Call to Inaction

Article published: Tuesday, March 31st 2009

Last month the council unveiled its latest climate change paper, the Call to Action.

Tim McMohan

Sustainable Neighbourhoods

I welcome the Call for Action as a step in the right direction. However, the time for taking steps is rapidly coming to a close, if indeed it hasn’t already. The 100 Months Club – a new alliance established to help the City Region of Manchester chart a low-carbon course into the future, was set up in March 2008 but no new news has been posted on its website since before September 2008. For the record there are now less than 95 months left before the point of climatic no-return.

It is important to recognise the Council’s commitment to retrofit existing homes to become more energy efficient, delivering green infrastructure and pathways for the establishment of Energy Service Companies (ESCo). That shows progression and long-sightedness and it is just that communities support their Council to fulfill these commitments. It is also important to oppose decisions which promote air transport and carbon trading schemes that suppress development in the global South.


Steven Durrant

Vice-chair Manchester Green Party

This is the latest in Council Greenwash. I like to be balanced, to praise good council action while denouncing spin and procrastination. I (and perhaps some readers) remember a time two or three years ago when enviro-activist types were sweet-talked by the "Green City" team into giving our ideas at a long workshop. Those ideas went towards a lovely looking "Principles" document, which  add up to "not much" in reality. The latest wheeze, a "Call to Action", would be in line for any greenwash Oscar. Between £70-100k of our money was spent on a London consultancy dreaming up some stuff about "catalysts". While many ideas sound OK, they lack substance, detail or any solid commitment. It’s as laughable as it is depressing that the council think glossy PR is enough. But at least lovers of "bullshit bingo" will have a field day, and there are the usual laughs to be had about new ways to make airport policy sound "green".

Adrian Van Nistrelrooy

Community Activist

It’s far from an overarching and detailed framework for Manchester to achieve government targets of 80 percent carbon reductions by 2050 and 80 precent by 2030 from climate science recommendations. Consultation with research groups like Manchester Tyndall Centre (who they quote) is promising. They warn that  ‘if air travel continues to grow at the expected rate… by 2050 air traffic alone will contribute the entirety of UK carbon emissions the UK.’ But the group’s influence is clearly limited as the council later says, ‘it is not a realistic option for individual airports or cities to suppress their growth unilaterally ahead of international agreements.’ The main encouragement comes from the opportunities for further public consultation on policy. Activists and the public will have no one else to blame if they do not at least attempt to influence these important outcomes.

Jenny Nelson


Members of EN4M want to see the council take urgent action on climate change. There is general agreement that the release of this document is a step closer towards that action, but there is plenty of room for improvement. Our members alread take action against climate change in a variety of ways, like by producing food locally and raising awareness about climate change in schools. The release of this document has sparked debate on how we can further work with the council. We also expect it to lead to a public meeting on how we can take this forward.

Bill Harrop

Co-ordinator Transport Pool Manchester Community Network

I have mixed feelings about this report. Mainly due to having been involved in the climate change strategy work (via EN4M) a couple or so years ago. This report seems to duplicate what we’ve already done. However, having read the report there is, or at least it appears to me, recognition of the urgency to tackle this issue. Which is the most important bit! In my opinion part of the problem, and the reason why this never took off last time due to a lack of communication/involvement, both across council departments and other partners. There must be a balance between senior executive officers and grass roots activists to ensure an equitable direction is taken (bottom-up not top-down). My particular area of interest transport, contributes significantly to the problem. It also has huge potential to tackle it. We can not do what we have always done. I am optimistic that there are ways we can work together to alleviate transport-related emissions, and look forward to the challenge.

Derek La Pones

Volunteer Action for Sustainable living

This document is a waste of paper and web space. The only plus points would be the i:tree initiative to green the Oxford Road corridor and the retro fitting some of the councils buildings. Although these are small potatoes on the scale of things.
The council is always to eager to link any new plan with their own concept of development and the much loathed idea of regeneration. For many this concept has come to mean gentrification and the end of social housing. It is a shame that environmental policy has been turned into an attack on the urban poor who are all to often forced from their houses and communities to make way for expensive property developments.
The document also promises the councils final Manchester climate change action plan in 2009, we have been waiting for a comprehensive action plan for some time. Will this finally be it? I doubt it.


Dr Paul Hooper

Manchester Metropolitan University

Manchester City Council is to be commended for its recognition of the urgency of actions on climate change and willingness to take a strategic lead in defining and delivering sustained reduction in climate change emissions. However, as the Call for Action acknowledges, the success of the proposed and on-going suite of initiatives will be largely dependent on the active involvement of all partners from big business, communities, third sectors organisations to individuals. In the Call the Council seeks to stimulate support from these quarters by demonstrating the compatibility of climate change actions with a range of other City, community and individual priorities designed to improve the quality of life of all citizens in the City Region. Unfortunately, with some notable exceptions, many potential partners whilst expressing considerable concern about climate change have as yet done little to change their behaviour. Here lies the crux, will the range of initiatives and leadership being offered by the Council be sufficient to engender the radical shifts in behaviour required to meet the exacting targets for GHG emissions reductions by 2050? Evidence from the recent attempt to implement a congestion charge suggests that the Council will have to do more than take a lead and walk the talk with respect to the reduction of their own climate change emissions. More direct action will likely be necessary to force as well as encourage behavioural change if Manchester is to play its full part in achieving the dramatic 80% reduction in climate change emissions targeted nationally for 2050.

In response to the council’s Call to Action a group of Manchester campaigners have started to write the Call to Real Action.

Gayle O’Donavan explains more…

The Council has spent years promising a Climate Change Strategy for Manchester. This ‘Call to Action’ was written by a London-based consultancy firm. We felt that the document lacked local knowledge and the firm who wrote it made no effort to consult with the people of Manchester. The council seems to shy away from targets and show very little real initiative. It contained lots of ideas on how to rebrand work that the council or other groups were doing. A perfect example of this is the retro-fit of the Townhall. Of course this needs to be done in order to make it more energy efficient. However when the details were announced it transpired it will cost £165 million. The plans included putting glass tiles on the bridge going into the townhall extension as well as providing retail space; how much value does this have as a green iniatitive?

We believe that to tackle climate change we must ‘act local but think global’. So we are writing a bottom-up document that can sets out how we can collectively tackle climate change here in Manchester, called Call To Real Action (C2RA). We need to reduce carbon emissions and at the same time, use this opportunity to improve peoples’ quality of life.

We’re two meetings into writing it, and we’re inspired. There’s a wealth of skills and experience to draw on in this city, something we want to capitalise on, and there is now a broad spectrum of individuals and groups involved.  We know people are busy so we set up a blog where people can contribute in their own time.

Transport is my area of interest. I work in cycling, so I decided to stick to what I know. I’m heavily involved with the Stop Expansion at Manchester Airport group SEMA which is made up of Manchester Friends of the Earth, Manchester Green Party, Campaign against Climate Change and Plane Stupid. And we already have lots of ideas for how the Council can deal practically with Manchester Airport emissions. C2RA is giving us a chance to develop our own policies even futher.  In the council’s call to action "Catalytic Action Number Nine" is about supporting Manchester Airport to be green. Currently it emits the same amount of CO2 as Uganda and Manchester City Council is in a very strong position to address this issue as it owns 55 percent of it. Sadly the council have forgotten to include the emissions from the planes when talking about how to green the airport.

The council’s Call to Action document can be found on their website

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