Towards green and just transitions in city regions

Manchester city centreFrom January to June 2022, PhD candidate Usman Aziz, alongside Professor Elvira Uyarra and Dr Josephine Mylan, from the University’s Manchester Institute of Innovation Research (MIOIR) and Sustainable Consumption Institute (SCI), undertook a study which analysed international best practice of sustainability policymaking in city-regions. The study was completed on behalf of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) and was funded by Research England. The objective was to contribute to an evidence base for an update of the Greater Manchester Local Industrial Strategy (GM LIS).

The SCI researches how reconfiguring consumption and production systems can contribute to less resource-intensive ways of life. Its projects explore the social relationships that hinder change, as well as those that might enable the transition to greater sustainability.

The MIOIR analyses the dynamics and impacts of science, technology and innovation and the role of management, policy and societal behaviour more generally and how these contribute to the economy and human well-being.

Published originally in 2019, the GM LIS was one of the UK’s first modern local industrial strategies. It advocated a clean growth mission to achieve net-zero by 2038 and brought attention to the importance of both everyday ‘foundational’ sectors, and high-technology ‘frontier’ sectors, for regional economic progress. By 2022, however, local policymakers stated that the GM LIS required an update in order to better address emerging environmental, social and economic pressures, especially in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.

To support the policy refresh, the MIOIR and SCI published a report that analysed best practice of sustainability initiatives involving the foundational economy. These practices were identified in three international case studies, of Amsterdam (the Netherlands), the Basque Country (Spain), and Washington, D.C. (USA), with a fourth case involving Greater Manchester. The report found that foundational sectors must be included in regional economic policies, because they can yield profound impacts on both climate and society. Moreover, sustainability innovation in foundational sectors can be a valuable source of climate mitigation, improvements in social equity, and improvements in economic outcomes such as productivity. Innovation in foundational sectors, therefore, can support green and just objectives in city-regions, offering multiple forms of value creation for climate, society, and economy.