The COP28 climate summit adopted a final deal on Wednesday after two weeks of negotiations marked by controversy and disputes over the future of fossil fuels. Representatives from nearly 200 countries attended the summit in Dubai, ultimately agreeing to a landmark deal to start “transitioning” away from fossil fuels to achieve the lofty ambition of net zero by 2050.

While some critics felt the deal didn’t go far enough, there was a significant breakthrough in COP officially acknowledging for the first time that fossil fuels are the root cause of climate change. The deal also builds on a previous key target to limit long-term global temperature rises to 1.5C, with warnings that previous agreed measures will not be enough to reach that goal.

Discussions also centred on boosting renewable energy generation and energy efficiency improvements, accelerating efforts globally towards net zero emissions energy systems and developing zero and low emissions technologies, reducing methane emissions and exploring new funding models.

Through the Local Climate Action Summit, COP also signalled a clear recognition the critical role local leaders play in reducing emissions, addressing climate risk, and supercharging national efforts to move further and faster on climate progress.

As the Greater Manchester Business Board, we welcome the progress made at a global level in the context of our own city-region. Greater Manchester has an ambitious, science-based target to be carbon neutral by 2038. We’ve made some important steps towards this, but time is of the essence and, with business activity accounting for roughly a third of our carbon emissions, we will only reach of our target by bringing businesses along with us.

In fact, we think business should be setting the pace.

As business leaders in Greater Manchester, it could be easy for us to disengage from discussions happening thousands of miles away. But if this is to be the “beginning of the end” of the fossil fuel era, taking the right action now can have a significant positive impact on both the planet and our own prosperity. We don’t underestimate the scale the challenge for businesses, but net zero also represents an enormous opportunity. The transition will leverage an unprecedented £100 billion of private investment and support 480,000 UK jobs by 2030.

Greater Manchester has been pushing ahead with our own ambitious plans, including developing Bee Net Zero, a business-led partnership which aims to make Greater Manchester the easiest place in the UK to become a net zero business. The partnership unites a range of organisations and support programmes from across Greater Manchester who are committed to making the transition as straightforward and cost-efficient as possible for businesses.

Through the partnership we have a network that stretches across Greater Manchester, covering all business sizes and sectors. From helping to engage employees, to connecting business with local suppliers, Bee Net Zero is here to help businesses at all stages of the transition to cut bills and carbon emissions.

Its latest focus is to drive wider adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) in Greater Manchester – crucial when 40% of Greater Manchester’s CO2 emissions come from road transport. Getting more people to use public transport, or walk or cycle, is of course the first step, but we know certain in certain places and sectors, road vehicles may still be needed.

The EV campaign is encouraging businesses across our city-region to install charging infrastructure and adopt EVs. Through signposting to both the local and national support available to Greater Manchester organisations and collating all of the necessary info into one landing page, we’re hoping to give Greater Manchester businesses the confidence to install EV infrastructure and prepare for the future.

Wider environmental aims in our city-region are being driven forward by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority’s Five-Year Environment Plan, which looks to tackle five key environmental challenges: mitigating climate change; air quality; production and consumption of resources; natural environment; and resilience and adaptation to the impacts of climate change.

The focus at COP on renewable energy generation reflects our Plan’s commitment to add at least 45MW of local renewable energy and storage by 2024, which we are on track to achieve. We were the first city-region to develop Local Area Energy Plans, paving the way for new technology and low-carbon infrastructure like air source heat pumps, solar panels, and EV charging points and the extension of heat networks.

Our approach also includes delivering over £200m of building retrofit activity; expanding the Bee Network; publishing the Greater Manchester Resilience Strategy; piloting the development of a Local Nature Recovery Strategy as well as delivering the Greater Manchester Green Spaces Fund, with around £2m allocated to community led projects.

The world-leading research and innovation happening across our universities and businesses is positioning Greater Manchester as a hub for climate tech solutions, attracting millions of pounds of investment to make a substantial impact on global CO2 emissions. Greater Manchester has established an Energy Innovation Agency, with academic and private sector partners, to accelerate the commercialization of low carbon goods and services.

As the home of graphene, Greater Manchester is working with a range of partners both nationally and internationally to explore applications for advanced 2D materials in improving sustainability – for example, in the lightweighting of components in transport. Elsewhere, Greater Manchester is teaming up with Ecotricity to launch a new innovative task force to see if more green energy could be harvested to power both Liverpool and Manchester.

When you look back through history, Greater Manchester has always been at the forefront of social and technological advancements, and we intend to lead the way on the green economy too – a place that is taking action to reduce carbon emissions and improve our environment, while championing collective endeavour, partnership, and innovation. Working together we can help tackle the climate crisis and create a greener, fairer and more prosperous Greater Manchester.

Steve Connor 

Greater Manchester Business Board Green Lead