Cllr Alex Ganotis, Leader of Stockport Council and Greater Manchester Combined Authority Lead for the Environment, Green Spaces and Air Quality
Shortly after his election, Mayor Andy Burnham announced his ambition to make Greater Manchester a world-leading carbon neutral, green and clean city-region. As the Combined Authority’s lead for the environment, I’m equally as ambitious and confident that our city can do it. So, what does this plan mean for Greater Manchester? How can we improve the lives of millions of people now while protecting the environment for future generations?
The first step is to listen. The Green Summit, which has garnered huge interest, will take place on Wednesday. Nearly 600 environmental experts, businesses, interest groups, partner agencies, academics and local people are all set to attend. In the run up, we held over 40 ‘listening events’ and ran an online survey which attracted over 2,100 responses, thus giving us a chance to hear people’s ideas for how we can make Greater Manchester the greenest city-region in the UK.
In order for us to be fully compliant with the Paris Agreement, we will need to make substantial cuts to carbon emissions over the next few years. The Summit will debate a clear date for achieving carbon neutrality, based on academic analysis. We will take a science-based approach to planning a pathway, with the summit an opportunity to go through what that will mean.
It is clear that UK and international ambitions on climate change cannot be realised by local government acting alone; it will require concerted effort from national government, business and communities working together. I was pleased to discuss this with MPs at this week’s Greater Manchester All-Party Parliamentary Group, where we talked about aligning national and local policies, and the importance of key economic policies such as the Local Industrial Strategy being green too.
We need to increase the installation of solar panels, encourage greater bioenergy use and boost the number of low carbon heat sources. We need to work with residents and businesses, changing travel behaviour, decarbonising transport and reducing energy demand. As the UK’s Urban Pioneer City in the Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan, we will share our learning with other cities. We also need to continue to lobby Government to decarbonize national energy and transport infrastructure and incentivise the generation of local electricity and heat.
Climate change is not a peripheral environmental issue, and should not be seen as such. A green city-region is good for everyone, and is as much about our future economic wellbeing, sector development, smart jobs, secure energy provision and people’s health, as it is about avoiding the damage caused by flooding and extreme weather events. For example, as well as significant health benefits, energy efficient homes can lift residents out of fuel poverty and give them more disposable income.
Businesses have a lot to gain too: by operating in a leading city-region in the drive for carbon neutrality, they will be at the forefront of innovation and new technologies in this space. Moreover, SME’s can make significant energy saving measures that will pay for themselves in less than three years. This sectoral focus will have the potential for a major boost in opportunities and jobs in the emerging market, particularly for young people.
The idea of Greater Manchester making a serious difference to international climate goals may seem daunting to some, but it should not. Ultimately, we’re creating a green city-region where people want to live, work and enjoy. Working together, we can set an environmental vision fit for the future.
The Greater Manchester Green Summit will take place on Wednesday 21st March. Registration has now closed, however you can follow the event on Twitter at #GMGreenCity or watch it live-streamed on the GMCA website.