Policies for the City Region – serialised: Part 2, Energy.

We continue the serialisation of our report, Policies for the City Region.  This installment is about Greater Manchester using considerably less energy, and the transition to clean energy.  It is a long installment but we thought it best to keep all this material together, rather than breaking it up.  Future installments will be shorter, but just as exciting!  But if you can’t wait: download it here. You can also see out policies page HERE and our publications page HERE.

1. An energy transition: less energy, clean energy.

Climate change is the central issue of our times. It is true there are other extremely serious and urgent challenges, but it is climate change that has the capacity to sweep all before it. With mean global surface temperatures near 1.25 degrees C above the pre-industrial level and with the symbolic threshold of 400 ppm. of Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere it seems likely that we are at or near the point of no return for runaway global warming with no more than 5 years left of carbon emissions at the present rate if a 50% chance of a 1.5 degree rise is to be averted.

It is not surprising then that there is some mention of environmental sustainability and climate change in many strategy documents and discussions now. However, in most cases the issue is a subsidiary one, subordinate to economic “growth” (itself the chief cause of global warming1), and the measures put in place to deal with it are typically characterised by inadequacy and wishful thinking.

Some orthodox economists do argue that climate change needs to be central. Lord Stern argues that this will save money in the long run while boosting economic growth2. We have exposed the limitations of that view3 and instead take a different approach: serious attention to both preventing and responding to climate change must become central to the economic strategy of the city region. That means a managed reduction in the material size of the economy and a particular focus on energy demand reduction and the replacement of fossil fuels. The logic of this approach extends into all areas of economic and social strategy.

We therefore begin with an emphasis on the conurbation’s energy use with a view to reducing our impact on the environment, especially the climate, while creating local prosperity through wise investment and enterprise in the local economy.

1.1 A Carbon Budget for the region

Policy 1.1: GMCA to set a total carbon budget for the GMCA economy.

A Regional energy demand reduction plan (energy descent) with targets for domestic, industrial, transport and embedded energy use. This will mean agreeing plans with large organisations and publishing the results every year. It might be possible to pilot a resource input cap, or cap and share scheme as part of this.

The thinking behind it:

The key to our impact on the climate is our energy expenditure. For Greater Manchester it is roughly equally spread between the categories Transport, Homes and Business. It is not enough to just switch to renewables because,

  1. some energy sources (transport especially) are difficult, although not impossible, to replace, and

  2. replacing the current levels of fossil fuel energy will require a very demanding renewables infrastructure with impacts on land use for farming, recreation, and “eco-system services” including carbon sequestration and biodiversity.

It is therefore necessary to both “power down”, reducing energy demand, and “power up” – switch to renewable sources4. This requires a coherent plan, with clearly quantified targets and actions for all sectors of the economy.

Most current approaches to energy and carbon emissions management involve “after the event” interventions (carbon trading, carbon taxes, etc.) while what is needed are ways of preventing excessive energy and carbon bearing fuels from entering the economy in the first place. The city region could experiment with setting resource input caps, on an indicative basis at first, with a view to seeking powers to make them mandatory. This might be combined with a scheme where citizens get individual carbon-cap-related allowances which they can trade – a redistributive mechanism5.

Investing in the two elements of “power down” and “power up” could create considerable employment6, the wages for which would also be spent locally into the regional economy – the “multiplier effect”.

1.2 Fossil fuel replacement

Policy 1.21: Replace, within 5 years, 50%, and in 10 years, 100% of electricity used in the city region with alternatives that are, a) zero carbon, b) locally produced, c) community owned.

The thinking behind it:

Electricity generation accounts for 37% of Greater Manchester’s carbon emissions7, so by “powering up” clean, renewable energy, business, public and third sector organisations can make a huge impact by preferentially sourcing their electricity from these sources.

  • There are already options in the existing energy market, but more can be done to stimulate these replacement power sources through establishment of local power generation (wind, solar, geothermal and micro-hydro).

  • Already there are community owned initiatives such as Stockport hydro and the installation of solar panels on social housing but the examples of Germany and Denmark show us that there could be far more installation and crucially that this could be owned and managed by communities, returning the profits to the local economy.

  • There have also been schemes for the collective tendering of supply contracts for domestic consumers, facilitated by local authorities but these have been limited in ambition, concerned solely with price reduction. There need to be innovative tariffs that disincentivise higher levels of consumption.

  • There is already a proposal to establish a local supply company (along the lines of the Nottinghamshire model8). This could go hand in hand with the review of existing contracts of public sector with dominant energy companies, and help for community energy schemes to access affordable start-up finance and a market.

See also section 3 below, Divest from fossil fuels.

Policy 1.22: GMCA to work with organisations across GM to plan the replacement of fossil fuels in accordance with its climate commitments.

