Once a prime driver of the industrial revolution, Manchester represents fertile ground for a transformative Green Industrial Revolution.
The economic system is clearly not working for the many, and Manchester encapsulates this perfectly. Research released by the Financial Times has found that while Manchester is one of the most economically productive areas in the country, it also has the ignominious accolade of having one of the lowest disposable household incomes.
Manchester city council heard last year that the city had already used up one quarter of the carbon budget allotted for the entire twenty-first century budget in just the first two years since declaring a climate emergency in 2019. Climate change is now an inescapable fact of life in Manchester, whether that be the Saddleworth Moor fires last year, to the floods of Storm Christoph which came within inches of decimating communities.
We need a bold, radical programme of investment to tackle the dual economic and ecological crises encountering the city.
Retrofit is an obvious starting point. It could create up to 455,000 jobs nationwide in construction trades like plumbing, joinery and carpentry, and more than three million across other sectors. In Manchester alone domestic retrofit could create 33,000 jobs. Thanks to devolution, mayors like Andy Burnham have power over skills devolution — so he could coordinate a reskilling programme to upskill Manchester’s supply chains. The Retrofit Get-In project, which reskilled Manchester’s arts workers in refurbishment works, shows the potential skills are there if only Burnham invests.
Phasing out aviation will be a task for the city, however Manchester Airport employs thousands of people. Political leaders must make it a political priority to provide these workers the proper support they need to transition into greener jobs. A Green New Deal should see investment in the skills held by former Manchester Airport aviation workers, and propose a constructive, positive investment in quality, secure, green jobs such as in care, health, housing and education.
The point here is not to prescribe specific job roles for workers, but to highlight the immense possibilities publicly supported labour market intervention provides for the people of Manchester.
Investing in our natural assets through conservation work will also be a key component of a local Green New Deal. Peatlands, Greater Manchester ‘rainforests’, are vital natural assets – capturing greenhouse gases and maintaining biodiversity. Investment in tree planting and peatland restoration could create 46,000 jobs nationwide, and Manchester should be tapping into this potential.
Andy Burnham showed audacity in bringing Greater Manchester’s buses back under public control by 2024. But public transport is only one dimension of a comprehensive Green New Deal programme. Just as Manchester powered the industrial revolution, the time has come to implement this programme so that the city can propel a green industrial revolution.
Alex King is a Manchester-based journalist and involved in the Manchester for a Green New Deal podcast. You can follow them here, watch their discussion with Jeremy Corbyn here, and support their Patreon here.