imported food by building on farmland.
  8. There is insufficient attention to housing types, in terms of design, mix, tenure.
  9. Carbon reduction and biodiversity still appear largely as after-thoughts – these sections are vaguer, more tentative than the “we will” language used for proposals such as roads, green belt allocations, and major industrial developments.

Read our full response here.

Video: Mark Burton asks Andy Burnham a question about the inflated economic growth projections at the SGMGB forum.  At 22:15 minutes in.

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