Monday 1 August 2011

Greater Manchester signs off 48% carbon target

Imagine that - kicking off a blog posting with a headline that references percentages, targets and an admin process for signing off a strategy; stay awake at the back there!

It's pretty fundamental this one; Britain's second city (Greater Manchester to you and I) has signed off a climate change strategy that sets a pretty ambitious target of 48% carbon reductions by 2020 against a baseline level of 1990.

It doesn't stop there. The strategy covers all the bases, including mitigation, adaptation, green jobs and the need for a cultural shift (low carbon hegemony anyone?). The other cheeky bit lurking under the tarpaulin is an emerging measure for the thrillingly entitled 'Scope 3' emissions. To anyone who doesn't doze off at night with a copy of 'advanced carbon footprinting' clutched to their bosom, these are the emissions that we usually try and ignore: the stuff we buy, the flights we take, the food we eat.

Here's the first glimpse of our 'consumption-based' carbon footprint

The strategy as presented to the Greater Manchester Combined Authority can be downloaded from here. It's still in a stripped down, word-processed, no-frills format, but is well worth having a gander at. The headlines, in essence, are:

 - A rapid transition to a low carbon economy
 - Collective carbon emissions reduced by 48%
 - Be prepared for and actively adapting to a rapidly changing climate
 - ‘Carbon literacy’ will have become embedded into the culture of organisations, lifestyles and behaviours

There's some progress already, with a number of low carbon buildings, a domestic retrofit programme, emerging heat network plans, a green deal project and the introduction of an electric car charging scheme already well underway, but it's only the start.

The other issue for me is that it is a solid step towards getting all ten Greater Manchester authorities onto the same track on climate change. I chair the steering group for Manchester's own plan - 'A Certain Future' - and I know that we could achieve so much more if we all worked together, better, to cut carbon and adapt for the changes that lie ahead.

Headlands to headspace

Earlier this year we (Creative Concern) were lucky enough to work with the Morecambe Bay Partnership and our good friend and collaborator James Rebanks on the Partnership's Heritage Lottery Fund bid 'Headlands to Headspace'. Today it's been officially announced that they've won the bid and have been allocated £2 million through the Landscape Partnership programme.

The aim of the scheme is to help local people come together and maximise the opportunity offered by the inspiring views, landscape features, heritage and wildlife of the Bay. This will include projects to celebrate the Bay's unique cultural heritage and stunning landscapes, restore and reconnect wildlife habitats, protect the tidal islands, develop the railway stations as hubs to access key sites and support support education projects and oral history looking at the traditions of fishing in the Bay.

It's this last bit - the area's social history - that unearthed a real gem for me, an old bit of documentary footage of shrimpers roaring across the Bay in the 1930s, their carts (and horses) at some points almost completely engulfed by the sea; amazing.

Morecambe Bay is rich in heritage of this sort, but it's got a slightly left field side to it too. There's something about the patterns of the sand, the windswept trees, the slightly unexpected art projects and the toppled, incongruous gun emplacements that makes the whole package totally distinctive. The best bet is to get up there and check it out for yourself, starting with a cocktail in the Midland Hotel would be a good idea.

Humphrey Head by Jon Sparks

Finally, the Headlands to Headspace project wouldn't have come off unless it had been steered by the awesome force of nature that is the Partnership's co-ordinator, Susannah Bleakley, or if it hadn't been given a glorious shove by the likes of the Mersey Basin Campaign, Regional Parks Exchange and the Northwest Regional Development Agency.

It's projects like this that should remind us that when it comes to big, connected and beautiful landscapes, regions work; someone might like to mention this to Mr Pickles.