Environment Commission meeting #5

Public Health Warning: These are not anything approaching official minutes, and aren’t pretending to be.

The latest Environment Commission meeting (see here and here and here and here for previous reports) took place today in at Manchester University, in a converted church. (No jokes about “not having a prayer”, please, that would be childish). It was preceeded by a “policy exchange”, but we can’t report that because MCFly’s invite went missing – presumably lost in a pile of undelivered mail.

Attendance was fairly good, with a few notable absences (apologies given)- such as Angie Robinson of the Chamber of Commerce (interviewed by MCFly here) and Andy Cliffe of Manchester Airport Group (ooh, the story we want to tell you about THEM, but it’s embargoed). The University is still tussling over who will sit on the Commission, but the Health Commission is keen to send someone.

The chair of the Commission, Cllr Dave Goddard was unavoidably detained elsewhere (not due to congestion, we hope) so Cllr Neil Swannick chaired. Last time MCFly this 6’4” gent in action, he was mildly discombobulated by a heckler. That was Thursday last at the Town Hall, and the heckler was a scurrying mouse, not a rat (that would have been too appropriate).

Mike Reardon gave some verbal reports-
the City Region process continues apace, with High Level meetings About to Take Place.
“Roadshows” about the Environment Commission have taken place in 4 of the 10 AGMA councils. They’re not just about flying the EC flag, but teasing out local expertise and figuring out how to “cascade” it (MCFly’s word, not theirs- we’ve been infected by our Bull’s Hit Bingo game).
6 more Local Authorities, and the Passenger Transport Executive and the Waste Disposal Agency remain to be visited by the Roadshow Warriors.
The EC’s communications bod, Janine Watson, gave a brief overview of what’s going on. Principally, using Copenhagen as a “hook” (possibly dangerous- if it goes as badly as some are suggesting). The EC now has a page on the revamped AGMA website
It will have specific images and mugshots of Commissioners and further information shortly. Maybe even some “Big Messages” too.

Then Cllr Mark Alcock and David Hytch gave a quick summary of their fact-finding trip to Milan, which has implemented an “ecopass” system to improve air quality in the city centre. Classic carrot and stick, with ‘clean vehicles’ getting in for free and a sliding scale for the dirty to dirtiest vehicles.

This was followed by discussion of commissioner’s roles, and who was going to take on what, in either a leading or supporting capacity. It was agreed (MCFly thinks) that different commissioners would operate differently, and there was no one size fits all. There was general agreement that taking on too much and then having to drop it was a Very Bad Idea. At the same time, there was concern about whether the Commission had a feel for the specifics of environmental problems in the conurbation (asthma hotspots, water quality, waste etc), and that a specific Business workstream might be in order.

The question of staffing levels came up. At present Sarah Davies and Mike Reardon are full time, with various other bits of staffing too. There were many applications for the Policy and Programme Manager job, with interviews happening in the next few weeks. There are also various offers of funding- some firm, some not – on the table for various projects.
This was followed by a presentation about “A Greater Manchester Environment, Planning and Housing Research Resource” (headline- people being poached from various AGMA places for work on climate resilience, understanding opportunities for carbon reduction etc
Apparently (you read it here first) Greater Manchester is to be used as a ‘test-bed’ for work on climate adaptation/resilience and the roles and responsibilities and private sector ‘buy-in’ around this.

Then there was a waste discussion, but MCFly reporters are only human (at best), and frankly, our attention had wandered a bit… One very good point was made though, by a Commissioner, that there seemed to be insufficient focus on waste reduction before we got to re-use, recycling etc.

Finally: Following the release of the government’s “low carbon transition plan” over the summer “Low Carbon Economic Areas” seem to be the flavour of the month, though Mike Reardon warned that there was no pot of gold over that particular rainbow. As reported in a previous MCFly (34? Lost count), the Northwest is angling at being the LCEA for the built environment.
High level meetings are taking place and More Information Will be Forthcoming Shortly.

On a related note, it seems that the Climate Change Agency might morph a bit to fit that particular funding framework- time will tell.

In any other business, the major point was the 10:10 campaign. Manchester City Council has signed up (go Team Manchester!!) with Stockport, Oldham and Bury making moves. It was agreed that the Environment Commission would recommend to AGMA exec that all the LAs sign up…

The EC next meets in January, and by then MCFly hopes to have pinned down a lot more about some of the outstanding issues, who is responsible for what, hopes and expectations for 2010 etc.

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