Greater Manchester’s sustainable future must leave no one behind

It’s widely believed that net-zero investment into city-regions can simultaneously lower carbon emissions and secure economic prosperity, boosting living standards for all. When put like this, it seems like a simple solution. A focus on sustainable development and low-carbon communities will support growth, create green jobs and support the levelling up of city regions while reducing energy bills and living costs.

However, while the climate crisis is one of the biggest challenges we will have to solve in our lifetime, it is not the only challenge we’re currently facing.  

With a cost-of-living crisis, rising construction costs, lack of affordable housing, a green skills shortage and varying policy frameworks that developers are under pressure to meet, issues around net zero construction add further strain. 

While solutions to many of these issues exist and can be intrinsically linked, there is fear that the race to net zero will put further pressure on local authorities and developers, which could enhance inequalities for already vulnerable communities.

For example, housing makes up 30% of Manchester’s total carbon emissions. Retrofitting the city’s housing stock will lower residents’ energy bills during the cost-of-living crisis, enhance the health of residents, and improve standards in the city’s existing housing stock. 

However, elements of domestic retrofit like solar panels and heat pumps can be costly for homeowners to install, and the retrofit skills gap is providing further barriers for many hoping to access these solutions.

Building new net-zero homes is also costly for developers, which affects the affordability of new housing stock, further fuelling the housing crisis.

There is a collective responsibility to ensure the poorest don’t get left behind while we solve these challenges.  

Private sector developers must work alongside communities, local authorities, and the Government to implement solutions on a place-based level, using strategic development frameworks and re-packaging green solutions to ensure they create return for local communities.

Greater Manchester has a target to be net zero by 2038, twelve years ahead of the national target. It is using a collaborative cross-sector approach to utilise creative, community-based problem solving and create a fairer, greener, and more prosperous city-region for all.

Manchester city centre has just opened its first public park in over 100 years as part of U+I’s Mayfield Station renovation. Mayfield Park spans 6.5 acres on the banks of the River Medlock. It uses the natural environment and existing infrastructure, including Victorian wells to water greenery, floodable meadows and ecological areas, to enhance the sustainability of the green space while providing a free urban escape for the community alongside a new neighbourhood for the city centre.

Greater Manchester has also brought buses back under local control as part of larger plans for a London-style integrated transport system, The Bee Network. This represents the biggest change to the city-region’s public transport in over 30 years making it simple, affordable, and sustainable hoping to encourage residents to move away from car journeys. As well as price-capped tickets, the city-region is improving active travel solutions and introducing low-emission vehicles.

The city-region has ambitions to create the blueprint for a connected, green, and accessible city-region for all, setting the example for other cities. Developers, innovators and local authorities have big plans to create Manchester’s sustainable future. However, it’s becoming clear that a significant level of support is needed to make this a reality at the scale and speed required to tackle the climate and cost-of-living crisis.

At LREF, Greater Manchester: Enabling agents of change for zero-carbon cities, will discuss the real-life challenges that Greater Manchester is experiencing as it balances the race to net zero and the rising cost of living.

The panel will bring together local council representatives, the city-region’s transport commissioner and leading property developers to discuss what is needed to create lasting and impactful change across the city-region. Showcasing Greater Manchester’s dedication to creating solutions that ensure a sustainable future where no community is left behind.