If in doubt that a city can change for the better just look at Glasgow, delegates were told at Real Asset Media’s Thinking Cities briefing, which was held online this week.
“Glasgow has been transformed from a de-populating, post-industrial, economically depressed city into a fast-growing, vibrant city at the cutting edge of technology,” said Susan Aitken, leader, Glasgow City Council.
“Our message is that if you can do it in Glasgow, you can do it anywhere,” she said. “No one has any excuse not to make progress if we have.”
That view is because the city had a lot of challenges to overcome owing to the legacies of its industrial past, from toxic residues to flooding issues.
In less than a year’s time Glasgow will be in the global spotlight as it hosts COP26, the United Nations Climate Change Conference.
“We don’t want to be just a venue but provide inspiration and a glimpse of what the future can be like,” said Aitken. “The climate emergency is central to everything we do, so being the host city give us an opportunity and a responsibility to show we can act as global leaders.”
It is a chance to change the perception of the city as well and show the world the progress it has made, especially in the last five years.
Retro-fitting to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030
Glasgow has an ambitious target to be carbon-neutral by 2030, which it plans to achieve by retro-fitting and insulating Victorian buildings, de-carbonising transport, de-toxifying post-industrial land, increasing green spaces and other initiatives. “We’ll prioritise those areas where we’re going to get the biggest carbon gain,” Aitken said.
The green agenda is just part of the picture. Technology and innovation also play a vital role in making Glasgow a city of opportunity, which has one of the highest graduate retention rates in the UK. Accommodation is still affordable, which is key for young people.
“Local authorities, business and universities working together is what underpins the Team Glasgow approach which is so crucial,” said Aitken. “The Innovation district is buzzing, but a lot of innovation is responding directly to the challenges in the local community, directly addressing the issues that most matter to people.”
Having created a vibrant innovation eco-system, looking ahead Glasgow now has three main ambitions.
“We want to achieve net zero carbon by 2030, to have a just transition that doesn’t leave behind the disadvantaged, and to cement our position as an outward-looking, humane, green, smart city,” said Aitken. “A European city.”