The thinking behind it:

Fossil fuel consumption also needs to be phased out in other sectors of the region’s activity. Greater Manchester has committed to the Compact of Mayorsvoluntary action to reduce the carbon footprint and make the most of the area’s energy and resources”. As Salford City Mayor, Paul Dennett, GM Lead Member for Environment put it,

There is no time to waste, our area and planet must be protected for future generations.9

Yet while cities like Copenhagen plan to be carbon neutral by 202510, Greater Manchester lags behind, not having gone beyond the scientifically inadequate national goal of 80% by 2050 and the very vague “40% reduction between 2005 and 2030”. Nevertheless, 7 of Greater Manchester’s authorities have committed to eliminating fossil fuels by 2050 as part of a 100% clean energy pledge11. Taking into account the lower starting point, in comparison with Copenhagen (we have little District heating and primitive cycle infrastructure, for example), GMCA could nevertheless reasonably establish an ambitious target to eliminate fossil fuels over the next 15 years. In addition to contributing to the avoidance of yet more severe climate change, this would have a major impact on the region’s air quality. An IPPR paper on a Zero Carbon London provides some pointers12.

1.3 Affordable low energy housing

Policy 1.3: An ambitious programme to refurbish, extend, re-purpose, rebuild social and affordable, low energy housing.

The thinking behind it:

Elsewhere13 we set out the following principles for housing in the viable economy:

  • Everyone should have secure access to adequate, truly affordable housing throughout their life, providing the basis for living well through promoting stability, physical and mental health, and strong communities. Adequate housing has sufficient space and amenities and is free from damp or structural defects.
  • In order to stabilise housing markets and promote equitable distribution, new housing should be built only to meet housing needs and not as investment.
  • New and existing homes should be designed to be carbon neutral during construction and use, and residents should empowered to use energy as efficiently as possible.
  • Wherever possible, better use should be made of existing buildings rather than building new homes. Agricultural land, green belts and flood plains should be protected from development.
  • Everyone should be able to live in neighbourhoods with a healthy environment and good access to public transport, services, work opportunities and green spaces for recreation and production.

With regard to the retrofitting and refurbishment of existing housing, a good place to start is the GM Housing Retrofit Strategy, prepared by Urbed and Carbon Co-op14. It proposes a target of 17kg CO2/m2. As Carbon Coop propose in their response to the GM Spatial Framework, this strategy should be formally adopted by GMCA. A key recommendation is that “90% of housing stock to be at Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating B, and 17 kg/CO2 per m2 by 2035. with the remaining 10% of homes achieving a minimum of EPC band C.”

1.4 Strengthen the Region’s Green Economy

Policy 1.4: In keeping with the official economic model, promote and support the development of the green economic sector, especially renewables and energy saving products.

The thinking behind it:

We have advocated for a “Replacement Economy” – the new or expanded sectors that would take the place of the most environmentally and socially damaging sectors. However, this idea also aligns with the GMCA’s current Priority 12, “Seizing the growth potential of a low carbon economy”. We turn the idea on its head. Rather than promoting the low carbon economy in order to facilitate economic “growth”, it is vital that this is done for its own merit. In so doing, there is scope for re-establishing the region as a manufacturing centre, which in itself will contribute to climate risk reduction by reducing shipping emissions. We are not against growth in these sectors of the economy, so long as the overall material scale of the economy is scaled down to a sustainable scale15. It will also help provide good quality jobs for Greater Manchester’s people.

The recommendations in the foregoing policies will all contribute to this aim, as will some of those below. Greater Manchester’s low carbon and environmental goods and services (LCEGS) sector made sales worth £5.4billion in 2013. However, to expand on this requires clarity about the sectors that will provide the best returns, not just in terms of profits (essential as they are for viability) but for incomes and environmental impacts. Some work has been done on the opportunities for what is the UK’s third largest regional LCEGS sector16, but more needs doing, in the context of competitive production in low wage economies, to prioritise this area and support the industry, especially its SME’s17 (which give a greater return to the regional economy than big corporates).

1.5 Contain and reduce aviation and private motoring.

Policy 1.51: Freeze the expansion of the airport and flight numbers, set aviation reduction targets by phased reduction of flights and setting a date to close one of the two runways.

The thinking behind it:

Unregulated carbon emissions from the aviation sector are the fastest growing source of the greenhouse gas emissions that are contributing to global climate change18”. For the UK, emissions from aviation made up some 6% of total emissions in 2014. Since 1990, aviation emissions have doubled. As the Committee on Climate Change notes, “It is important that decisions about UK airport capacity are consistent with the UK’s commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% by 2050, as set out in the Climate Change Act.“19, but expansion of aviation will make it very difficult to meet even the inadequate 2050 emission reduction targets20. As Manchester climate scientists, Larkin et al. have shown21, “Limited opportunities to further improve fuel efficiency, slow uptake of new innovations, coupled with anticipated rises in demand across continents collectively present a huge challenge to aviation in cutting emissions.” They also draw attention to the risk of aviation investments becoming “stranded assets” should serious climate change mitigation action be taken. Our proposal is for minimum actions required if the city region is serious about playing its part in reducing climate change.

