Greater Manchester Local Election 2021 – Survey questions
Below are the 12 questions we would like all local council election candidates in Greater Manchester to answer ahead of the elections on 6th May 2021.
In the run up to the local elections in Greater Manchester on Thursday 6th May, Manchester Friends of the Earth are asking all candidates standing for election to let voters know what they think about key environmental issues.
1. Will you sign the Climate Pledge: “If elected I pledge to ensure that our council works with local residents to rapidly implement a Climate Action Plan which drastically cuts emissions over the next 10 years, and that the climate and ecological emergency is a deal breaker in all council actions.”
Background info: Greater Manchester has set a target of net zero emissions by 2038 and reducing our climate emissions by 50% within the next 5 years which will mean reducing emissions by at least 15% each year.
See also the Climate Action Plan for Councils – A 50-point plan to tackle the climate and nature emergency produced by Friends of the Earth.
2. Will you sign the UK DIvest Pledge: “If elected, I pledge to support the council divesting its pension fund from fossil fuels and investing in renewables and the local economy over an appropriate time-scale. I promise to do everything in my power to make sure this happens within the first year of my term in office.”
Background info: The GMPF has around £1 billion invested in coal, oil and gas companies – more than any other local authority pension fund in the country. These companies are investing billions each year in exploring for new fossil fuels when the science tells us we can afford to burn less than 20% of known reserves if we want to keep the rise in global temperatures to below 2 degrees.
Many other pension funds in the UK and across the world have moved their money out of dirty fossil fuel companies, both because of the moral and environmental arguments and also the financial risks of owning shares in companies whose valuations are based on destabilising the climate. GMPF must act now to reduce its exposure to these risks, starting in the first year with companies involved in the most polluting fossil fuels – coal, tar sands and unconventional gas – and within two years from all companies involved in the exploration, extraction, transportation and supply of fossil fuels.
For more info, see the Friends of the Earth Divestment and Climate briefing and the UK Divest website.
3. Do you support the introduction of a zero-carbon standard for all new buildings in Greater Manchester from 2023?
Background info: We know we need to make rapid reductions in carbon emissions to avoid climate chaos, but we’re still putting up new buildings that will generate even more carbon emissions. The technology already exists to construct buildings that are properly insulated and generate their own renewable power – indeed it was originally proposed that new homes would be zero carbon from 2016 and commercial buildings from 2019.
But developers won’t build them to that standard unless the planning rules require them to. The draft Greater Manchester Spatial Framework only includes a requirement for all new buildings to be zero carbon from 2028. That means most buildings that are constructed over the next 7 years will need to be retrofitted in the following decade if we’re going to meet our zero-carbon 2038 target.
We need radical action to sort out our housing crisis – one that at the same time reduces carbon pollution and protects nature – Greater Manchester should introduce a ‘zero-carbon’ housing standard for new homes from 2023.
4. Will you commit to taking Carbon Literacy training within one year of being elected?
Background info: To do our fair share in tackling climate change, all ten council leaders have committed to staying within the Tyndall Centre’s carbon budget. This depends on us halving our carbon emissions over the next five years, which will mean reducing emissions by at least 15% each year.
In order to help make these steep and rapid carbon reductions, we need everyone in Greater Manchester to understand what climate change means and what they can do about it. That’s exactly what Carbon Literacy does – a day’s worth of training designed to empower and motivate people to take action.
And several of our local authorities have already started rolling it out to their members and staff. As a councillor, you will have a key role in defining the policies and support mechanisms for your residents to play their part in delivering the carbon reductions needed. To ensure you’re fully equipped for this essential task, we therefore call on you to commit to taking Carbon Literacy training within one year of being elected. For more info, visit the Carbon Literacy website.
5. Will you support a tougher voluntary air quality limit of 30 µg/m3 for Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) in Greater Manchester?
Background info: Dirty air makes a major contribution to ill health and early death in our communities. In towns and cities, road vehicles are the main source of air pollution. Everyone is at risk. Air pollution harms our health at every stage of life – in fact, the effects can start as early a baby’s first few weeks in the womb.
Greater Manchester has the highest rates of emergency admissions to hospital for asthma in the whole country – Central Manchester and North Manchester NHS hospitals have emergency admissions at double the national average. And evidence shows that the most vulnerable people and those living in disadvantaged areas are at greater risk from air pollution. Research by Kings College London for an IPPR North report published in June 2018 estimated that the annual “cost to the Greater Manchester economy is huge. The KCL study shows that air pollution is costing between £1 billion and £1.2 billion with every single local authority area affected.”
The proposed Greater Manchester Clean Air Plan seeks to meet the current legal annual mean limit value for Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) of 40 µg/m3 by 2024/5. However, research published by Public Health England now shows that this is not a safe limit.
In January 2021, Oxford City Council approved its Air Quality Action Plan 2021-2025, set out a city-wide air pollution reduction target. The Council has set its own voluntary target for 30 µg/m3 of NO2 to be achieved, by 2025 at the latest- going beyond the current legal target set out by the UK Government of 40 µg/m3. 
6. Will you support increasing the dedicated bus lane network in Greater Manchester?
Background info: The Greater Manchester 2040 Transport Strategy highlights that the “car is the dominant mode of transport” accounting for nearly 60% of trips in Greater Manchester with buses providing 8.2%.
Road traffic is responsible for 30% of CO2 emissions in Greater Manchester and 65% of emissions of nitrogen oxides and 79% of particulates – two of the main air pollutants. To tackle climate change and air pollution we need to radically improve the bus services in Greater Manchester to enable people to switch from car journeys to using public transport.
