From spinning yarn to carbon budgeting

Manchester Climate Change Strategy 2017-2050 : How a centre of the industrial revolution becomes a centre of the energy revolution:

The city of Manchester played a key role in the industrial revolution in the 19th century. As a former textile capital, the city has a history of paying attention to each and every detail as every single yarn adds its part to the garment. Today, Manchester is one of the frontrunners in the energy revolution with its roadmap to become a zero carbon city by 2050.

“ Vision 2050 Manchester is playing its full part in limiting the impacts of climate change, locally and globally. It is a thriving, zero carbon, zero waste, climate resilient city where all our residents, public, private and third sector organisations are actively contributing to and benefiting from the city’s success. We compete and collaborate with cities around the world, ensuring that our collective efforts have limited global average temperature increases to well
below 2°C, hopefully to 1.5°C, relative to pre-industrial level. ”
(Source: Manchester Climate Change Strategy 2017-2050)

Priority Objectives and Main Levers of Implementation

In order to realise its vision and ambition, Manchester has identified five priority objectives:

  • sustainable economy and jobs;
  • healthy communities;
  • resilience to climate change;
  • zero carbon and culture change.

Intrinsically linked, these objectives represent the fact the successful delivery of this strategy will require joint action, an integrated approach, and collaboration across traditional areas of policy. Based on these five priority objectives, six thematic areas of action were identified, including buildings, energy, transport, resources and waste, food and green spaces and waterways.

It is hoped that the development of carbon budgets for Manchester will help to inform the development of the Greater Manchester Climate Change Strategy for 2020+. And that hopefully it will also help inform potential work by GMCA to agree a Greater Manchester carbon budget with UK Government, on the basis that, with the right devolved powers and funding, the city-region can deliver local action that makes a measurable contribution towards achieving UK CO2 targets.

Zero Carbon

In order for Manchester to become zero carbon, the energy that the city uses will be decarbonised by switching from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources, while also electrifying heat and transport. This will require new technologies such as battery storage to deal with fluctuating supply and demand. Furthermore, the city will adopt as one of the first European cities a comprehensive carbon budget approach.

Towards a Carbon Budget

In the framework of its roadmap, Manchester plans to adopt a continuous, robust carbon budget consistent with the Paris Agreement by aiming at limiting global average temperature increase to well below 2°C. Manchester’s carbon budget should also result in the city becoming zero carbon by 2050.

The idea behind Manchester’s carbon budget is that it sets out how much CO2 Manchester is permitted to emit in order to comply with the Paris Agreement. Manchester’s roadmap will include five-year carbon budgets, which will be announced alongside future implementation plans, which will be published every 5 years. The carbon budget will be subject to ongoing revisions and modifications as required in this process.

Manchester’s first carbon budget was announced in February 2018, and already laid out a detailed pathway and timescale for expenditure. In the framework of the EU-funded project SCATTER, the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research has calculated a total carbon budget of 71 million tonnes CO2 between 2018 and 2100 for Manchester. 67 million tonnes of that budget are allocated to a series of 5 year carbon budgets for the period 2018 to 2038, with the remaining 4 million tonnes allocated to the period 2038 to 2100. Consequently, Manchester’s annual carbon emissions will need to fall to near zero (below 0.6 Mt CO2) already by 2038, in order to stay within the city’s total carbon budget. Hence, Manchester will need to reduce its carbon emissions by an average of 13% per year in order to be Paris-proof and comply with its own carbon budget.

Apart from setting a clear climate action trajectory for the next three decades, Manchester’s carbon budget also allows for calculating the city´s contribution towards achieving the UK’s carbon reduction targets (i.e. locally determined contribution), and thus represents a valuable, measurable and trackable tool for demonstrating the important role of cities in national climate policy.


The Manchester Climate Change Board, established in February 2018, is responsible for driving forward the successful implementation of Manchester’s 2050 roadmap. As part of the city´s wider Our Manchester governance structure, the board contains a set of thematic sub-boards (e.g. the Climate Change Youth Board) that are each responsible in relation to their area of the Our Manchester strategy. The Manchester Climate Change Board also has an integrative function, as it is integrates climate action into all areas of the Our Manchester strategy – from health, quality of life, jobs to economic success. The Board consists of representatives from different organisations and sectors across Manchester, and understands its mission as acting on behalf and in the interests of the city’s residents and organisations. Therefore, the Board has committed to report publicly on its activities, by displaying the Board’s meetings minutes on and making formal accounts available at the
Companies House at, thereby exemplifying the transparent, accountable and democratic character of Manchester’s roadmap.
The Manchester Climate Change Agency is responsible for the coordination and delivery of the 2050 roadmap, while the Manchester Forum is overseeing that Manchester meets its commitments set out in its roadmap.

Citizen Participation

During the months of July and October in 2016, Manchester launched a public consultation on the roadmap’s overall vision, to which more than 700 residents and organisations replied. 85% of respondents agreed on the objective of becoming a zero carbon city by 2050, while another 6% found that this target was not high enough.

Subsequently, the city respected the will of its residents and set a zero carbon vision in its 2050 roadmap. Citizen participation in Manchester is also fostered by developing a low carbon culture within the city, which is characterised cultural and lifestyle change, ability and motivation of residents to take climate action. Manchester championed for example the Carbon Literacy Project, which raises awareness of the carbon dioxide costs and impacts of everyday activities. Consequently, this project contributes to increase the ability and motivation of Manchester’s residents to reduce emissions on individual, community and organisational level.