Leadership in a tough climate

By Susan Aitken | 09 November 2021

The world’s eyes are currently on Glasgow as presidents, prime ministers, mayors, CEOs, climate scientists and campaigners converge in the city while we host the 26th UN Conference of Parties climate negotiations: COP26. The goal is to agree action that delivers on the commitments of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.

This is a pivotal moment for our planet, but also for Glasgow.

This city was one of the first to declare a climate emergency and has an overarching mission of equitable, net-zero carbon, climate-resilient living by 2030. The recently released ‘Glasgow Green Deal’ offers an integrated approach to solving these crises that will help reduce emissions and build climate resilience, but also create sustainable jobs, reduce fuel poverty and improve access to quality homes and public spaces. This outlines how we will use the remaining nine years to transform Glasgow’s economy to not only tackle the climate emergency by 2030, but also make sure this is a great city for all residents to live and work in.

As we have put the Green Deal together, we have committed to several guiding principles to raise the speed and quality of delivery:

• Place a significant degree of control over that change in the hands of citizens and businesses most at risk from climate change;

• Put in place the frameworks and certainty needed to bring forward the solutions at scale;

• Deliver significant changes and innovation in our systems, institutions, processes, policies and investment choices; and

• Scale investment in climate action into the billions needed, both directly by the city, and in partnership with governments and business.

It is widely accepted that most of the cost of the transition to low carbon economies will have to be met by private finance. Many asset managers and investors are already realising this, working hard to improve the resilience of assets at risk of losing value because of climate change.

We believe Glasgow is the perfect city for future proofing existing and new investment and has the infrastructure in place for those eager to deliver on their green investment ambitions.

To meet this challenge, we recently published Glasgow’s ‘Greenprint for Investment’ – a £30bn portfolio of transformative climate investment projects – to accelerate our shift from a post-industrial to net-zero economy. The Greenprint includes a ten-year programme to upgrade the insulation of all homes in the Glasgow City Region; a district heating network harnessing the power of the River Clyde; a new Metro system; and the Clyde Climate Forest which aims to plant 18 million trees across the region through the next decade – ten per resident– increasing the region’s tree cover by 3% and acting as a sink for carbon emissions.

The climate emergency threatens the safety of our whole planet and represents one of Glasgow’s three ‘grand challenges’ – alongside inclusive growth and productivity. It is also one of the greatest opportunities to transform our economy. Investment in local climate action could create over 800,000 green jobs in the UK by 2030, rising to 1.4 million by 2050. And for every pound invested in climate mitigation and adaptation, £9 is returned in savings and benefits.

However, there is an implementation gap between aspirations and the level of action required to solve these challenges. The Green Deal aims to bridge this gap, by using the climate emergency to create new pathways for governance transformation.

As COP hosts, we have a responsibility to ensure that our talented, innovative, and globally connected city grasps that opportunity by accelerating the redirection of global capital flows into net-zero, climate resilient activity.

As we embark upon the next phase of our transition, Glasgow will use the framework of the Green Deal and the vehicle of the Greenprint to broker the sustainable investments the city region urgently needs, while also building longer term relationships with key stakeholders.

The hosting of COP26 is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Glasgow to illustrate civic leadership and secure the support needed to achieve a climate-resilient future. As a quintessential city in transition, it is Glasgow’s opportunity to demonstrate a new and different path to the world as a place where pioneering solutions to the urban challenges of sustainability can be delivered.

In that, we are confident Glasgow can become the city of our times on the issues of our times.

Susan Aitken is leader of Glasgow City Council


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