Green Summit 2020 – In case you missed it

Pollution's contribution to climate change and effects on health - Green summit
Green summit 2020 banner

Green Summit

In case you missed it the green summit is a yearly event intended to discuss the development of the Five-Year Environmental Plan for Manchester. This year the event took place online through a series of pre-recorded and live sessions between the 21st and the 24th of September.

Each day highlighted a different theme: natural environment and climate adaptation, green transport and energy, waste resources and buildings and build back better. If you are anything like me you do not have time to attend all 25+ hours of talks, nor would it be of interest. So, I invite you to read just a handful of the most insightful topics that were discussed…

Microplastics in Manchester’s rivers

Monday’s talks were titled ‘Natural Environment and Climate Adaptation’. The first talk I attended was on ‘Microplastics in Manchester’s rivers’, which was incredibly hard hitting and poignant, setting precedent for things to come later in the week. I suppose that was to be expected considering the severity of the overarching topic being discussed. Perhaps I struggled to grasp that Manchester (My favourite city) is world leading in terms of its abysmal river health.

The Talk

The talk was lead by Jamie Woodward from the department of Geography at the University of Manchester and commenced 2 Hours and 52 minutes into the day’s video and can still be accessed here.

The talk is accessible to all listeners, leaving no one behind through overuse of technical jargon. Jamie explains that there are two main sources of microplastics. Primary microplastics such as the beads in personal care products or glitter, and secondary microplastics which are the broken-down constituents of their plastic forefathers discarded years prior. To understand the full impact of plastics in Britain checkout this documentary soon to be released here.

Microplastics definitions in relation to the green summit

The Study

Jamie’s study is currently the largest survey of microplastic contamination of freshwater in the world, as most studies previously focussed on the oceans. They sampled microplastics by kicking up sediment on the riverbed (due to its weight it tends to settle) and collecting it in containers for later sampling and analyses. Their results show that of all 40 sites they surveyed, only 1 site did not contain any plastics (an area of the river Goyt). Most interesting was that following bad flooding in 2016, the microplastics dropped significantly in 28 of the 40 sites.

Green Spaces and environmental transformation

COVID-19 has increased our appreciation for nature, and we have all taken advantage of our local green spaces. Did you know that green spaces take up 16.9% of land and benefit us by improving our mental and physical health? They provide social spaces, combat climate change by absorbing harmful particles in the air and improve life expectancy of people living in cities. Have you noticed any of these benefits? I know I have!

The good news is Manchester’s Green Summit is committed to creating more green spaces, and as 68% of people are expected to be living in cities in the near future, it is a vital component in creating a sustainable planet.

Green spaces part of health and climate at the green summit

West Gorton

This 15-minute talk delved into an exciting joint project with Manchester university and Grow Green. The remarkable new West Gorton Community park was designed as a part of the Grow Green European 2020 funded project to provide an extensive range of nature-based solutions in response to climate change. “The park is designed with nature-based solutions to ‘drink’ and absorb rainwater, reducing flood risk in the surrounding area.” You can find out more here.

Green Transport and Energy

Tuesday’s green summit talk shines the spotlight on green transport and energy. “Green energy is also known as ‘renewable’ or ‘sustainable energy’ and does not emit carbon dioxide upon energy generation. Examples include the sun, wind and water.” – Green Match

It is important to point out there is a direct link between human emissions of greenhouses gases and global warming. As a result, humans and all living things suffer the effects of climate change such as melting ice caps, rising sea levels and habitat loss.

The Greater Manchester Green Summit is dedicated to improving our transport and energy systems in order to achieve our target of a zero-carbon future by 2038. We can help further, through reducing our energy usage: by switching to LED lighting, switching off lights, reducing our water usage and by shutting down computers and laptops when not in use. We can also help create a more sustainable travel system by: cycling or walking, traveling by public transport, car sharing and switching to green transport.

Wouldn’t you agree we are in one the best cities to do so?

Manchester Fuel Cell Innovation Centre

This talk is definitely for the science buffs out there! Manchester Metropolitan University is proud to be involved in using ‘green energy’ to research and develop a Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Strategy for the Manchester region. Fuel cells generate electricity and heat using hydrogen and oxygen.

Surprisingly hydrogen makes up 75% of the universe and the only by product is pure and clean water – yes, 75%! The purpose of hydrogen fuel is to steer away from using non-renewable fuel such as coal, gas, diesel and petrol, to using clean, renewable and sustainable energy. Although hydrogen fuel is now being used in ‘green transport’, remember, ‘green transport’ also includes the use of electric and hybrid vehicles, as well as walking and cycling!

Climate Change a Health Issue

Pollution and climate change - Green summit

Wednesday’s green summit theme centred around waste resources and buildings. I attended an enlightening talk from a menagerie of specialists regarding the health impacts of climate change and the shocking contribution of our national health service! The talk was titled ‘Climate change a health issue’ and commenced 4 hours and 2 minutes into the days video and can be viewed here.

This eye-opening talk gave us much to think about. Touching on how climate change will affect poorer members of society most! From floods and draughts to natural disasters, it is those with less financial freedom who will bear the brunt. However, the grip of climate change may squeeze tightest around the poor, but will have some impact on everyone. For example, air pollution is indiscriminate and causes 1200 deaths a year across Greater Manchester.

The talk then mentioned how vector borne diseases, deforestation and development will increase the risk of future pandemics. If you want to know more about the correlation between deforestation, extinctions, development and pandemics check out this nature article.

The talk mentions the clear co-benefits of health and climate, such as healthier eating, cleaner water, green spaces, active travel and a greener economy!

The impact of the NHS continued

Through this talk I learnt some incredible statistics, such as the enormous GHG emissions of the NHS representing 4-5% of national co2 emissions. However the NHS is already aware and trying to mitigate their impacts, through their sustainable development unit which plans for net zero emissions by 2050. This is in line with the national target but perhaps inconsiderate of the urgency or gravitas of the situation.

Their sustainable development unit also sets out to curb the consumption of single use plastics and reduce the associated carbon footprint. The plastic usage in the NHS is astounding with just one simple cataracts operation using 1.3kg of plastic! The NHS has already removed single use plastic cutlery and stirrers from most of their catering.

Green Summit – Build Back Better

Thursday’s green summit talks were generally uplifting and hopeful of the future – that being the message of the day ‘Build Back Better’. The Build back better talk highlights the positive environmental benefits of lockdown. Greater Manchester showed enormous reductions in the use of electricity (18%), gas (12%) and transport (63%) resulting is an astonishing decrease in carbon emissions by 30% – Greater Manchester Combined Authority Research Team.

It is clear therefore, that decarbonisation is possible. With the right steps, you can help mitigate the effects of climate change by reducing your carbon footprint by:

  • walking or cycling
  • reducing your consumption of meat
  • recycling or selling your old clothes
  • using LED light bulbs
  • growing your own fruit and vegetables
  • using greener energy resources

The talks have lead me to this conclusion “More sustainable decisions both on an individual level and at a policy level will result in a lower contribution to climate change which will not only benefit the planet but will simultaneously alleviate poverty and improve our health, working our way to a sustainable and green future. So let’s start by taking action: Today, Tomorrow and Together!”.

A collaboration between Nisha Candiece Rattu and Levi Richardson