Greater Manchester goes Greener

Green recovery, building back better and young people as agents of change were the focus of a virtual panel discussion on the 24th September with the participation of UNRIC in partnership with the Greater Manchester Green Summit 2020.

The discussion was moderated by UNRIC Director Deborah Seward with panellists Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham, Xavier Matilla, Chief Architect for Urban ecology on Barcelona City Council, Eduardo Rodrigues, Metropolitan President of Porto, Raymond Johansen, Governing Mayor of Oslo and Carl Spector, City Commissioner of Environment at the City of Boston.

The panel discussion was preceded by a statement by the UN’s Envoy on Youth, Jayathma Wickramanayake. The Youth Envoy underlined the hardship young people currently face in light of the pandemic and climate emergency but emphasised that summits such as the one in Greater Manchester were reasons for optimism, “the Summit provides a great platform to hear young people’s voices and an opportunity to influence future decision​s, especially on the issues involved in ​ensuring a green recovery and building back better.”

Following the statement from Ms Wickramanayake, Ms Seward addressed the Summit underlining the broader priorities of the UN for the coming decade,  “we need a strong focus on building more equal, inclusive, sustainable and resilient societies. Now and in the years to come, cities like Manchester, which already has made great strides, will have to focus on climate, green solutions and biodiversity.”

Mayors International Live Panel

Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham noted that “Manchester has an incredible history of making industrial and social progress. Many would think of Manchester as the original modern city, industrial city […] We want to be the UK’s leading digital and green city,” adding that “we have a realistic plan to get to carbon neutrality by 2038, I want to ensure that it is a plan that simultaneously improves people’s homes, lives and transport.”

Mr Burnham thanked his fellow mayors for joining him and said that many of their cities were more advanced than Manchester in green transformations. Eduardo Rodrigues pointed out that in Porto, “in the nine months before the pandemic we had 23% more people using public transport because of the price decrease and the improved quality of services.”

Raymond Johansen also highlighted the strides that Oslo had made, “last year, Oslo was the green capital […] we wanted to use the year to mobilise all parts of the community […] and I really experienced that, businesses and the community really stepped up” Carl Spector pointed to how valuable the international community has been in the changes Boston has made, “we have learned a lot from visits to Europe and speaking to leaders there. It underlines the global importance of this and the value and strength of international cooperation.”

Deborah Seward asked the panel a questions posed by Manchester’s Combined Youth Authority, centred on how young people’s voice are going to be heard in light of the pandemic and the climate crisis.

How can we put young people at the centre of the green recovery of cities? 

Andy Burnham argued that, “We should bring the cost of public transport right down, not just because it cuts emissions but it connects young people more easily to opportunity.” Raymond Johansen agreed adding that, “We need to talk more about green job creation. We need all the people to be a part of this vision. We want a climate friendly society. We need to unite generations.” Carl Spector pointed out that young people have a lot of energy and that  “at a local level there is a huge influx of the younger generation into politics.”

Andy Burnham highlighted that this wasn’t just a pivotal era for Manchester but for all of the UK, “COP26 […] will be a big moment for the world, by then we can hopefully really turn our minds to a green recovery. I really do think it has to be a green recovery. The green economy must be at the heart of recovery from COVID.”

Deborah Seward closed the panel by stressing the importance of continued collaboration across global cities and how UNRIC can be a communication bridge between them. UNRIC will partner with Transport for Greater Manchester to promote the United Nation’s 75th anniversary to audiences in Manchester and the UK. From the 12th October, for 2 weeks ahead of UN Day on 24th October, digital screens in Manchester’s Piccadilly Station will invite the public to take part in the UN75 survey.

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