Ecocities- from blueprint to action?

Ecocities is a project between the University of Manchester, Bruntwood and Manchester City Council. It’s looking at the challenges and opportunities that cities face with adapting to climate change. It had a formal launch in July 2009 (see MCFly’s report here) and will have a closing conference (of phase one at least) in November 2011, by which time its adaptation ‘blueprint’ will be ready.

Professor Simon Guy opened with thanks to all for coming and emphasising the importance of the post-presentation workshops

Prof Rod Coombs, Vice-President for Innovation and Economic Development at the University of Manchester picked up on that theme, stating that the collaborative nature of the research was essential, since only serious stakeholder engagement “would lead to policy outcomes and actions that make a difference.” He was also keen to point out that the right adaptation measures also had potential to help with reducing carbon emissions.
Michael Oglesby of the property goliath Bruntwood was next up. He also spoke at the Ecocities launch in July 2009, and MCFly interviewed him here). He was keen to empahsise that although the argument about the existence of climate change might (might!) be won, there was still an “awfully long way to go to living in harmony with nature”.
He said that the public at large may well be suffering from fatigue/boredom on the issue of climate change (for example see Mintel report here), with a sense of the issue being “too big” for an individual/individual organisation to make a difference.
He pointed out that there were significant cost savings to be made by businesses, as well as reputational advantages. And, on the subject of buildings (his stock in trade) he pointed out that 80% of the buildings we will have in 2050 are already built, and that the ’embedded carbon’ in the steel and glass of buildings makes it very difficult indeed to get overall savings from knocking something down and building a gee-whizz ‘efficient’ building in its place.
His closing was more forceful than you’d perhaps expect; “Quite frankly it’s our survival we’re talking about. It’s a moral imperative for all.”

Richard Sharland, Head of Environmental Strategy for Manchester City Council, was next up.
He spoke of the policy documents the Council has created/shepherded (the Core Strategy and the Manchester A Certain Future document)
Regardless of the future of “National Indicator 188” on Adaptation (the Coalition may axe National Indicators, y’see), the Council is going to create an action plan within the next two years.
He touched briefly and unexpectedly on civil contingency planning, green infrastructure in the city (more trees planted than they’d planned to) and biodiversity.

UPDATE- bit of scrawl I failed to transcribe;  he talked about the post Comprehensive Spending Review changes being not merely financial but structural. Some bodies with responsibility will disappear, downsize or merge. The survivors will have smaller budgets. More responsibility will be on partnerships (like Ecocities) and local authorities. Inevitably (this is the ‘get-lemons-make-lemonade’ school of policy-making, after all) this is “not just responsibility, but opportunity, a new landscape of responsibility.”

He then gave an account of the Greater Manchester Climate Change Strategy. (MCFly has asked a series of questions on this, answers pending. It will be consulted on in the early months of 2011)

Apres the policy, the deluge, sorry, I mean, the science.

Dr Jeremy Carter, (see MCFly interview here), robustly outlined the global – and local – challenge in the aftermath of the Copenhagen debacle and the rapid carbonisation (i.e. Increase in use of fossil fuels) of the world economy. “It’s a challenging picture but we shouldn’t avoid discussing it.” He publicly thanked his colleagues Darien Rozentals, and Drs Cavan and Kazmierczak, who spoke after him.

Dr Gina Cavan gave details of work on recent changes in Manchester’s climate (it’s getting gradually warmer) and projections (it’s going to keep getting warmer) before focussing on the area known as “Corridor Manchester” (think a stem along either side of Oxford Road, with a ‘bulb’ taking in the Town Hall and the Hilton and so on.)
Under a “business as usual” model there’ll be 15% green cover by the year -oh-dear-I-didn’t-write-that-down-2030? Under a ‘high development’ (“Pave the Planet!”) regime, that would slip to 4%. Under a utopian “deep green” policy (100% green roofs etc) it would rise to 34% green cover. This would have major implications for just how hot the area got, with the urban heat island effect either enhanced or counter-acted.

Dr Aleskandra Kazmierczak had worked on surface water flooding (i.e. What happens when too much rain tries to get down too few drains, as opposed to the flooding from ‘damn, maybe building on a flood plain wasn’t such a smart idea’.
She looked at the current risk, who is at risk, and what could be done.
14.2% of Greater Manchester is susceptible to 10cm flooding, with 2.2% susceptible to 1m. There are different vulnerabilities, around age, class, wealth, familiarity with area, social capital etc.
They’d crunched the numbers and come up with the main risks being in areas of; poverty & poor health, diverse transient high density populations, a high percentage of children and a high percentage of the elderly.

During this bit of her presentation MCFly had to physically restrain itself from yelling out “Yeah, life is a shit sandwich – the more bread you have, the less shit you are forced to eat!!” It wouldn’t have been helpful…

After a coffee break (what, no more pastries?!) the participants were made to participate. Sat at big round tables with access to laminated ‘leaves’, and set a series of questions to tackle. What are the challenges? Who are the stakeholders? What information and resources are needed? The details will be collected and collated and help shape the direction of the Ecocities project.

Verdict – smoothly done, and potentially very useful. Downsides included – a little more scientific info than the normal brain can cope with, an overwhelming white male middle-aged audience (an approximately 3 to 1 ratio).

But Ecocities strikes MCFly as precisely the sort of thing that progressive businesses and academics should be doing. And councils should be supporting. It kills me to type it but – “well done Manchester… City… Co… un… c….” no, sorry, just can’t complete that sentence…

Next year there is a closing [of phase one] conference. If that meeting has people from tenants and residents associations/churches/mosques/schools/businesses from all across Greater Manchester all the way down to the chief execs and/or leaders of the 10 local authorities, then success might be achievable.


About dwighttowers

Below the surface...
This entry was posted in adaptation, Buildings, ecocities, Manchester City Council. Bookmark the permalink.

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