Glasgow – What does it mean to be green?

4 November 2020

Why was Glasgow chosen as the location of the UN’s COP26, where world leaders and stakeholders will gather to make decisions on tackling climate change? It’s not just because the city has always been a frontrunner in tackling climate change, as evidenced by its ranks at the world’s fourth most sustainable global destination, nor exclusively as a result of its track record as having been one of the cities that lobbied for the initiation of the European Green Capital Award. What is most impressive about the city’s approach to the environment is its unblinkered view of what it means to be green. Environmental policy, for Glasgow, is inextricable from social policy, and from its policy on recovery from COVID-19.

We’ll be hearing all about this directly from Glasgow City Leader Susan Aitken, livestreaming during our annual conference here tomorrow, Thursday, 5 November from 10.00-11.30.

In Glasgow, sustainability does not just mean tackling climate change. It also means taking a social approach that empowers communities. Resilience does not just refer to the battle against the pandemic, but to tackling the underlying social problems that have made this moment so hard on our societies.

Take for example the redesign of the famous George Square. On the one hand, the idea is to remove traffic to improve air quality in the city centre. On the other hand, it is about returning a key civic space to people to use for their own purposes, through the Spaces For People approach, an approach that was born out of the immediate health challenges posed by covid. The plan at once restores public confidence, vibrancy and prosperity and creates momentum for healthier and more accessible and attractive spaces.

When the city talks about its transition to climate neutrality by 2030, it always speaks of a just transition, one that leaves no one behind. This means keeping climate change relevant to all parts of the population, for example by linking climate policy to fuel poverty, ensuring that less polluting homes will also be warmer, better and healthier homes for residents. This investment in the future is also an investment in the local economy. In looking after the planet, Glasgow is also looking after its own, because Glasgow is home to the second highest proportion of tech firms specialising in low carbon outside of London and the sixth highest in Europe.

You have the opportunity to discover how the city has woven climate, resilience and recovery into a compelling narrative and effective policy, directly from Susan Aitken, Glasgow City Leader. She’ll be livestreaming as part of our session on ‘Green and just recovery in cities’ tomorrow, Thursday, 5 November from 10.00-11.30. You can livestream this session and the rest of the annual conference here. You can find more information on the conference here.


Anthony Colclough Eurocities Writer