Are we there yet?

Are we there yet?

As part of our Big Energy Conversation, we’re bringing you the thoughts and opinions of some of the region’s leading voices on energy. Together, we’ll be tackling some of the biggest issues we face when it comes to energy in a bid to make the North West a smarter and more efficient place to live and work. The first in our series of guest blogs is from Todd Holden, director for Low Carbon at the Growth Company. Here he talks about the impact of Andy Burnham’s Green Summit and the importance of action over talk.

Are we there yet?

It’s been a month or so now since the Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, convened the Green Summit. Built on over 40 listening events, this was the largest event of its type in our region, with interest in attending far outstripping availability.  Not surprising really, because when it comes to Climate Change, everyone on the planet has an interest. 

Prior to the Summit, I wrote a blog about the need for those of us in the know to speak the truth to those in power. Those who were fortunate enough to attend the Summit, or who’ve heard Professor Kevin Anderson speak before, could be in no doubt about where we are on our journey to a zero-carbon future. And more importantly, the speed at which we need to travel. It reminded of me of asking for directions from a knowing local, only to be told, “Well I wouldn’t start from here”. But here is where we are, and the time for procrastination is long since over.

There was collective recognition that we need to do a lot of things, a lot quicker than we’ve done before. As such, the actions from the Summit were not limited to Climate Change, covering areas such as natural capital, energy, buildings, transport and waste, as well as the headline-grabbing commitment on single-use plastics.

Interestingly, since the Summit, the UK Government has announced a review of plastic waste and asked the UK Climate Change Committee to look at a net zero carbon emissions pathway. By definition, if you lead others will follow.

Energy saw three headline actions emerge: creation of a GM Energy Company which will invest in generation, storage and control technologies; a GM-wide Smart Energy Plan as part of a wider infrastructure piece; and an assessment of how future energy demand can be met from smart storage and local renewables by Electricity North West.

While the commitments made could be game-changing, in my opinion the standout announcement is that GM will use a science-based approach to setting carbon targets and trajectories. 

While politicians speak of percentage reductions at some date in the future, such talk is meaningless, because, like a flooding bath, it isn’t the flow from the tap that creates a flood, it’s how much water is in the bath! The more CO2 we emit into the atmosphere today, the less we’ll be able to emit tomorrow. At the current rate, we will not be able to meet our Paris declaration of limiting climate change to less than 20 C, sometime in the next 7 years.

All of us, especially those in power, need to take action based on the scientific reality of where we are, however hard it may be. Why? Because the alternative will be so much harder, so much more expensive, and will disproportionately hurt those who have done the least to cause it, wherever they live on the planet.

Are we there yet? It depends. If by ‘there’ we mean the end of the beginning then I’d say yes, but as the great Otis Reading said, ‘actions speak louder than words’, and it will be our actions that determine if the Summit was truly successful.

If you have an opinion on the North West energy sector or would like to take part in our blog series, please contact our team at