Activists criticise city council for ‘inaction’ over climate change emergency

  • FOI request shows no new cash or resources being put into fight against climate change
  • Council to publish eco update later this month and says it will be carbon neutral by 2038
  • Environment chief says she shares activists' sense of urgency 

Manchester City Council has come under fire for  ‘inaction’ on the climate emergency following the publication of a Freedom of Information response by climate activists.

The request put in by Manchester Climate Emergency set out to find out what action had taken place since the declaration of the climate emergency in July this year.

The response revealed that no staff have been seconded to work on enviromental, no new resources have been assigned and no external bids for funding made.

Calum McFarlane, of Climate Emergency Manchester, said: “This is disappointing, but not surprising. We know that many councillors genuinely care, and want to see action.

“They, like us, are angry at the lack of any sense of urgency from the leadership of the council, both elected and unelected. We will continue to work with people throughout Manchester to raise not just the level of ambition, but also action.

We need deeds, not words

foia 27 sept 2019
The Freedom of information request 

Councillor Angeliki Stogia, executive member for environment, said: “While we understand and welcome the passion people have about the issue of climate change, it simply isn’t true to say that the council doesn’t share their sense of urgency. We do.

“That’s why we declared a climate change emergency. That’s why we are committed to a goal of Manchester becoming carbon neutral by 2038,12 years ahead of the national target.

“And that’s why a huge amount of initiatives already underway with extensive work being done to establish how this radical reduction in the city’s carbon emissions will be achieved.

“We aren’t starting from scratch. The council has reduced its own carbon emissions by almost 50 per cent since 2010 – exceeding our 41 per cent reduction target. 

“We’ve already got a huge range of relevant initiatives underway, from replacing street lights with lower emission LED ones to tackling single use plastic at events in the city and powering our buildings with cleaner energy through the Civic Quarter Heat Network. But clearly we can and will do more.”

Councillor Angeliki Stogia
Councillor Angeliki Stogia

With the United Nations warning that we only have 12 years to limit our impact on climate change, some may ask if a step change in action is required. 

Rose Arnold, of Rising UP! Manchester Families, said: “Declaring a climate emergency was a vital step but the task ahead is enormous.

“Manchester missed last year’s target of 13% carbon reduction by 11%. We’re nowhere near. There’s no way the changes needed can be carried out without resources.

“At the very least a team is needed, which should include a member of the executive committee. We’re deeply worried that the declaration of emergency won’t translate into the action needed.”

The council says it has established a zero carbon co-ordination group to oversee its response to the declaration of a climate change emergency. 

Stroud Council is seen as one of the UKs most progressive local authorities when it comes to climate change having been declared carbon neutral since 2015. It has undertaken measures such as putting solar panels on all its buildings and taking measures to increase recycling rates to 61%.

Councillor Angeliki Stogia added: “Tackling climate change isn’t something we can do on our own, it’s a responsibility for everyone in the city – indeed the council’s direct emissions only account for around two per cent of the city’s as a whole – but we are determined to show real leadership.

“This means putting the push for zero carbon at the heart of everything we do – both our day-to-day operations and our decision-making.

“We are working intensively on a bold zero carbon action plan, due to receive final approval in March, which will set out in detail how Manchester can achieve the city’s zero carbon target, with a strong focus on the things which will make the biggest difference.

“We will provide an update on this later this month. Realistically, the scale of change we are trying to achieve cannot be achieved overnight and needs to be carefully thought through rather than a knee-jerk reaction.

“But we are balancing this against the need to reduce carbon emissions as much as possible as soon as possible. 

“We will keep the resources we need to achieve this under constant review but to some extent this is a red herring.Everyone in Manchester, both inside and outside the council, has a role to play and it’s about embedding the drive for zero carbon in everything we do,  not having distinct teams and funding pots which are solely responsible for delivering it.”

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn spoke about local authority action on climate change ealier this year saying: “We have no time to waste. The scale and severity of the climate emergency requires urgent action in every community across our country and across the world. We are living in a climate crisis that will spiral dangerously out of control unless we take rapid and dramatic action.

“Climate justice is about social justice. It is working class communities in inner-city areas that suffer the worst effects of air pollution. Around the world, it is the poorest people who are already paying a heavy price of this crisis while the super-rich and the big corporations, who are most responsible for emissions, can afford to look after themselves.

“Local government and local communities are absolutely essential to confronting the climate emergency. Action from above by people sitting in offices in Whitehall and Westminster alone will never deliver the change we need.

On Thursday(10 October) – the three month anniversary of the city council’s declaration –  Climate Emergency Manchester will release its first quarterly progress report on the Council’s actions, based on a series of Freedom of Information Act requests. The report,  known as ‘Hung Drawn and Quarterly #01’, will be free to download from here.