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Local elections 2022: candidate survey questions and background information.

In the run up to the local elections in Greater Manchester on Thursday 5th May, Manchester Friends of the Earth asked all candidates standing for election to let voters know what they think about key environmental issues.

Below are the 12 questions with background information.

1. If elected, will you support a landlord licensing scheme to deliver warmer homes?

Background info:  In December 2021, Liverpool City Council’s application for a new selective licensing designation based on poor housing conditions was approved by the government. This was introduced on 1 April 2022 and will run to 31 March 2027 covering 16 of 30 council wards and 80% of the city’s private rented sector properties. Many of these have poor energy efficiency alongside other potential serious hazards.

Liverpool City Council will use its proactive licensing activity to improve the condition of rented properties in parts of the city where home energy efficiency is at its worst. This includes both mandatory licensing of HMOs (houses in multiple occupation) and selective licensing of other properties.

The introduction of Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards regulations in 2018 prompted the council to consider how the standards could be enforced locally and how this could contribute to climate action efforts set out in Liverpool’s city plan.

Without a substantive licensing scheme, the council had to respond to an official complaint from tenants or their advocates about their EPC rating before officers could arrange a house visit. Sometimes, tenants themselves can be difficult to engage on EPCs, denying access for fear of retaliatory eviction should a tenant make a complaint about their landlord.

See the Friends of the Earth Climate Action case study: “How landlord engagement and licensing created warmer homes in Liverpool” for more information.

2. If elected, will you do all you can to ensure the council pension fund ends investment in fossil fuels and invests in a just transition to a zero-carbon economy?

Background info: All ten councils in Greater Manchester have declared a Climate Emergency and the region plans to be carbon neutral by 2038.  And yet the GM Pension Fund still has around £1 billion invested in coal, oil and gas companies – more than any other local authority pension fund in the country.

Many other pension funds in the UK and across the world have moved their money out of dirty fossil fuel companies – not only on moral and environmental grounds, but also to mitigate the financial risks of owning shares in companies whose valuations are based on destabilising the climate.

Whether or not you’re elected, we ask that you call on your council’s representative on the Fund’s management panel to push for divestment from fossil fuels.

For more info, see:
Friends of the Earth Divesting to protect our pensions and the planet – A guide for councillors and council candidates
April 2022

Fossil Free GM fact-check

3. Do you support changes to the planning rules to enable more onshore wind energy production?

Background info:  It is estimated that the UK could more than double its total onshore wind capacity from 14GW now to 30GW by 2030, which would add £45 billion to the economy and support 27,000 jobs (Renewables UK).

At a time when people are facing an unprecedented spike in energy costs that could push millions into poverty, the Government is still blocking one of the cheapest forms of energy.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s (BEIS) public attitudes tracker from autumn 2021 showed 80% of the public are supportive of onshore wind.

Additionally, a recent survey of 2,000 UK energy bill payers commissioned by Octopus Energy found that 87% of people support having a wind turbine in their postcode area if it means half-price electricity – with Octopus Energy’s Fan Club tariff offering consumers living near wind turbines cheaper electricity.

In light of the ongoing climate crisis, we need to ensure councils are doing all they can to promote and plan for renewable energy – even under the constraints of national policy.  

See the Friends of the Earth briefing: Wind Power: your questions answered for more information.

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. 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. 

Manchester City Council has included a zero-carbon building standard in the Local Plan, which would come into force after the Plan has gone through Public Examination.

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. 

6. If elected, will you support the adoption of the new World Health Organization (WHO) air quality limits 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 as 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 King’s 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 current legal limit for Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) is 40 µg/m3 (annual mean). However, research published by Public Health England now shows that this is not a safe limit. 

The World Health Organization revised their air pollution guidelines from 40 µg/m3 to 10 µg/m3 for Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2).

The World Health Organization first proposed a particulates (PM2.5) pollution limit of 10 µg/m3 in 2005, and they revised it down to 5 µg/m3 last year. 

The Government is currently aiming to reach the 10 µg/m3 PM2.5 limit by 2040 – thirty-five years after this was first suggested.

The proposed PM2.5 targets are in fact achievable by 2030. A recently published report from Imperial College and the Clean Air Fund entitled “Pathway to WHO: achieving clean air in the UK” details how lower targets can be achieved much sooner.In 2017, the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) pledged to become a World Health Organization BreatheLife City and to meet the WHO limits by 2030.

7. Will you support expanding 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 for 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 cars to the 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.

8. If elected, will 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.

9. 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. 

See Aviation Sector Emissions and the Manchester Climate Change Framework

10 .If elected, will you do all you can to ensure that every citizen in Greater Manchester has access to green space within 300 metres of where they live?

Background info: We know that access to green space can significantly improve mental and physical health. Across much of Greater Manchester, the public realm is often the only space where local residents can keep in touch with nature.

Researchers have recommended a ‘threshold’ amount of time spent in nature of 120 minutes a week. A 2019 study found that people spending 120 minutes in green space / having contact with nature in a week reported consistently higher levels of both health and wellbeing than those who reported no such exposure.

However, as the recent Friends of the Earth report Access to Green Space highlights, many people across Greater Manchester do not have access to green space.

11. Do you support a 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. However, many of these bans take a phased reduction approach and have not yet fully stopped the use of pesticides or committed to a date to achieve this. 

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.

12. Do you agree that Greater Manchester should 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. It is also hampering efforts to improve recycling.

As with many other localities across the UK, Greater Manchester is already engaged in a contract for incineration of residual waste and therefore needs to:

1) prepare for the termination of the existing contracts as soon as practicable,

2) minimise damage by setting ambitious targets for waste reduction and increases in recycling rates in the meantime,

3) committing to not getting locked into new similar contracts going forward.

For more information, see the UK Without Incineration Network website.

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