Of all the management tools we have at our discretion, hindsight is by far the most powerful; shame it's limited to past reflections during moments of clarity. So, when I was at an event last year when the then Mayoral candidate Andy Burnham promised to hold a Green Summit in his first year in office, I decided to reflect on what success might look like with hindsight. Now I’ve no crystal ball but as the event gets closer, the signs are looking good.
On the 21st March, Mayor Burnham will Chair the Greater Manchester Green City Summit. This is without question the largest and most significant event aimed at improving Greater Manchester’s environment there has been in my lifetime… and yes, I am as old as I look. The aim of the event is to identify how fast we need to accelerate our transition to a zero-carbon economy, a challenge currently set with a 2050 deadline.
How fast do we need to act?
Now some may question if it's wise for a politician to bring forward what is seen by most as a very challenging deadline, when our City Region faces so many other challenges. But if you ask anyone who understands the physics, aka the reality of climate change, there’ll be no such question.
The urgency and scale of the response needed, how important it is that we act now, today, without delay or procrastination, will be clear and unequivocal. If we want to hit the 20C warming limit set in Paris we have a handful of years to act - any longer and we’ll need to rely on as yet unknown and un-costed voodoo technology which sucks CO2 out of the air and locks it away for ever. Such Negative Emissions Technologies, NETS in climate change jargon, redesigned to soften the message to power, but in doing so two key points are missed:
Firstly, if those of us in the know don’t speak the truth to leaders, how can we expect them to lead us in the right direction, and secondly, and more importantly our zero-carbon future is a great place to grow up, get on and grow old.
Lets’ face it, is our society really so perfect that we fear changing it? What’s the worst that could happen: a few thousand of us live longer each year because our air is clean; fewer of our children have asthma and they can walk safely to a park or green space and play, more of us can afford to live in a home that's warm and dry, we spend less of our time in traffic jams and more of it being where we want to be, doing what we want to do; our businesses are innovative, efficient, resilient and adapted to risk, they understand the markets they are in and the customers they serve. And that’s the worst case.
Only time will tell if the direction of travel we take at the summit delivers the zero-carbon future we need. Like any journey, it’s easier to get to your destination if you know where you are at the start, simply by accepting the scientific reality of the challenge is a solid step towards a better future.
Director for Low Carbon