MCFly 023- Teaching an elephant to tapdance

Three new-ish official bodies have been set up to meet the challenge of Climate Change in Manchester. MCFly gives a quick overview of each, and asks “who will tell the people?”

The oft-delayed announcement of the remaining “Environment Commissioners” has been made. The Environment Commission is a Greater Manchester body that will aim to “co-ordinate with a range of organisations to tackle climate change, energy, water, green infrastructure, transport, waste and other issues.” As reported in previous MCFlys, the first six commissioners were appointed some time ago. They are all councillors from local authorities, including Richard Cowell, Manchester City Council Executive Member for the Environment. The remaining Commissioners, who were selected after a nomination process managed by recruitment company Robinson Keane are as follows: Andy Cliffe, Strategy Director, Manchester Airport Group; Keith Davidson, Environment Partner at the law firm Pannone; Roger Milburn, Director of the construction company Arup; Anne Selby, CEO of the Wildlife Trust and Lynda Shillaw, Managing Director (Property) Co-operative Group. In addition to these, there are several “ex-officio” Commissioners, including Tony Dean North West Regional Director, Environment Agency ; David Higham, Regional Director of Government Office North West; Angie Robinson, Chief Executive of Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, Ian McAulay, Managing Director of Capital Programmes, United Utilities plc; Cllr Neil Swannick, Chair of Greater Manchester Waste Disposal Authority and David Hytch, Information Director of Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Executive. Two senior representatives from Greater Manchester’s Universities are also being selected to fill the final two Commission roles. The Commission may choose to appoint one further ex officio.

The first full meeting of the Environment Commission will be on May 14, with discussion of topics such as the development of an Energy Plan and the establishment of a Climate Change Agency. An “away day” is planned for June.

The obvious questions, for which MCFly does not yet have answers, are: what sort of conflict resolution mechanisms are in place (will the chair have a casting vote), will the meetings be open to the public and will the public be able to suggest agenda items/make representations to the Commission?


The Environmental Strategy Programme Board is a internal Manchester City Council group (with a few add-ons) which aims to get various bits of the Council bureaucracy actually talking to each other and co-ordinating delivery of the Environmental Strategy of the Council. They held their fourth meeting recently, and the minutes of that will be posted at

The third group is the ‘Environmental Advisory Panel.’ Also meeting monthly (in between ESPB meetings), this is an informal group, a mix of Council figures, business figures, academics and “community and voluntary sector” representatives, including Emerge, Oxfam, Friends of the Earth, and, yes, Manchester Climate Fortnightly. The terms of reference are still being finalised, but in essence, the Panel is to be a critical friend/advisor of the Council, give it access to other perspectives and ideas (but without the Council being obliged to act on that advice!)

About that elephant… The key question for all the above groups- and others that are springing up (like the sub-Executive group, the sustainable schools group) is how will they build and maintain enthusiasm, momentum and legitimacy when confronted with bureaucratic inertia and turf-wars, wheel-re-invention and long-grass kicking, apathy and denial, and the loud urgency of today’s crises? As one MCFly contributor is fond of saying “when you are up to your neck in snapping alligators, it’s easy to forget you originally wanted to drain the swamp.”


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Below the surface...
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