Dissent breaks out at climate change ‘stakeholder conference’

Article published: Tuesday, March 27th 2012

Dissent reigned at the end of the ‘annual’ Stakeholder Conference for Manchester’s Climate Change Action Plan held on 16 March.

Participants broke ranks to express concern and dismay at both the format of the day’s proceedings and the lack of transparency and information around climate change efforts over the last two years in Manchester. Their outcry was met with assurances they had been heard “loud and clear” by the chair of the “Steering Group” running the conference, and that “communication” would be a priority.

Following the creation of the “Manchester Climate Change Action Plan” in 2009 Manchester City Council set up a small “Steering Group”, tasked among other responsibilities with running an annual stakeholder conference. The aim, according to the much-trumpeted “Manchester A Certain Future” document, is “to review progress, consider changes and improvements and agree targets for the coming year.”

The first annual conference took place in November 2010, yet the information gathered at that was not circulated, and a deathly hush descended. After a recent expansion of the Steering Group the second annual conference finally took place on Friday March 16. Around one hundred people – overwhelmingly ‘pale and male’ – attended on a ticket-only “first come, first served” basis.

The conference cost somewhere in the vicinity of £6,000 pounds, working out roughly at £60 a head. It would be interesting to know where various chunks of this money went, for example how much was spent on bringing a speaker up from London, and what money has been allocated for the crucial work of follow-up and dissemination, to avoid the same mistakes as after November 2010’s first annual conference.

After a keynote speech by Tom Burke, formerly of Friends of the Earth, attendees went to hour-long workshops on either side of an extended refreshments break. Sadly, the workshops did not bring out people’s experiences of practical action on the ground, nor focus on what was and was not being accomplished in Manchester.

By the second set of workshops it was evident that very many participants were not really clear what it was that they were achieving with their presence, nor clear on what the steering group was, what it had achieved, what it had not achieved and where things were heading. Particularly in the “Growing” workshop, there was open frustration and exasperation from far more than the usual suspects. Among causes for concern were the focus on individual change rather than systemic change, the lack of leadership from the council and businesses, and the lack of openness, transparency and information from the steering group itself. The intriguing question of whether Steering Group meetings are open to the public was raised by one attendee, but she did not, to our knowledge, receive any answer.

A significantly smaller number of attendees was present for the final session. After a useful wrap-up of the “satellite events” that have taken place over the past week, the Steering Group chair Steve Connor invited attendees to start thinking about how they might find themselves on the group in future years, since elections would, after all, begin to be held, and stated that he would not be the chair in perpetuity.

Marc Hudson and Arwa Aburawa

The authors are editors for Manchester Climate Monthly

Manchester Climate Monthly has set up pages for people who attended the conference to comment on individual sessions, as well as a “how it could have been done” page.

More: Environment, Manchester, Opinion


  1. Nobody is interested in or believes all the gloom and doom of the eco-apocalyptics and obsessives.

    It’s a scandal that £6000 of public money was spent on this shambles.

    Eco-alarmism is notoriously a hobby of affluent, ‘do as I say, not as I do’ middle class types.

    These people are out of touch with the needs of the people of austerity Manchester and the UK as a whole.

    Comment by pete on March 30, 2012 at 9:32 pm
  2. Actually, global warming is far from an issue that is only worried about in rich Western nations by the same people going on about “austerity”, “fuel poverty” and “how much a loaf of bread costs in Tesco” – in the Maldives there is considerable concern about what will happen when their country completely disappears under the rising oceans, which they have done virtually nothing to cause. That’s ok though, at least our economy will be back on track and the price of tram tickets might only go up 10p this year.

    Comment by Sam on April 4, 2012 at 3:06 pm

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