The Mancunion

Britain's biggest student newspaper

Andy Burnham to make Manchester green capital of Europe

Andy Burnham and Alex Ganotis tell The Mancunion that Manchester’s student population have “a major contribution to play” in lead-up to landmark Green Summit, which aims to move up Labour’s 2050 carbon neutrality goal by up to 20 years

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Andy Burnham, the Mayor of Greater Manchester, has announced a Green Summit which will determine plans to make Manchester one of the greenest cities in Europe. Alex Ganotis, the Councillor for Stockport, is leading the agenda.

The landmark summit will be held in March 2018. It aims to set a pioneering deadline for Greater Manchester to achieve carbon neutrality — a net zero carbon footprint.

Manchester is among 50 Labour-run city councils across the UK to have already pledged to carbon neutrality by 2050. In conversation with The Mancunion, Ganotis disclosed that the Green Summit will likely set a new date between 2030 and 2040.

Burnham explained the decision to move up Labour’s green goal to The Mancunion: “going back to my Mayoral election campaign, I was challenged on [the 2050 deadline] by green groups within Greater Manchester saying that that wasn’t ambitious enough, that actually if the whole world worked at that timetable, there would be irreversible effects on global temperature.”

To decide the new date, the council has formed a panel of experts, including the University of Manchester’s Tyndall Centre, to conduct research and lead the Green Summit.

Burnham said, “we want Greater Manchester in that club of the most forward-thinking cities when it comes to sustainable living and tackling climate change. The university would be very well-placed to give us the analysis and the expert advice to base our decisions on.”

A separate steering group will lead public engagement prior to the summit, to pool ideas from the wider public. Both Burnham and Ganotis emphasise the importance of consulting and listening to Manchester residents — particularly students.

“We don’t want to impose a plan on people, we want to write the plan with people,” the Mayor stated to The Mancunion.

“The student population have got a major contribution to play here,” he continued. “It is about the voice of the younger generation, who possibly see this more clearly because of the impact it will have on your lives.

“We want to get people’s ideas and energy into this debate. I think maybe older people don’t have the same sense of urgency about it.”

The Stockport Councillor, Alex Ganotis, elaborated: “this really is about the next generation; this is about young people. We’re talking about 2040, 2050 now; so who are the most important people in terms of that agenda? Well, it’s teenagers. It’s people in their early twenties — because they’re the people who are going to have to live with the consequences of this agenda.

“So… let’s also hear from students, and they could have a part to play in this subject.”

Ganotis hopes that making Manchester into a green city will also encourage university students to stay in Manchester after graduating — for example, by creating green jobs, expanding green spaces in the city centre, and improving air quality.

Andy Burnham explained to The Mancunion how the green agenda will benefit all residents.

“If we were to retrofit some of our housing stock, and make it more energy efficient, that will bring down people’s energy bills. So, you can do things to make Manchester more low-carbon but actually, you can benefit the people of Manchester at the same time.

“Or cycling — we’ve appointed Chris Boardman as the cycling and walking commissioner for Greater Manchester. If he helps us develop a very high-quality cycle network and if we have schemes that help people cycle to work, that can improve people’s health, it’s cheaper for them in terms of travel — the benefits of that are pretty big.

“So, it’s not always the case that this is an agenda that means people are getting clobbered in some way because you can devise interventions that can help the public at the same time.”

Widespread engagement from the general public is essential to the agenda’s success. Burnham and Ganotis informed The Mancunion that relying on top-down legislation is not an option because they “don’t think the government’s done enough to help us.”

Ganotis expanded: “I don’t think the government’s being ambitious enough in terms of, for example, diesel scrapping scheme, and giving us the funding to improve air quality.”

Manchester City Council intends instead to build a green city with the help of its own people and lead the rest UK by example.

“[Andy] wants to see Greater Manchester as a leader in the green agenda in the UK,” the Councillor told The Mancunion. “So what we would be looking for is for other cities to look at the steer that we provide in that green agenda, and say, ‘yeah, we’ll get on board with that.’”