MCFly interview: Sharland on Copenhagen

Hi all,

well, Copenhagen is done and dusted (at last). You can see various updates and analysis at I’d particularly recommend MCFly cartoonist Marc Roberts’ “The Great Climate Let-Down” He posts regularly also at

Richard Sharland, the City Council’s head of Environmental Strategy attended a portion of the Copenhagen talks, alongside Council Leader Richard Leese. MCFly sent him a few email questions, and he kindly replied. Here goes:

What were you hoping for from your time at Copenhagen?
I was hoping to see ideas, plans and challenges shared by cities around the world and for us, Manchester, to play a truly tiny part in an event that would swing the complex supertanker of global human society onto a more positive course for the future. The first of these hopes was fulfilled, exceeded even: the second was not, the supertanker has altered course slightly, but only.

What happened: Is there anything that you didn’t get that you wanted to get?
Yes, we didn’t get that inter-governmental result and that is seriously disappointing.

Did you get anything you weren’t expecting. (the serendipity question)
Yes, I did get something I wasn’t really expecting: to meet personally so many leaders of cities who were wholly committed to tackling this agenda substantially, who were keen to exchange ideas and information, who understood the need for mitigation, adaptation and opportunity and who are committed to action and cultural change regardless of what did or did not happen at COP15. And there was something else: none of the cities we encountered have written a stakeholder plan like we have, and it aroused a fair bit of interest!

Do you think the “nation-state” outcome, such as it is, makes the work of cities like Manchester easier or harder?
The lack of a real outcome at COP15 makes our job undoubtedly harder, but we live in a country that has legislated for climate change and legislated boldly. The lack of a real outcome will make it much much harder for many in cities elsewhere in the world.

In some ways, Copenhagen has been a great disappointment, a grey cloud, rather than the beginning of a bright future: but every cloud has a silver lining and the positive drive and teamwork of the leaders of cities should be celebrated and supported as a great force for change. They will al have been inspired by each other and each others support and will be stronger as a result……and so, for those of us old enough to remember the song it is “Hi Ho, Silver Lining” now.

And Manchester will be bidding to host COP18, right?
COP18 is a way away……..I am thinking this: when we are a year or two further down the track and Manchester – A Certain Future is accompanied by the sign-up of a raft of Manchester organisations large and small and we have some Delivery Plans with detailed targets and costs and time-lines in place, we will be in a strong position to consider what kind of global conference we’d like to host.


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