This post is by Ivan Lewis, MP for Bury South.
Greater Manchester has a proud industrial heritage and there are signs of the next industrial revolution too. Manchester’s Low Carbon Hub is co-ordinating efforts to reduce the city’s carbon emissions to 48 per cent of their 1990 levels, by 2020. Whilst a new social enterprise, Community Energy Greater Manchester, aims to power community buildings through solar energy, our investment in public transport and cycling infrastructure has the potential to transform the area.
Strong economic reasons
We are not just doing this to reduce emissions, important though that is. There are strong economic reasons, too. Despite the recession, the low carbon and environmental sector has seen sustained growth, creating much needed jobs in the area. Improving public transport and looking after the city’s green spaces has a health benefits and is central to making Greater Manchester a great place to live and work.
Meanwhile, devolution means we will have greater local control and responsibility over our economy, health and public spending. It is crucial to link these two agendas. At the conurbation level, it is easier to see the links between health, green space and transport; housing, too, can be developed with wider sustainability goals in mind.
Government should support local ambition
The government should support our local ambition for green growth and national policy should reflect this. For instance, could we have greater control over our energy infrastructure, with opportunities for communities and municipalities to own or control renewable energy and the electricity grid? Could we encourage investment in energy efficient buildings, providing both cost and carbon savings? Could Greater Manchester be given the flexibility to achieve better health outcomes through preventative strategies?
I strongly endorse the recent pledge made ahead of the Paris Summit by over 50 Labour-run councils to eliminate all carbon emissions in their areas by 2050. This ground-breaking work, co-ordinated by Lisa Nandy, will not only build pressure on the government’s commitment to green energy but is also predicted to cut the UKs carbon footprint by ten per cent. It would see a shift towards green transport, an end to gas heating and a programme of mass insulation in homes. I have recently declared my intention to seek the Labour nomination to be elected mayor of Greater Manchester. If elected, I will ensure that Greater Manchester commits to these targets.
We need more public debate about the devolution deal
We have to maximise the benefits of the green economy to create the good jobs of the future and make sure it is our own residents who have the skills to deliver them. In this context, we should be ambitious in our approach to eradicating carbon emissions and seeking a clean energy future. We must open up our democratic processes, involve the public and recognise that active citizens and community participation are central to sustainable transformation. This has become all the more pertinent since the recent floods: climate change is directly affecting our area and it would irresponsible to ignore it. This should be at the heart of Labour’s new mission to fight inequality in Greater Manchester.
So far, there has not been much public debate about Greater Manchester Combined Authority’s devolution deal with central government. As we continue with the next stage, it is crucial to open up a discussion about what sort of future we want for Greater Manchester. We need to develop a shared vision. We led the first industrial revolution, and if we are given the responsibility and ability to shape our own future, we can lead this technological and green one too.
Several organisations from Greater Manchester, including the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, last week signed a declaration asking the chancellor to back clean energy for the north in the Budget. The declaration was convened by Green Alliance and has 90 signatories, including business organisations and community groups, from across northern England.