Policy 1.52: Make plans to reduce the economic dependence of GM local authorities on revenues from the Manchester Airport Group. Initiate an award and incentive scheme for not flying.

The thinking behind it:

The airport makes a contribution to the City Region’s economy. While that contribution is usually overstated22, with, for example, income from the airport contributing maybe 1% to local authority funding, there is a condition of dependency on aviation because of the many jobs provided by the airport and by associated industries, even while the airport acts as a conduit for financial flows out of the region23. A comprehensive framework therefore needs to be drawn up to replace aviation as a key link in the region’s economy, involving re-purposing of land and buildings, and harnessing the developing replacement economy to provide part of the alternative. We can learn from the failure to plan for industrial alternatives in previous phases of sectoral decline and fall (for example the cotton and mining industries) and from proposals to create alternatives to the extractivist sectors in the Global South24.

Outline of the steps to reduce Greater Manchester’s reliance on aviation and its aviation emissions footprint. Solid red arrows = sequence of steps; dashed Red arrows = economic pathways; Blue arrows = emissions reduction pathways.

Policy 1.53: Radically reduce the use of private cars in urban areas.

The thinking behind it:

This could involve a car parking levy on employers, taking car parks out of use, congestion charging and using the proceeds to fund public transport and pedestrian/cycle infrastructure, work with employers to establish inverse mileage allowance tariffs (e.g. more money for smaller cars, no payments for short journeys, decreasing rate as mileage increases).

…Greater Manchester is a car-dependent city. …. The current dominance of drive-to-work commuting is obvious, even if we focus on radial commutes into Manchester City from the outer boroughs….But [excluding Salford-Manchester] 60-70% of the commutes in to Manchester City are by car.”25

The result is a city and region choked by cars. Suburban centres and residential areas are choked. Cycling is unpleasant due to having to share with cars and lorries. Air quality is poor and greenhouse gas emissions are high. Public transport is poorly coordinated and suffers poor investment. Investment choices have been questionable: while convenient for those areas that have it, Metrolink was probably not the best choice to bring clean efficient transport quickly to as many people as possible and it has made little or no impact on non-radial travel. Moreover fares are prohibitive for a significant part of the population.

To make a real difference there needs to be a combination of wise investment in cost-effective and low emission public transport and infrastructure to encourage cycling and walking, together with strong incentives to switch from car use and disincentives to use cars. At the same time there needs to be action to reduce demand to travel. Our proposals illustrate some practical steps that can be taken26.

1.6 Help people make low carbon choices.

Policy 1.61: Offer structured help and incentives so people can choose lower carbon options for heating and travelling.

The thinking behind it:

This could be via subsidised energy survey and supplier accreditation services or by brokerage of job swaps across the region to specifically reduce commuter time and miles.

It is generally recognised that the transition to a lower energy and zero carbon alternative will require a combination of public policy and action from all sectors (public, private, civil) and from citizens themselves27. However, it is a fallacy to think that the transition is in the hands of individuals. People can and will make ethical choices if those options are available and are attractive to them. For some products and services (for example domestic heating and energy-saving) the decisions are not straightforward but require surveys, analysis and appraisal of options28. For other decisions, people need help to make relevant contacts and the support of organisations that employ, house, or otherwise serve them (as in the example of swapping similar jobs to reduce travel time, costs, demand on transport and emissions).

To be continued – but if you can’t wait: download it here. You can also see out policies page HERE and our publications page HERE.


2He has reiterated this argument 10 years on from the original report: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/oct/27/10-years-on-from-the-stern-report-a-low-carbon-future-is-the-only-one-available? Where we do agree with him is in the emphasis on the critical role of cities in climate change mitigation and adaptation.

3See our work on this issue here: https://steadystatemanchester.net/?s=decoupling

4See Centre for Alternative Technology. (2013). Zero Carbon Britain: Rethinking the Future. Wales: Centre for Alternative Technology Publications. Retrieved from http://zerocarbonbritain.com/

5Davey, B. (Ed.). (2012). Sharing for Survival. Dublin: FEASTA. Also http://www.feasta.org/documents/energy/Cap-and-Share-May08-summary.htm

6Campaign Against Climate Change Trade Union Group (2014) One Million Climate Jobs: Tackling the Environmental and Economic Crises. http://www.climate-change-jobs.org/

7Based on data from, GMCA (2016) Change and Low Emissions Implementation Plan (2016-2020). https://www.greatermanchester-ca.gov.uk/downloads/file/221/change_and_low_emissions_implementation_plan_2016-2020 p. 17

