Youth-led hustings puts Mayoral candidates under spotlight on climate
Over 100 people attended the Greater Manchester Climate and Environment Hustings on Thursday evening (1 st April), to hear candidates Andy Burnham (Labour), Melanie Horrocks (Green) and Simon Lepori (Liberal Democrats) set out their commitments to address the climate and ecological emergencies if they are elected Mayor of Greater Manchester on 6th May. 
The event was chaired by 17 year old Youth MP for Bury Emma Greenwood, and organised by a coalition of local environmental groups including Youth Strike Manchester and Manchester Friends of the Earth. 
The candidates answered questions on topics ranging from how they would boost green jobs in the region to whether Greater Manchester’s housing needs can be met without building on Green Belt, and how they would encourage people out of cars to cycling, walking and public transport to help reduce air pollution and climate emissions.
All three candidates recognised the urgency of acting on the climate emergency, and there was common ground on the importance of improving public transport through integrated ticketing and better bus services.
Other commitments made by the candidates include:
● Andy Burnham announced that he’d set up a new “retrofitting task force” bringing colleges, social landlords and the private sector together to address the skills gap needed to retrofit our existing housing stock to low carbon standards, adding that “solving the climate crisis should also be about solving the jobs crisis”. 
● Melanie Horrocks described the Greater Manchester Pension Fund’s investment in fossil fuel companies as “absolutely appalling” and said that getting the pension fund out of fossil fuels is ”right at the top of my agenda”. 
● Simon Lepori announced that he’d earmark some of our skills funding for a “green investment education fund” to help train younger people in green industries to get our workforce equipped for future jobs that come about from our reaction to climate change and the green recovery.
On aviation and a question on capping flight emissions from Manchester Airport at 2018 levels in line with the GM carbon budget and 2038 net zero target, the candidates had differing positions. Melanie Horrocks said we should look to degrow the airport and look in particular at domestic and short haul flights, while Simon Lepori said he wouldn’t want to limit people’s choices and the market will adapt, and Andy Burnham said levels of aviation are beyond our control but that we should all campaign against a 3rd runway at Heathrow.
Emma Greenwood, Youth MP for Bury, from Youth Strike Manchester said: “Young people’s futures will be shaped by the action taken by leaders today. As we have seen by the tens of thousands of young people that have joined the youth climate strikes over the past two years – we, as young people, are scared for our future and we need urgent action.
“Speaking as a young person unable to vote, your vote holds so much power, please use it.”
Ali Abbas from Manchester Friends of the Earth said: “It is vital that the next mayor commits to putting action on the climate and nature emergencies at the very top of their agenda.
“Their mission must be to halve climate emissions in Greater Manchester during their term of office, and create thousands of new green jobs for our young people and local workers.
“As local environmental groups we will be holding the next mayor to account and pressing them to do everything in their power to protect nature and green spaces, tackle the climate crisis, and clean up our dirty air.”
Manchester Friends of the Earth is calling on all the Mayoral candidates to support ten priorities to protect people and planet and help the Covid-19 recovery, outlined in Friends of the Earth’s climate action plan for Greater Manchester. 
Contact for comments: Pete Abel, Manchester Friends of the Earth, 07951 642858. email@example.com
Notes for Editors
 The Conservative candidate Laura Evans was also invited to take part, or to have a party representative in her place.
 The event was organised by the Greater Manchester climate action network including Youth Strike Manchester, Manchester Friends of the Earth, Bury Climate Action, Manchester Greenpeace, Steady State Manchester, GM Campaign Against Climate Change and Walk Ride GM.
 Greater Manchester’s 5-Year Environment Plan has a target to retrofit 61,000 homes a year – which amounts to almost 1,200 homes every week.
 The Greater Manchester Pension Fund has the largest investments in coal, oil and gas companies of any local authority pension fund: https://www.divest.org.uk/councils
 See Climate Action Plan for Greater Manchester.
 A recording of the hustings is available.