On Monday 2nd October 2023, Greater Manchester hosted its 6th annual GM Green Summit at The Lowry Theatre to promote positive change and accelerate climate action across the region.
The event brings together local authority leaders, business leaders, green tech providers, community groups, young people, faith groups and individuals who are passionate about protecting our planet. Through panel sessions, workshops, networking and exhibitions, it hopes to drive change and help the city-region meet its ambitious goal to be net zero by 2038.
In what has been a difficult year for climate action, Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham and other speakers remained positive about our region’s progress to net zero and determination for the future.
He said, “I want to make something really clear, we’re not changing our stance on net zero. We are sticking to our path to becoming a 2038 net zero city region. It represents the best opportunity for our region to reindustrialise.”
In case you couldn’t be there, or would like to relive the day, here’s an overview of the event and everything that was said:
A video called Decarbonising Greater Manchester opened the summit, exploring the region’s progress to net zero and what we have achieved so far. This video set the tone for the event and gave context to our region’s position when it comes to climate action.
We then heard from local schools to give a youth perspective on the environment. Three creative writing competition winners inspired us to instigate change and act now but we also found out about the inspirational action young people were taking across the region to tackle climate change. This included an initiative to combat period poverty and climate change instigated by two year 11 pupils at Reddish Vale High School in Stockport.
To open the summit Cllr Tom Ross Leader of Trafford Council and Green City-Region Portfolio Lead at Greater Manchester Combined Authority said “It is clear that there is far more to do but in Greater Manchester, we’re making good progress across the board. The next step is to increase the speed and scale of delivery. To achieve our 2038 target we will need coordinated partnerships between local and national government, universities, communities and more.
To work together to address these issues is something we can all do and together, we can make a difference. By working together we are making a cleaner, greener, fairer city region.”
A core part of this year’s GM Green Summit aimed to provide a first look region’s next five-year environment plan for 2024 – 2029 covering natural environment, transport, low carbon, sustainable consumption and adaptation to climate change. We heard from the chairs of Greater Manchester’s Climate Action Challenge Groups about the work carried out against the region’s Five-Year Environment Plan. The challenge groups cover the natural environment, transport, low carbon, communications, sustainable consumption and adaptation to climate change
Then, it was a spotlight on Carbon Literacy where two individuals from Greater Manchester organisations – The Manchester Metropolitan University and Autotrader – were awarded for their efforts. The theatre heard all about the importance of carbon literacy and how it can help organisations.
Following a short break, Mayor Andy Burnham took to the stage for a question time with event sponsors Untied Utilities, SSE Energy Solutions, British Gas, Autotrader UK, Deikin and Electricity North West to uncover what these organisations were doing to reach net zero targets.
The panel discussed the role of innovation, how to balance sustainability with the cost of living and how to tackle challenges like greenwashing.
Andy Burnham said “We need a major innovation in skills and technical education if we are to help people move from traditional construction to Green construction, to service EVs. The challenge is colossal. We want to be ahead of the game when it comes to equipping our people for the green economy.”
He continued “The world has been designed for drivers for a long time and it’s not going to get us where we need to. We’ve got to prioritise public transport, it’s something that can benefit everybody and I hope everyone can back the Bee Network fully so we can keep fares as low as we can.”
Then following a short, plant based lunch, it was time for workshop sessions. Bee Net Zero hosted a session to engage with businesses about the support they need to accelerate decarbonisation. There was also a workshop on Greater Manchester’s Local Nature Recovery Strategy, Waste Prevention and Sustainable Procurement for the public sector, Green Skills and embracing the Bee Network and sustainable travel.
Later that afternoon Sir Alok Sharma, Conservative MP and former President of COP 26 gave a keynote address to the summit.
He said, “You’re doing exactly what needs to happen, bringing together businesses, civic society and local government as well. It is the right approach because we all have a role to play in reaching a net zero society. Summits like this are a great opportunity to bring people together to drive action.
“It is human activity that is causing global warming and that’s why it is up to us to deal with this. If we do nothing at all about climate change it could end up costing up to 20% of global GDP a year.
“The future belongs to the next generation and I think it’s vitally important that civil society groups pressure local, regional and national politicians to act. When you make decisions and decide where to invest your money, please think of the voices of young people in civil society ringing in your ear.”
Then, representatives from the Greater Manchester Business Board (LEP) took to the stage to discuss the role businesses can play in reaching net zero and how we can help them to decarbonise quicker, including a wider introduction to the Bee Net Zero partnership.
Steve Connor Green Lead for the Greater Manchester Business Board said “This transition for businesses is really critical. We started the industrial revolution, if we can pull off the green revolution nowhere can say it’s too difficult. Getting to net zero will give a 6.4% boost to GDP for the nation. Net zero is not a cost, that’s a lie that’s being spread at the moment, it’s an opportunity.
“The Bee Net Zero partnership is going from strength to strength, we’re about to launch a commitment so we can track businesses across Greater Manchester and where they are on their net zero journey as well as work on sector-specific support.”
Lou Cordwell, Chair of the GM Business Board said “Business has got a really important part to play in Greater Manchester’s transition to net zero. One thing I think is really apparent is something that we see on a weekly basis, internationally significant businesses that want to help us. We’re surrounded by people inspired by our purpose. We remain really passionate about the role of business and business working hand in hand with government, academic institutions and civic society.”
We then heard from faith leaders across the region about how their communities are working to tackle climate change.
Then to end the day, another series of workshops took place across The Lowry. These included ‘Investing in Greater Manchester’s Natural Environment’, ‘Integrated Water Management’, ‘Young Voices: On Food Waste and Hidden Hunger’, ‘The Long Table: What Does Climate Change Mean to You?’ and a session on electric vehicles.
Overall, it was a great day full of enthusiasm and determination to meet the challenge ahead. Greater Manchester knows climate change is a huge threat but the GM Green Summit shows that by coming together, the region is well placed to address that change.