8Nottinghamshire Community Energy. http://nce.coop/about/

9GMCA (2016) Greater Manchester has come together with cities around the world to join the fight against climate change. Webbsite news item. https://www.greatermanchester-ca.gov.uk/news/article/101/greater_manchester_fights_climate_change

10Gerdes, E (2013) Copenhagen’s Ambitious Push To Be Carbon Neutral by 2025 Yale Environment 360. http://e360.yale.edu/feature/copenhagens_ambitious_push_to_be_carbon_neutral_by_2025/2638/

11GMCA (2016) Change and Low Emissions Implementation Plan (2016-2020). https://www.greatermanchester-ca.gov.uk/downloads/file/221/change_and_low_emissions_implementation_plan_2016-2020 p. 19.

12IPPR (2015) Zero-Carbon London: a plan for the next mayoral term. http://www.ippr.org/files/publications/pdf/zero-carbon-london_Nov2015.pdf

14URBED / Carbon Co-op (2016) Greater Manchester Low Carbon Housing Retrofit Strategy (Discussion Draft). http://urbed.coop/sites/default/files/GM_%20Low%20Carbon%20Housing_Retrofit_DiscussionDraft%281%29.pdf

15Steady State Manchester (2013) Good and bad growth. (Blog post.) https://steadystatemanchester.net/2013/09/29/good-and-bad-growth/

16See Pro-Manchester web page on the Green Economy. http://www.pro-manchester.co.uk/sector-groups/green-economy/ and Seagrave, H. (2014) Powering Greater Manchester: how will we fuel our future? . New Economy Working Paper NEWP 010. http://media.ontheplatform.org.uk/sites/default/files/NEW_paper_10_-_Powering_Greater_Manchester.pdf

17Steady State Manchester (2016) Are small firms getting a good deal in Greater Manchester? (blog post) https://steadystatemanchester.net/2016/03/14/are-small-firms-getting-a-good-deal-in-greater-manchester/

18World Wildlife Fund (2014) Nobel Prize Winners to ICAO: Carbon Emissions Have a Cost. (Press Release.) https://www.worldwildlife.org/press-releases/nobel-prize-winners-to-icao-carbon-emissions-have-a-cost

19Committee on Climate Change (2016) UK aviation emissions must be consistent with UK climate change commitments, CCC says. (News release). https://www.theccc.org.uk/2016/10/25/uk-aviation-emissions-must-be-consistent-with-uk-climate-change-commitments-ccc-says/

20The Aviation Environment Federation (2015) Infographic: Why airport expansion risks the UK’s climate change commitments. http://www.aef.org.uk/2015/03/16/infographic-why-airport-expansion-risks-the-uks-climate-change-commitments/

21Bows-Larkin, A., et al. (2016). Aviation and Climate Change-The Continuing Challenge. In R. Blockley & W. Shyy (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Aerospace Engineering (pp. 1–11). Chichester, UK: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. http://doi.wiley.com/10.1002/9780470686652.eae1031 AND https://www.researchgate.net/publication/303446744_Aviation_and_Climate_Change-The_Continuing_Challenge

22Steady State Manchester (2013) The supposed economic benefit of aviation expansion. (blog post) https://steadystatemanchester.net/2013/06/25/the-supposed-economic-benefit-of-aviation-expansion/

23Wood, F., Bows, A and Anderson, K. (2012) Policy Update: A one-way ticket to high carbon lock-in: the UK debate on aviation policy, Carbon Management, 3:6, 537-540, http://dx.doi.org/10.4155/cmt.12.61

24Gudynas, E. (2012) Hay alternativas al extractivismo: transiciones para salir del viejo desarrollo. [There are alternatives to extractivism: transitions to exit from the old development {model].] CEPES/RedGE, Lima. http://www.alainet.org/images/transiciones-para-salir-del-viejo-desarrollo.pdf

25Folkman, P., Froud, J., Johal, S., Tomaney, J., & Williams, K. (2016). Manchester Transformed: Why we need a reset of city region policy (CRESC Public Interest Report) (p. 61). Manchester: Centre for Research on Socio-Cultural Change (CRESC), University of Manchester. http://www.cresc.ac.uk/medialibrary/research/ManchesterTransformed.pdf

26Further and more ambitious suggestions can be found at Burton, M. (2009). A Green Deal for the Manchester-Mersey Bioregion: An Alternative Regional Strategy. Manchester. http://greendealmanchester.files.wordpress.com/2009/08/outline-for-a-green-deal-for-the-manchester-mersey-bioregion-v-4-4.pdf p.10-12.

27See e.g. Manchester Climate Change Agency http://manchesterclimate.com/getinvolved

28London’s “Green Homes Concierge” scheme is a good example http://www.greenhomesconcierge.co.uk/your%20home

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