The Greater Manchester Green Summit is an annual event hosted by Andy Burnham, the Mayor of Greater Manchester and supported by Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA). On 17th October the Summit was hosted at the Lowry Theatre in Salford for its fifth edition, with over 400 stakeholders from across the region in attendance to hear about the region’s progress against Greater Manchester’s five year environment plan. The full day of presentations themed around different aspects of environmental sustainability was accompanied by a full exhibition hall of public sector bodies and suppliers, providing ample networking opportunities.

Pupils from St Peter’s Church of England Primary School in Rochdale opened the conference, highlighting various measures the school had taken to gain green flag accreditation. The school has an “earth steward” in every year group who is responsible for championing the green schemes within the school. Some of the projects implemented by the school include developing a butterfly and vegetable garden, completely cutting out single use plastic and providing every pupil with a reusable water bottle to use daily. The short video and talks from pupils highlighted the measures taken by future generations to combat the climate emergency. 

Following the presentation from the school, Andy Burnham delivered his welcome address in which he reflected on the region’s target to become Net Zero by 2038. Andy discussed the three main work streams of the plan; Transport, Building and Homes and Energy. In an honest assessment of Greater Manchester’s progress, Andy attributed a traffic light rating to each of the three areas:

Transport – Green

Andy highlighted the recent progress made with the continued development of the Bee Network, which is Greater Manchester’s vision for a fully integrated transport network system. Some significant progress has been made recently as Greater Manchester (GM) has brought the bus network under public control. This has allowed the Combined Authority to regulate the service and provide a cost cap of £2 per journey making buses uniformly affordable across the region. Additionally, they have invested in a new fleet of electric buses, something that they hope to purchase more of in the coming years.

As well as buses, significant progress has been made on the cycle network. Considerable investment has been put into developing the infrastructure on roads, ensuring better safety for cyclists across GM. A cycle hire scheme is now also available in specific regions, with both regular and electric bikes available to hire increasing the accessibility of cycling.

Buildings and homes – Amber

Andy explained the first 50 net zero social homes were built earlier this year but admitted the plan needed to be accelerated to meet the region’s housing needs in a sustainable manner. There are plans in place to construct an additional 30,000 net zero homes in the next five years and a supplementary retrofitting scheme worth over £50 million to ensure homes are as energy efficient as possible.

Energy – Red

Little progress has been made against the energy targets, however, to accelerate progress on this priority, Andy has formed a task force. The task force brings together both Greater Manchester and Liverpool City Region along with energy expert Dale Vince who is the CEO and Founder of Ecotricity. As part of the work initial scoping of potential renewable energy production is underway across Manchester and Liverpool is underway, with Tidal, on and off shore wind, solar and hydrogen production being explored as future predominant energy sources for the North West.  The main barrier to this priority is cost, it is estimated to cost at least £65 billion.

The remainder of the day consisted of thematic sessions looking at various aspects of environmental and sustainability work across the boroughs of Greater Manchester. Many of the sessions throughout the day were made up of expert panelists from public sector institutions and private sector organisations working in partnership on environmental projects. After lunch, there were also a number of interactive breakout workshops allowing conference attendees to provide opinions and ideas on future environmental work and strategy. 

Throughout the day there were warnings about the progress of the region, specifically with regards to the budget which is due to be spent by 2027 based on the current rate of spending. Despite this, the overarching theme of the day was optimism about what was possible through partnership working and collaboration.