The Greater Manchester “Environment Commission” (see previous MCFlys and www.manchesterclimatefortnightly.info/ bluffersguide.html) finally met as a complete body on Thursday May 14 . All the elected and appointed members were there (as was a MCFly reporter). On the agenda was the ‘Energy Plan’, the future of the Manchester Climate Change Agency and investment into Manchester’s environmental organisations. After a presentation by Mike Reardon, (of the Commission’s transition team) about the commission’s outline and aims, the AGMA-based ‘Energy Plan’ was proposed.
As part of the European Union “Partnership Energy Planning as a tool for realising European Sustainable Energy Communities” (PEPESEC) scheme, the Plan basically suggested that Manchester follow the Swedish model for energy planning. This model rejects the ‘wires, kits and cables’ approach and instead calls for an understanding of energy supply as a ‘system’ which needs wider co-ordination and planning. The Commissioners seemed rather sceptical of this idea, stating that this would need a wide base of consensual stakeholder support- something which is clearly lacking as it currently stands. Lynda Shillaw, Managing Director of the Cooperative Group Property, also remarked that they needed a clearer and more cohesive message to get the suppliers to change their strategic direction. Finally, commissioners voiced concerns that they didn’t want their projects to be limited by PEPESEC and so they should be setting their objectives independently of this project.
Next on the agenda was the Climate Change Agency. Many commissioners seemed to value the importance of this delivery structure but were keen to learn from the mistakes of London’s Climate Change Agency. They were informed that Eversheds consultancy which put together the report on Manchester’s CCA had in fact worked closely with London CCA to identify and avoid potential pitfalls. Commissioners suggested that a representative come along to the next meeting- Monday June 8- and give a presentation on the important issues to make sure that they are learning from London’s CCA mistakes.
Finally Walter Menzies, chief executive of the Mersey Basin Campaign, gave a quick overview of Manchester’s Environmental Organisations and concluded that although many were skilled campaigners there was a lack of organisation or coordination amongst them. He cautioned that whilst they could do without a new layer of bureaucracy, they would benefit from real leadership and direction. In response to the disorganised nature of public investment in environmental organisations, commissioners highlighted the need for more intelligent deployment of public money in the future and suggested that investment should follow strategic aims.
Overall the first meeting of the Environment Commission was promising, with Commissioners really taking the task at hand seriously and suggesting practical ways to fulfil their ambitious role.