Green Summit: ’You can’t punish people to net zero’, Andy Burnham says amid warning about missing targets

Mr Burnham spoke of his experiences with the Clean Air Zone and said he was ‘proud’ of Greater Manchester’s green progress, but one expert warned progress was actually very limited.
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Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham has said he will not ‘punish people to net zero’ after experts warned that the city-region is ‘likely’ to miss its carbon-cutting targets.

The city-region is set to blow its carbon budget in two years, meaning it would emit more than its ‘fair share’ of carbon, according to science-based targets.

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The mayor told attendees at the Green Summit in Salford on Monday (October 17) that he is ‘really proud’ of the progress Greater Manchester is making.

But one expert who was tasked with creating Greater Manchester’s carbon budget said that there has been ‘very limited progress’ in cutting emissions.

What did Mr Burnham say about net zero?

Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, Mr Burnham reflected on what he learnt from the public backlash to the Clean Air Zone earlier this year. The controversial scheme, which would have seen the most polluting taxis, vans and other vehicles face daily charges, was paused and is under review.

Mr Burnham defended the decision to create a new incentive-led plan which would see all charges scrapped, pointing to the current cost of living crisis.

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He said: “I don’t think you can whack people to net zero with a big stick. I don’t think you can just punish people to net zero. Because I think if you try that, at the end of the day people will pull back and you get the resistance. You’ve got to give people incentives to change and make the right changes.”

Opening the Green Summit, Mr Burnham said Greater Manchester will have the UK’s first net zero integrated public transport system within 10 years.

He also spoke of a ‘route map’ for retrofitting homes, a commitment to build 30,000 net zero homes for social rent by 2038 and new rules which would mean that all housing built from 2028 would have to be carbon neutral.

But he said the city-region must also ‘up our game’ on green energy as he announced a new taskforce which will explore local opportunities to harness renewable energy.

What did experts say about Greater Manchester’s carbon budget?

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However, Carly McLachlan, director of the Tyndall Centre which was tasked with calculating Greater Manchester’s carbon budget, gave a stark warning. She told the summit that the city-region’s carbon budget is ‘fast running out’.

Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, she explained that the decarbonisation of the electricity system across the country is doing a lot of the ‘heavy lifting’ in the overall reduction of carbon emissions currently.

She praised local initiatives to cut carbon emissions in Greater Manchester, but said they will not have any impact until they are delivered on a large scale.

Nevertheless, she said that the city-region should still be guided by the carbon budget and keep as close to the target as possible, even if it is used up before 2038, when Greater Manchester has committed to becoming net zero by.

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She said: “I think it should guide both the level of our ambition and the urgency of our ambition so we don’t get into talking about 2038 as this thing where we’ve got 16 years to sort it out. We absolutely don’t. The sorting it out has to be right now.”

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