Q and A with Richard Sharland

Weds 21stOct: At a public meeting organised by Manchester Climate Forum to discuss the Council-led Climate Change Action Plan, Richard Sharland (Manchester City Council’s head of environment strategy) tackled questions about the plan ranging from aviation, the international implications of climate change and working beyond Manchester City Council.

Sharland, appointed in July this year, remarked that the writing groups which helped form the Council’s plan were a brave step, especially considering the short period of time they were given but they had produced good results. A hundred actions had been put forward by the plan, which would need delivery plans and resources to pay for them. Sharland re-iterated the target of reducing C02 emissions by 41% in the next ten years and taking a more complete measure to include embedded carbon in the next 2/3 years. Whilst these target were highlighted as ambitious , Sharland argued that the biggest challenge would be changing the way people think and behave, which would in turn unlock the ability to further reduce C02.

Quoting Wendell Berry‘s, ‘Art of the Commonplace’, he said that civilisation had been built on forgetfulness and so there would need to be an awakening to enable us to tackle climate change.

This talk was followed by a question and answer session (please note that this by no means a complete record of all the questions and responses):

Chris Worral of Oxfam asked about whether the action plan would explicitly acknowledge the impacts of climate change on poorer countries.

Sharland responded that the details of the plan were still be discussed and whilst it would recognise that CC is a global issue affecting others, it wouldn’t be used as guilt but as a reason to take action. He argued that people need something that they can relate to and therefore the focus would be on local issues.

Ali Abbas of Friends of the Earth along with others tackled the issue of aviation and why the airport had been left out of the council’s action plan.

Sharland noted that the exclusion of shipping and aviation from C02 reduction target had been explicit and that is one of the things they accept they will have to look back on and discuss. He noted that the airport would addressed as part of the move to include embedded carbon in targets in the next couple of years. He did however insist there was evidence that the airport does bring economic benefit and the action of greening the airport’s practice was a step in the right direction.

Bill Harrop of the Transport Action Group, who had contributed to the transport writing group brought up the issue of the need to work with other councils to be effective.

Sharland admitted that there were some TIF scars left behind in the city with regards to transport and there was a need for a critical mass to overcome it. He did however recognise that it was important to work with other boroughs and beyond to be truly effective.

After this Q and A the meeting split into small groups to discuss good and bad ways of ‘engaging’ and discussing climate change beyond the usual suspects. This was what was fed back from the various groups:

In response to this issue of engagement, people suggested what they felt was good practice

+ Proper dialogue (via visual media, discussion)

+Validating individuals and empowering themselves

+ Comedy

+ Co-ordinated activity to win hearts and minds (information

    + Practical and local action

and what was ineffectual.

– Fear and guilt only work in the short-term

-top-down enforcement

-preaching

-meetings with focus or meaning

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