How the UK’s “City-Region of Change” is setting the bar for climate action
Greater Manchester is establishing itself as a bastion of climate action in the United Kingdom. With a population of over 2.7 million, this is one of the UK’s largest city-regions, stretching over Bolton, Bury, Oldham, Rochdale, Stockport, Tameside, Trafford, Wigan, and of course, the cities of Manchester and Salford. A former hub of the industrial revolution, shaped by coal and steam power, Greater Manchester has since been heralded as the “City-Region of Change”, and is preparing itself for a markedly different tomorrow, listening to the voices of its residents and heeding the warnings of climate science.
It is Greater Manchester’s industrial history that has played an integral role in fuelling the city-region’s ambition, one that has disclosed to CDP since 2012, in a bid to drive their progress towards a low carbon future further and faster. With the Greater Manchester Combined Authority being one of more than 200 UK local and combined authorities to declare a climate emergency, the city-region is now forging ahead.
Building on this momentum, Greater Manchester became one of the first places in the UK to set a science-based target, setting the foundations to achieve carbon neutrality by 2038, 12 years ahead of the UK Government goal. As a target that demands average annual emission reductions of 15%, it is no mean feat. Targets cannot be delivered without a clear plan of action, and knowing this, Greater Manchester launched its 5-Year Environment Plan, setting out how the city-region’s public and private sectors and citizens themselves can “act now and act together" to tackle the real impact of climate change. The pivotal starting point is understanding the city-region’s contribution to UK emissions – 3.6%. This figure has been in steady decline, with a 39% reduction from 1990 to 2015, and Greater Manchester is accelerating its ambition to meet its target.
Action is underway to support this. On transport, Greater Manchester’s Metrolink tram network has undergone significant expansion and investment, with annual passenger journeys seeing a four-fold increase over the past 5 years alone. This will be bolstered by completion of the £350m extension of the network to Trafford Park in 2020. On cycling and walking, £500m has already been allocated to over 80 cycling and walking schemes as part of the city-region’s Bee Network.
This also supports action on other environmental challenges the city-region faces, particularly on air quality. NO2 levels in parts of the city-region are in breach of legal limits, the main source of which is vehicles. This is why the Greater Manchester is producing and will deliver a single Clean Air Plan, both to cut down emissions and safeguard the health of citizens, now and in the future.
Redesigning its own fleet of public transport vehicles is another way in which the city is delivering on its plans. Awarded a £5.4m ULEV Bus Fund grant from the government’s Office for Low Emission Vehicles, TfGM will introduce 23 electrics buses and charging infrastructure to its fleet, with estimated savings of 1000 tonnes CO2e per year.
On energy, Greater Manchester also aspires to be increasingly powered by locally generated renewable electricity, adding at least an extra 45MW to the grid by 2024. In partnership with Electricity North West (ENWL), the city-region is working to assess how future energy demand can be met with local renewable sources. Citizens are also set to have a greater amount of low-carbon options available to them, with the city-region seeking to reduce heat demand from existing homes with retrofit measures needing to be installed at least 60,000 homes each year by 2040.
Climate action must work for and engage citizens beyond the transport they use, and homes they live in. The actions being taken by Greater Manchester are also opening the door to new employment prospects, with its Low Carbon Environmental Good and Services sector the third largest in the UK, employing 37,000 people within the city-region’s boundaries. And it is growing, with annual sales of over £6.4billion and annual growth of around 4%, with particular growth in the renewable energy sector at 5.6%.
Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham said: “From our plans for an integrated cycling and walking network, to putting environmental sustainability at the heart of public decision-making, to working with businesses to support innovation in decarbonising the economy, we recognise that the climate crisis requires change at every level.
“Here in Greater Manchester we’ve set out our vision for reaching net-zero by 2038, twelve years ahead of the national UK target. Transitioning to net-zero carbon presents its own opportunities as well, with the potential for new jobs and growth in everything from renewable energy to our thriving digital and tech sectors.
“The message from our towns and cities is clear: the time to act is now, and we need to be setting – and holding ourselves to – the highest standards.”
Greater Manchester undertakes a range of collaboration with businesses on carbon reduction, resource efficiency and wider sustainability issues. This is driven partly through use of its procurement powers but also through wider funded business support around low carbon, as well as business development opportunities in the low carbon goods and environmental sector. An example of this is the Business Growth Hub’s long-running Green Growth (Enworks) programme, which delivers various funded carbon reduction, eco-innovation, and resource efficiency support programmes to SMEs and provides wider advocacy, leadership, and inspiration to business through initiatives such as the ‘Green Growth Pledge’.
Citizens across the UK have marched the streets of their towns and cities to demand the kind of action Greater Manchester is taking. Greater Manchester is one of 5 places in the UK on the A List and is leading the pack of cities combatting climate change, preparing its infrastructure, services, and citizens in the face of the new normal we are witnessing.
See Greater Manchester’s full disclosure response (PDF) to learn more about their climate action.