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Manchester's Dilemma: Carbon Versus Growth

Cycling to work outside on the Oxford Road, Manchester

The Greater Manchester pledge to be zero carbon by 2038, with new development net zero carbon by 2028, is a worthy objective, but the road map to zero carbon remains vague.

There is doubt about whether targets are feasible, and how they square with the Northern Powerhouse’s growth agenda, the Architects' Journal reported.

It is not clear who is going to deliver it, and who will pay for it, according to  former Urban Splash Deputy Chief Executive Nick Johnson.

Despite a rapidly growing economy, the city of Manchester wants to cap its total annual carbon emissions at 15 million tonnes. This will mean a 13% annual cut in emissions, yet many of the developments now underway and in the pipeline were approved at a time when growth, not green credentials, were what mattered. That could create huge difficulties in meeting targets.

A huge retrofit programme over the next 10 years will be necessary in the residential sector and more property recycling will have to be considered as opposed to new build, BDP director Gavin Elliott is reported saying.

Commercial occupiers will have to move to 100% renewable energy if the target is to be met.

Manchester City Council is behind plans for a prototype modular 75-home council house scheme designed by Sixtwo Architects, to be built on a site yet to be disclosed.

City leaders quoted by the Architects' Journal say there is a need for a level playing field so that developers are prepared to move beyond existing standards and regulations to ensure carbon-neutral development, AJ reported.

Earlier this spring the Manchester Climate Change Board published a draft zero carbon framework 2020-2038 and started work to produce a draft action plan for 2020-25.

A front-loaded carbon budget means that overall emissions must fall sharply in the next few years. Of the 15 million tonnes of CO2 the council hopes to eliminate, not less than 6.9 million tonnes will go between 2018 and 2023. A further 3.6 million will be eliminated from 2023-27.

More than 50% of the total reductions required will be short term. “This highlights the scale of the challenge ahead,” the report noted.