COP26: Making grey Glasgow green

Credit: Unsplash

Erin Fowler

COP26 can only better Glasgow’s already great environmental success.

Glasgow is preparing to host the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in November this year. The conferences aim to bring together over 3,000 delegates made up of heads of state, climate experts, and campaigners in order to agree on a global strategy required to combat the climate crisis. It will be the biggest international meeting that has even been held in the UK and it provides Glasgow with a unique opportunity to promote its efforts in becoming a more environmentally conscious city on a global platform. 

As Scotland’s most populous city, Glasgow is often perceived as industrial, thanks to the legacy of industrialisation that remains deeply rooted in its identity. Concern over the environmental impact of human activities has rapidly increased over the past few years as the climate crisis presents many uncertainties about the planet’s health and our future. Cities like Glasgow are therefore tasked with the challenge of transitioning from their industrial past towards a cleaner future that is less reliant on fossil fuels. 

Hosting COP26 allows Glasgow to showcase the developments the city has already made towards tackling the climate emergency to the international community. Since the Scottish Government declared a climate emergency in 2019, Glasgow City Council shortly followed suit and the city has since pledged to become carbon neutral by 2030. Glasgow is recognised as the vegan capital of the UK and the meaning of its name, “Dear Green Place”, is reflected in the many parks and green spaces that fill the city. It’s also home to a number of community-based environmental campaign groups like Glasgow Eco Trust. COP26 is an opportunity for Glasgow to be recognised for its progress on a global platform that also sets an example for how other former industrial cities can reimagine and reinvent themselves into environmentally conscious cities. 

COP26 also forces Glasgow to address the city’s shortfalls in terms of environmental progress. Glasgow remains one of the most polluted areas of the UK as continued heavy reliance on cars creates incredibly high rates of air pollution. Both Glasgow City Council and world-renowned higher education facilities like the University of Glasgow continue to invest millions of pounds into the fossil fuel industry. COP26 will hopefully pressure  these institutions to finally divest from fossil fuels and implement further strategies that will combat the climate emergency. There has never been a better time for cities like Glasgow to admit their faults and continue their quest to become more sustainable. 

Hosting COP26 comes with a significant amount of pressure as last year’s conference in Madrid ended in a deadlock as attendees were unable to agree on a constructive way to move forward. It’s hoped that Glasgow’s current environmental efforts will have a positive effect on the tone of the event, promoting a message of hope and progress. A successful COP26 would be an incredible legacy for the city to have that would further encourage Glasgow to engage with the climate emergency. 

The announcement that Glasgow would be the next host of COP26 has not gone uncriticised, particularly as the projected cost of the event is set to enter the millions. Critics urge that the event must be value for money and concerns have emerged over where the funds for this expensive venture will come from. However, it is clear that COP26 will have a lasting impact on Glasgow’s efforts to tackle the climate crisis as the local initiative “Climate Ready Clyde” will launch their adaptation strategy and action plan during the event that aims to prepare the city to combat the climate crisis by 2050. The reveal of these plans will be closely watched by the international community and it is hoped that they will be well received, and further help promote Glasgow as the green city that it is striving to be. 

COP26 is going to bring with it a series of opportunities for Glasgow to show its current environmental initiatives and to promote their future ambitions. Only time will tell how well this will unfold, but there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic particularly from an environmental perspective. 

If you are interested in learning more about Glasgow’s climate action strategies or want to follow COP26’s progress, check out the links below:


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