The Mystery of the Missing Ratings

This story was supposed to be about Manchester’s poor rating in Forum for the Future’s ‘Sustainable Cities Index.’ Released on November 10, the ratings proclaimed Bristol “the most sustainable city in Britain,” for its recycling, composting and waste collection programmes, open spaces and clean water.

Manchester rated only 15th in the listings, having dropped from 12th place in 2007, despite Council promises that we’d be the greenest city in Britain by 2010.

But when McFly tried to learn more about the ratings, we found that the 2008 list had vanished from the website. An enquiry was met with the information that “We’re reviewing all the data in our Sustainable Cities Index after an error was brought to our attention and have taken it off our website in the meantime. It’s important to have accurate figures which councils can use to benchmark their efforts and we will be reissuing these as soon as we have completed our review.”

Forum for the Future was set up in the 1990s to foster links between environmentalists, government and business, but was met with scepticism by greens for including the likes of BNFL and BP amongst its corporate members.

Its first Sustainable Cities Index put Brighton & Hove at the top of the pile, followed by Edinburgh and Bristol.

While the Council may be breathing a temporary sigh of relief, Manchester Green Party‘s Brian Candeland was less optimistic.

Whilst Forum for the Future have identified some inconsistencies in their data and removed their report from the website to check it, it is likely that the positions are broadly correct,” he said. “At least Manchester cannot have done worse than last year, unless a missing climate change strategy could incur minus points. The 2007 survey said that cities like Manchester that went for grand projects performed poorly. The indication is that “trophy-collecting” distracts from the broader criteria of what makes a sustainable and liveable city.”

Martin Empson of Manchester Campaign Against Climate Change demanded that “the council should be

looking at radical solutions rather than relying on the goodwill of local businesses. In the current economic climate, the council should be using its powers to instigate major improvement works on housing and transport services to both reduce emissions and safeguard jobs and services.”

Even Future ProManchester, a young professionals’ organisation, called on Council Leadership to take a former stance, with chair Alex Solk commenting that: “Manchester has some great leaders, but who is there to deliver a sustainable strategy? We should be developing policies and business practices to generate revenue in the short term and develop a sustainable city for the future in the long term.”

Richard Cowell, Manchester’s Executive Member for the Environment, defended the City Council’s record, admitting “”We’re disappointed to have come 15th on the index this year, but we’re currently awaiting the result of Forum For The Future’s own review of its data” but claiming that “Combating climate change is a major priority for the City Council and we’re currently working on a detailed report to be launched in the near future, detailing how we’re going to reach our target of reducing CO2 emissions by one million tonnes by 2020.”

Ultimately though, we get the leadership we deserve. Despite activist rhetoric about “think global act local”, Manchester City Council has not been criticised for its year of inaction. What will it take to get Manchester’s environmentalists to engage critically with the Council? Will Howard Bernstein have to start commuting to work in a helicopter, tossing out free Easyjet vouchers as he goes, before anyone takes the blindest bit of notice?



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