Green Column: What ‘Green’ can look like

EXAMPLE: Manchester offers an inspiring example of how a region's leaders can work with its community towards a sustainable future

EXAMPLE: Manchester offers an inspiring example of how a region's leaders can work with its community towards a sustainable future

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IN last week’s column, I mentioned a great example of a community taking climate change seriously, and prioritising it for the good of the residents, economy and environment.

Manchester offers an inspiring example of how a region’s leaders can work with its community towards a clean, sustainable, climate-friendly future.

The work is being driven by Manchester City Council – but it’s a completely inclusive project, so local residents and businesses have been heavily involved in producing the plan. And what a plan it is!

There are two headline targets:

1. To reduce the city of Manchester’s emissions of CO2 by 41 per cent by 2020, from 2005 levels.

2. To engage all individuals, neighbourhoods and organisations in Manchester in a process of cultural change that embeds ‘low carbon thinking’ into the lifestyles and operations of the city

The carbon reduction targets are sizeable (as the scale of the climate challenge facing us needs them to be): they mean a reduction of CO2 emissions from 3.2 million tonnes (2005 levels) to less than 2 million tonnes for the city as a whole, and per person from 7.3 tonnes (2005 levels) to 4.3 tonnes per head.

The way the Council has gone about it is terrific to see. Whilst they’ve acknowledged the scale of the problem, there’s no indulging in blame (‘look how damaging we’re all being!’) – just a cheerful acknowledgement that every one of us needs to make changes in what we think as well as what we do, so as to bring about lasting benefits. Because we’re worth it!

So the plan incorporates a huge number of actions – 150 of them and counting – ways in which people, businesses and neighbourhoods as well as the Council itself and associated government bodies can make a concerted effort towards a common goal.

The actions are broken down into a number of ‘themes’ such as Waste, Land, Food, Transport, Education and so on, so as to help people navigate them when they’re looking for ideas on a particular subject. You can also search by sector, e.g. Individual, Business, Public Sector (ie government), Third Sector (charities), to find the set of suggestions aimed at a given group.

For individuals, the actions include things like:

– identifying and using ideas for good soil management (to help gardens and allotments be as healthy and productive as possible)

– getting involved in community-based micro-generation projects, where energy can be used by local users and/or fed back into the national and local grids

For businesses, they include:

– working with the Council to develop low-congestion, low carbon transport and travel plans

– signing up to the highest Carbon Trust standards. This is a framework that helps businesses achieve their aims without a damaging carbon footprint

– industry-specific measures, such as a food sustainability ‘quality mark’ for the catering and restaurant sector, with carbon reduction as the key driver.

It’s great to see how Manchester City’s leaders have faced up to the realities of the situation we’re all in, climate-wise – and rather than ducking the issue or blustering about how ‘economic realities have to be faced first’, have come up with a philosophy and routemap that combines economic good health with solid progress towards helping to solving the global crisis.

The Plan itself, drafted in 2010 (‘Manchester – a Certain Future’) describes a ‘vision of a green prosperous low-carbon Manchester’.

In doing so they’ve secured something amazing – not just a realistic plan for clean, green, responsible growth, but a level of community engagement and solidarity between individuals, business and local government which has other payoffs: better relationships, increased understanding of one anothers’ viewpoints, and a real sense of joint accountability for and involvement in a positive future.

We’re hearing that there’s been a lot of fun along the way too, as well as some really positive impacts on the economy!

Sounds good, doesn’t it? Could we aspire to something similar locally?

Well, yes we could – if our Government would take the issue of climate change seriously, and act as if it felt the island and its people and businesses were worth looking after for the long term.

That would require some big changes in thinking: a blame-free acknowledgement that things have to change, an honest assessment of where we are and where we need to get to, and some open dialogue on what we can start doing together.

At Friends of the Earth we’d really like to see this, and we’re encouraging readers to demand the same sort of action through their MHKs.

If you’d like to learn more for yourself about Manchester’s initiatives, see

And if you’d like to join Isle of Man Friends of the Earth in calling for the island’s leaders to move with the times, contact us at iomfoe(at) for more information.

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