Catalytic Action 3: Business Alliance for Climate Change

The Executive of Manchester City Council- in effect the “Cabinet” of the 96 seat elected body- has recently accepted a report called the “Call to Action.

A London-based consultancy called “Beyond Green” wrote this report, which commits the Council to nine “catalytic actions.”

They are:

  1. World-leading neighbourhood regeneration

  2. Retrofitting Manchester’s civic heritage

  3. A business alliance for climate change

  4. Low carbon energy infrastructure

  5. Low carbon communities

  6. A climate-ready Local Development Framework

  7. The Manchester Prize

  8. Greening the City: i-Trees

  9. A green airport

We here at MCFly Towers think that these sorts of things go better with consultation. While we are waiting for the Council to announce just what it is going to do on this question, we will be posting one “catalytic action” per day on the MCFly blog, with a brief analysis. We invite the people of Manchester (and heck, why not beyond) to comment on these. We will pass on your comments to the Council.

That’s not to say the other parts of the report aren’t worthy of comment too- it’s just that we have to start somewhere, and here is as good a place as any…

“If we in Manchester are to shape the city so that it is fit to grow a low carbon economy and reap a competitive and first-mover advantage from doing so, business will need to be in the vanguard. Indeed, through forums such as the 100 Months Club and activities like the Environmental Business Pledge, business is already playing an important role.

“Often, business action on climate change and sustainability focuses on efforts to reduce factory and office waste and energy use, source supplies more sustainably, and change employee behaviour (for example by providing incentives and facilities for walking and cycling to work). This kind of in-house action is critical, with many small steps adding up to major carbon savings if widely adopted and will be an important part of business action on climate change in the City.

“The City Council wants to understand business views on this Call to Action. We want to understand what specific interventions Manchester business would like to see to support the realisation of a low carbon economy, including supportive policy changes, for example. We would like to examine with business the potential for coordinated procurement initiatives by large organisations across the public and private sectors to create a demand-pull on environmental technologies in Manchester. We would like business input on the potential of climate change as a signature aspect of Manchester’s brand – as the Chicago Climate Exchange has increasingly become associated with Chicago’s international brand. The City Council would like to engage and support business leaders to take the lead on climate change action. These businesses will provide the lead for others to follow and will agree a number of stretching and specific common commitments and actions.”

Which is all well and good. There will be an entirely predictable spectrum of responses to this. Friends of the Earth will cautiously welcome it, the Green Party will say that there should be more focus on regulation, rather than expecting niceness from companies. Beyond that, the more hardline socialists etc will call for nationalisation etc. etc

I hope the council is well informed on the potential limits to these sorts of voluntary schemes. There is a recent excellent book edited by Dr. Rory Sullivan that it would be worth their while to read. It’s called “Corporate Responses to Climate Change.” You can read a review and an interview with Dr. Sullivan here.

Three other concerns are as follows-

1) won’t this simply duplicate work of groups like “Business in the Community” and various quangos like Envirolink Northwest etc etc?

2) There is surely a real danger that the proposed conference with an internationally recognised speaker (Al Gore more likely than James Hansen, I’d guess) for later will simply add to emissions and public cynicism that the Council is doing more talking than doing.

3) There are no direct impacts on C02 reductions from this catalytic action, by the Council’s own admission! (see box on page 47 of the report)

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Below the surface...
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