The success of the Leigh Guided Busway scheme has demonstrated that a combination of segregated bus lanes, high quality buses and reliable services can deliver a positive solution to changing the way people travel, tackling congestion and improving air quality.
In April 2019, it was reported that over three million passenger journeys had been made on services using the Leigh to Ellenbrook Guided Busway over the previous year and a growing number of commuters had switched from car to busway with around 580,000 fewer car journeys across the regional highway network each year.
If it is true that all citizens are equal, then a bus with 80 passengers has a right to 80 times more road space than a car with one. Greater Manchester needs to expand its network of dedicated bus lanes.
7. Would you support a ban on pavement parking in your council area?
Background info: Too many drivers are parking on the pavement and it’s putting vulnerable pedestrians at risk. A YouGov survey (2018) commissioned by Guide Dogs found that 65% of drivers have previously parked on the pavement and 43% of drivers have parked on the pavement in the last six months.
Vehicles parked on the footway can cause obstruction and inhibit the independence of many vulnerable people, especially older or disabled people with visual or mobility impairments. And when pedestrians, for example families with pushchairs, are forced into the road and into oncoming traffic, pavement parking is simply dangerous. Pavement surfaces are not designed to carry the weight of vehicles, and the added maintenance cost of repairing cracked and damaged paving adds an unnecessary financial burden to already cash-strapped councils.
In London, pavement parking is banned throughout the 32 London boroughs. For more info, see the Living Streets policy statement.
8. Do you support the introduction of a cap on emissions from flights to and from Manchester Airport?
Background info: At the Green Summit in March 2019, the Mayor and the council leaders endorsed the Tyndall Centre’s carbon budget for Greater Manchester. The carbon budget means we must keep emissions from electricity, gas and fuel for ground transport below 71 million tonnes for the period from 2018 to 2100. This budget is based on the assumption that emissions from flights from all UK airports do not grow between 2018 and 2030, and then fall to zero by 2075.
This gives Manchester Airport a carbon budget of 113 million tonnes for flight emissions. If emissions from flights increase, that means Greater Manchester’s carbon budget will be even smaller, and so we’ll have even less left for heating and powering our homes and businesses and for getting around the city region.
As majority shareholders in Manchester Airports Group, the ten local authorities must therefore introduce a cap on emissions at Manchester Airport (and the other airports under its control), and urgently call for national policies to end airport expansion across the UK.
9. Will you support phasing out / continuing the ban on the use of pesticides and herbicides in your local authority area?
Background info: There is a growing movement worldwide to end the use of pesticides and herbicides in towns and cities. The use of these chemicals not only has a damaging effect on biodiversity but also poses risks to human health as a result of exposure to their residues. In particular, there is insufficient evidence that chronic exposure to residues of the herbicide glyphosate is safe.
A phase out would end the use of all pesticides and weed killers on council land, end all use of glyphosate-based treatments in all council operations over time and trial pesticide-free alternatives.
Trafford Council recently introduced a ban on pesticide use on council land and operations. In 2019 Bury Council banned the use of glyphosate in parks and playgrounds. Also, Rochdale Council are trialling a herbicide-free oil/sugar-based foam for removing weeds, and similar approaches have been adopted by other local authorities across the UK.
Committing your local authority to a pesticide-free future will therefore be part of a growing movement, as well as protecting the health of both people and nature.
10. Do you agree that in order to cut carbon emissions and improve recycling rates, Greater Manchester needs to phase out the use of waste incineration?
Background info: As the country is moving away from coal-powered power plants, residual waste incineration is becoming the most carbon-intensive source of electricity in the UK. This is in conjunction to also hampering efforts to improve recycling.
As many other localities across the UK, Greater Manchester is already engaged in a contract for incineration of residual waste so it needs to:
1) prepare for the termination of the existing contracts as soon as practicable,
2) minimise the damage by setting ambitious targets of waste reduction and increases of recycling rates in the meantime,
3) commit not to get locked into new similar contracts going forward.
For more information, see the UK Without Incineration Network website.
11. If elected, will you actively campaign to stop the Government’s proposed changes to permitted development rights in the planning system?
In March, despite widespread condemnation by business, environmental and heritage organisations, the Government announced that it would press ahead with plans to allow a free-for-all where retail, commercial and light industrial buildings can be converted into housing without the need for planning permission.
The Government confirmed some minimal standards will apply to conversions but that design cannot be considered and neither can vital issues such as climate change, human health and the availability of play space and key social facilities
This seriously undermines the role and purpose of democratically elected local councillors and the ability of local authorities to develop vibrant local communities and deliver affordable, energy efficient housing and to meet its ambitious carbon reduction targets.
Friends of the Earth believes that the Government must give back the powers removed from local authorities by permitted development and permission in principle so they can properly control development in their areas. All parts of the planning process from plan making to decisions on whether to approve or refuse a development proposal must be locally democratically accountable.
12. Do you support your local council committing to help double woodland cover across Greater Manchester by 2045?
Background info: As Greater Manchester and the nation as a whole move towards net zero in terms of carbon emissions, one of the most effective solutions to the problem of how to capture and store the carbon already in the atmosphere is planting trees. Currently, only 13% of the UK is covered by woodland, in contrast to the European average of 35%. Doubling woodland cover across England, Wales and Northern Ireland would enable the capture and storage of 47 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year, or 10% of the country’s current greenhouse gas emissions.
The estimated woodland cover across Greater Manchester is 7.9%, ranging from 5.2% in Rochdale to 9.7% in Stockport. (Dataset available)
Greater Manchester therefore needs to play its part in increasing the nation’s woodland cover, and the data show that each local authority in the region has scope to help double the city region’s woodland cover by 2045, in line with Friends of the Earth’s national campaign.