Manchester – poised to become a leader in the worldwide climate movement?

By Jon Crooks, published on The News Hub on 24th November 2014


Climate change is back on the political agenda and a growing number of cities, regions and even countries are committing to a transition to 100% clean by 2050. Can the new ‘Northern Powerhouse’ be one of them?

At the recent Climate Summit in New York, the task given by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon was simple. Heads of States had to promise the delivery of a global action plan by 2015 and this needs to target a fully decarbonised energy sector based on 100% renewable energy by 2050. That means no new carbon put into the air by the way we power our lives. Homes, transport and businesses – everything needs to be powered by clean, renewable energy.

Is this possible? Yes. Some countries are already getting 50-70% of their electricity from renewables in a single day and remember we have 35 years to get there. Think of all the technology we have now that didn’t exist 35 years ago: computers, the internet, smartphones etc. We can create even more solutions that we haven’t even thought of yet.

Of course it’s tough for politicians trained to look only to the next election cycle, but we are starting to see progress. Some 16 cities already have 100% targets. It is doable – the weight of scientific opinion leaves no doubt. Professor Mark Jacobson from Stanford University has outlined a vision to power the entire United States, including the transport sector, by 100% renewables by 2050. We don’t lack the ability, we lack political will.

But why Manchester? Well for starters thousands of people from Manchester signed a petition in the lead up to the People’s Climate March in September demanding a 100% clean energy future. The march itself was an incredible fusion of people. I was there. Thousands of us walked from Piccadilly Gardens, around the city, past the Labour Party conference at the Midland Hotel, where many wanted to pause to share a few choice words, and then across the road where we rallied outside the Bridgewater Hall to listen to several rousing speeches from the likes of Green Party leader Natalie Bennett.

Many of those speeches made the point that the North West is considered to be on the front line in the fight against fracking. A new fossil-fuel powered industry, which will be years in the making, is unlikely to deliver what is hoped of it and is far from the clean energy revolution we need. The public resistance to fracking is strong, should not be underestimated and continues to grow and, I think, will win. We are a city region intent on achieving a better future for our children. We won’t settle for a dirty transition to clean energy, we want a truly 100% clean goal.

Significantly though, politically, Greater Manchester is perfectly placed for this. A combination of ten local authorities have worked together for some time and after years of debate have now agreed to have an elected figurehead to oversee them. The Chancellor has rubber-stamped the deal and we will have a temporary mayor from January and a new elected mayor from 2017.

This will lead to a city region with greater freedoms, which will ultimately control all public spending in Greater Manchester. With responsibility for local transport (something which is already making great strides through the expansion of the successful Metrolink tram network and better provision for cyclists with the newly announced Oxford Road scheme), along with devolved planning freedoms and control of funds for housing, Manchester will be able to control its own destiny.

Online petitions are a growing political movement all on their own and fast becoming a proven way to make real change happen, but they are at their most powerful when they are directed at local actors by people in their community. I like the idea of a cascade of campaigns in cities and towns across the world calling for local pledges for 100% clean energy by 2050. Together we can turn our countries green from the inside out and show national politicians that climate action is possible and popular.

Getting our towns & cities to promise a clean, sustainable future is an important step towards stopping runaway climate change, and together we can make it happen. That’s why I created a petition to specifically get Manchester to commit to 100% clean energy.

The more of us who take action, the more likely it is our leaders will listen.