Greater Manchester Low Carbon Hub. Delivering Greater Manchester's transition to a low-carbon economy

Q&A: Cllr Sue Derbyshire, GM Low Carbon Hub


What is the importance of the low carbon agenda for Greater Manchester? What are your ambitions for the chair?

The low carbon agenda fits within our other aspirations. We’ve got really strong ambitions for growth in housing and employment. We want a good sustainable environment for people to live in. We want growth in the right way. So it’s important that you worry about both things at the same time, not get the growth and then worry about dirty industries. It’s a very significant agenda.

A great deal of work is being done in understanding the issues; in looking at building partnerships and relationships; and setting very challenging targets. The danger with setting challenging targets is that you miss them, but at least you’ve aimed high. What I’m interested in hoping to see as we move forward is more of the implementation happening. There are things that have already been done. But we should start to produce more measurable results.


How important are partnerships and collaborations to the functioning of the hub?

It’s in the DNA of Greater Manchester. There’s a wide range of organisations and individuals who have been very engaged for quite some time, which I think shows people’s enthusiasm for the agenda. The hub has a very diverse membership of people who are looking at our papers and meeting minutes and putting their valuable time into this agenda. And alongside their work with us to develop a joined up approach to the low carbon agenda, many of our partners, such as Electricity Northwest and United Utilities, are also delivering initiatives in their own right.

We’ve got some of the very large businesses involved, like Siemens. But within Greater Manchester we’ve got a lot of much smaller businesses so we want to engage with that part of the community. We’re hoping the new Green Growth Pledge will encourage more businesses to take part. 

Collaboration and partnerships are absolutely crucial. If it were just the local authorities saying [it], who would pay much attention? It’s that partnership that gives it a much louder voice.

For example, Transport for Greater Manchester is a significant partner. We also funded social landlords to install solar panels. British Gas provided a lot of grants. We’re working with the private sector to encourage, support, and push, if only just through communication, for instance getting employees to be aware of the Green Deal.


What has been the role of Manchester’s universities in the hub and how are you using their expertise?

The universities clearly have a lot of expertise in engineering and science, and Manchester, Salford and Manchester Metropolitan provide specialist input to all of the Low Carbon Hub Themes. Working within the Energy Theme, Manchester Metropolitan runs the GM Hydrogen Partnership, and Manchester University have significant work underway under the Manchester Energy banner. Salford University directly support our Green Deal housing retrofit programme and wider work under the Buildings Theme.

We want the universities’ graduates to stay in Greater Manchester; some of them will be in this field. They can be doing this pioneering work. We want the low carbon equivalent of graphene! There’s a lot of work being done to produce incubator space, and support for startup businesses. We’d like to see a few more of them in this particular field. We want to create that kind of atmosphere and the universities are very important because they generate many of those really bright people who will do that.


Tell me about the hub’s research into carbon wedges?

We’re expecting that the researchers will be reporting to the Low Carbon Hub Board in December. The work is exploring how much the Low Carbon Hub’s work programme will contribute towards Greater Manchester’s collective carbon reduction target of 48% by 2020, and what things would deliver the most. That research will be the basis of our future implementation plan for 2015-2020 to be launched next year.

It’s taking all that research and all those wonderful ideas that people have had and trying to put them into coherent plans and packages. I’m fascinated as to what might come of it. But at the moment we’re not really sure. What we’re hoping is that the research will mean we could say: “if we had these resources we could fairly accurately and confidently produce that result”. Whereas in the past it’s been a bit…if we try this, let’s see what happens. And that’s good, but to seriously impact, we’ve got to have a more quantitative plan.

The wedges work is an attempt to try and refine our understanding, so we can actually go to government or utilities, and say: “there is a case for an investment that looks like this, because that’s what will deliver the best possible outcome”.


Main photograph from Flickr user Man Alive! published here under a Creative Coommons license.

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