Manchester City Council

Apocalypse Now

Full Council yesterday. This municipal year every full Council meeting has started with an external speaker on a subject of topical interest. Yesterday Council members were blitzed with a truly shocking and apocalyptic address from Professor Kevin Anderson, Director of the Tyndall Energy Programme at the University of Manchester. Professor Anderson is a scientist working in the field of climate change, and what he told us is that a world that is still talking about containing average temperature increases to 2degreesC, is sleep-walking towards 4degreesC and possibly even higher with disastrous consequences for the planet as we know it. It's not just Kevin that think that as he cited sources, rather sober and conservative sources, like the President of the World Bank, who think similarly.

One of the devices that governments use to put off decision making is the use of 2050 targets for reducing carbon emissions, and Professor Anderson made the point that carbon emitted now will still be in the atmosphere by 2050, and if we want to have any chance of keeping the rise between 2 and 4degrees we have to act now.

We can't do that by simply bringing in alternative low/no carbon energy supplies. We have to do that but the scale of investment required and the length of time to deliver that would mean that only tackling the supply side would be too late. We need to tackle demand and we can do things about that immediately and that probably means everybody reading this blog. It doesn't mean everybody. I might not get the figures quite right but around 50% of the emissions in this country are caused by less than 5% of the population and it's not the poorest in our society. As the recent Great Manchester Poverty Commission Report made clear, a report Professor Anderson described as a report about low carbon people written by high carbon people, there is a fundamental issue of equity here. It is rich people, rich countries that have to turn down the lights.

I'm sure there are other climate change scientists who would take issue with some even much of what Kevin said, but how much of a gamble do we want to take with our future and our childrens future?

There are 11 responses to “Apocalypse Now”

  1. Marc Hudson Says:

    Sincere thanks for getting Kevin Anderson to do this. He - reliable sources inform me - enjoyed it. It certainly made a BIG impact on some of the councillors, and the packed public gallery. There's work to be done, though, on "maximising the synergies" (have I spent too long reading Council documents?) . Btw, after chasing you down for a statement, Arwa Aburawa, Manchester Climate Monthly co-editor, then wrote up an account. If you've not seen it, here it is - http://manchesterclimatemonthly.net/2013/01/30/science-speaks-to-democracy-on-climate-or-manchesters-climate-wake-up-call-manchester-mcc-acertainfuture/

  2. Phil Korbel Says:

    It was a brave choice of topic and speaker for full Council and what Kevin had to say was fundamentally shocking. I liked his emphasis on equity and social justice, that the rich locally and globally had to allow the poor to use more CO2 but cutting their use more. He also demolished current [challenging] targets as damming many in the developing world to a grim fate. There was also a strong call to lead by example and I was impressed by the quality of questions and comment [by Twitter] from the Councillors.

    There was another climate expert in the room whom I chatted with briefly afterwards. He told me that Kevin used to be considered an 'outrider' by some, but from what he'd just heard, and with how fast the effects of climate change were being felt, that that wasn't the case now.

  3. Helen Enevoldson Says:

    I sincerely hope that meaningful action will arise from the meeting.

  4. Ian Says:

    I agree with you but how are you going to get this across to joe public when the country is in the biggest melt down since the 1930's depression.
    It is easy to do this when there is both public and privite money to spend but when the Public money is being cut year on year see the saving MCC has to make it does'nt leave a lot for spending on climate change.
    Its also a pity the US Government and others has refused to do anything that will interfere with the growth that they are seeing in their economies.
    Politicians also in this and maybe other countries only see the short time plans to the next election no Government in the UK that I can remember Labour/Tory have planned for the long tern. No political gain by doing that.
    So i do fear this climate warning will be buried by the worsening ecomonic news that is coming down the track this year.
    Ian

  5. Steve Millward Says:

    Cutting down trees in Alexandra Park will not help the environment - they absorb carbon dioxide. What is happening in the park is environmental madness.

  6. Robbie Watt Says:

    It is fantastic that the council heard the incredibly important messages from Professor Anderson. I think his views on equity and justice will get members' attention. Climate change is much more than environmentalism. It is a class issue. It is a problem made by the rich, and inflicted on the poor. Labour is at its best when it stands up for the interests of the majority, the concerns of the least advantaged, highlighting injustice, reminding us of inequity, and taking action accordingly. It's time we saw more of this Labour party in Manchester. On climate change, in this city, good intentions have lapsed into apathy, that impotent realm of wishes and sentiment and words that, without foundations, are washed away like loose sand on a rising tide. This Labour council has power, here and now. Councillors, remind us of what Labour stands for. Let us build foundations.

  7. Ursula Sharma Says:

    How much of a gamble, indeed? What action is proposed by the Council ? A start might be for the council to identify greatest sources of carbon emissions in Manchester, so as to inform future action .

  8. Mark Burton Says:

    It was indeed a brave choice of speaker and topic and you are to be congratulated for this. What his message means though is that the economy has to fit within ecological limits. That means an end to the pursuit of growth, but sadly, MCC's budget strategy promotes economic growth as the cavalry that will save the council from ever deeper cuts. It won't, but more important, pursuing it makes it ever harder to prevent the runaway climate change that Kevin outlined. Time for a rethink.

  9. Justin Hellings Says:

    Councillor Leese, it's great to hear a sense of urgency on these issues by the leader of the council. Thank you very much.

    Please would you make it clear who, or what body within the council is responsible for leadership and practical action on this issue? As a Manchester resident, I don't hear any guidance at all from the council on these issues and that worries me greatly. When will this urgency manifest as substantive action? Please respond.

  10. Tim Blackwell Says:

    The difficulty, of course, is in translating these overwhelming earth-threatening problems into real actions which we can take on a smaller scale.

    We need to start to investing more in our parks - and that doesn't mean chopping all the trees down or treating parks as cash cows - closing them for private festivals which cause long-term damage just to raise revenue.

    And of course we know why people don't cycle much, because they don't want to share busy roads with fast cars and huge buses. In the long term better cycle infrastructure can encourage sustainable transport, make people healthier, and contribute to the economy where private cars just need subsidising.

  11. franky Says:

    Why do so many wealthy people drive around in large gas guzzlers. Vehicle emmissions are a large part of our problem.