Greater Manchester’s Environment Plan 2019–2024

Chapter 1: Why ‘carbon-zero 2038’ pledge fails us all

An in-depth analysis of city region’s environment policy and where it falls short, presented in a series of 10 linked chapters.


April saw an eruption of climate protests in London — led by the Extinction Rebellion movement, which has as one of its three central demands — that the government, and all those in authority — #TellTheTruth about the facts of climate change.

To be fair — Andy Burnham, Alex Ganotis and all those involved in pulling together GM’s five-year Environmental Plan deserve credit for at least trying to tackle the biggest, defining issue of our time, indeed of the history of the human race.

It is after all, not our councils’ job alone to tackle climate change (and wider ecological breakdown (1) ) — business, industry, government, regulatory bodies, communities and individuals all have a part to play.

In this in-depth report, I critique the plan’s contents (all stats, data, targets are factual and taken directly from the 88-page plan) as they affect the key areas of our lives — homes, food, waste, transport, business, our natural world.

However, using the #TellTheTruth mantra — I present it with three extra ingredients:-

a) context (what the politicians won’t or can’t tell you)

b) an ‘honest’ tone (what this ecological crisis calls for) (3)

c) transparent assessment (who needs to do what to make some of it happen)

Without this, I do not believe citizens of Greater Manchester have what they need to make informed decisions on their position on this defining issue, nor what it means for how they plan their lives — from basic household maintenance to how they should vote in any forthcoming elections.

Because while the plan is well-meaning — unfortunately it dodges the tough calls, lets the real culprits off the hook, and gives false reassurance to citizens , leaving them uninformed about the monumental challenges ahead and largely un-engaged in helping plot solutions.

It is important to be very clear that the plan itself both claims that Greater Manchester will be carbon free by 2038 and yet openly admits that it will use twice its carbon budget in that time. (I’ve written a short allegorical story that illustrates this puzzling double speak and in the Footnotes you can read links to a variety of other articles about the plan that mention this).

Plus the Greater Manchester Combined Authority is also backing, at the same time, three key pieces of entirely contradictory policy — a £1bn expansion of the airport in which it is a major shareholder, building tens of thousands of new houses on greenbelt, and continued investment of workers’ pensions in the dirty fuel industry.

I also want people to be able to see that for this Plan — the one that only gets us halfway there remember — to have even half a chance — it requires a massive mobilisation of national policies & budgets, and massive transition schemes in key industries — like transport, energy, waste and agriculture — things that are simply not happening under the current UK leadership.

What I set out in these linked pages isn’t my view on what should be done (that is more radical and includes the types of things called for here by climate groups in Manchester) — it is what Andy Burnham and Alex Ganotis’ Green Plan sets out should be done — even though they themselves acknowledge it’s not fast or far enough — but told with added #TellTheTruth.

I have therefore written it as if I was indeed one of the region’s leaders, let’s call myself Sandy Turnham.

It is a personal slant but I believe it is objective as per the facts available to me via a variety of sources.

Lastly, I make no pretence to be an expert in policy making or environmental science, but offer my critique as an informed average citizen eager to help however I can.

I’ll continue to write about this agenda, looking for positive stories of change as well as holding authority to account, over the coming months and years.

Please comment with opinion or challenge, and especially to correct any factual errors or omission. I also don’t know if this works as a format it’s just how it seemed to come together — so please feedback on that too.

The critique begins with a Declaration of an Emergency — a loud clarion call to action that many believe needs to be sounded for all to understand the gravity of the situation and necessity for the type of sweeping changes we will all have to start making — yet which leaders in Greater Manchester seemed strangely reluctant to make.

Start here >> Chapter 1: Greater Manchester declares a Climate Emergency.


This page is part of a series critiquing and presenting the Greater Manchester Environment Plan, in the style of fictional leader Sandy Turnham.

All measures and facts and descriptions are accurate as far as my understanding but some artistic licence has been taken with tone in order to #TellTheTruth.

  1. Intro: Why Greater Manchester Environment plan fails us

2. Declaring the emergency

3. Our homes and the energy we use

4. Our energy supply

5. Our cars and how we get around

6. Our transport strategy

7. Our food and the waste we create

8. Our businesses and their responsibility

9. Our media and what it needs to do

10. Our natural world

> Footnotes

This page is the introduction to a series critiquing and presenting the Greater Manchester Environment Plan, in the style of fictional leader Sandy Burnham.

All measures and facts and descriptions are accurate as far as my understanding but some artistic licence has been taken with tone in order to #TellTheTruth.