Beyond COP-26: Glasgow’s plans for a sustainable future

Hosting COP-26 is not enough for Glasgow: long after the UN summit on climate change has finished and thousands of international delegates have left, the Scottish city aims to be a beacon of sustainability and a positive example to others.

“We do not suffer from a lack of ambition,” said Kevin Rush, director of regional economic growth, Glasgow City Region, told Real Asset Media’s Investment Opportunities in Urban Sustainability briefing, which took place at COP-26 yesterday.

“We’re asking for £30 billion in investment to achieve our net zero goals. Climate action failure is the number one challenge all cities face and it’s incumbent on us all to think differently. We know we need to change the way we invest in real estate.”

Kevin Rush, Director of Regional Economic Growth, Glasgow City Region

A key part of Glasgow’s plan is the Greenprint for Investment, a £30 billion portfolio of investment-ready opportunities which was presented before COP-26 as a clear roadmap to transform the city and getting the private sector on board.

“A twin track approach is needed, with the public and private sector working side by side,” said Rush. “As US President Joe Biden said at COP-26, the private sector needs to be involved. If we identify the right opportunities, there’ll be a significant return on their investment.”

The 11 projects highlighted in the Greenprint for investment range in size from the very large to the small and cover different fields to provide investors with a mix of opportunities, but they have the one common goal of achieving the goal of net zero by 2030.

Metro will be most transformational project

“The most transformational project of all is Glasgow Metro, because it’s about transport but regeneration too,” said Rush. “The goal is a massive shift from private to public transport.”

It will cost up to £10 billion to build a metro system that will connect the city and the wider region, reduce pollution and congestion and improve air quality.

“One of the most important projects is the Home Energy Retrofit programme, because old and energy-inefficient housing stock is a big problem in Glasgow,” said Rush.

It is a 10-year, £10 billion project to upgrade the insulation of all homes in the Glasgow City Region and explore the use of innovative renewable technologies to deliver green energy. The plan also has other benefits, Rush pointed out, creating jobs for young people and creating supply chain opportunities.

“Another key project for the city is Charing Cross, the construction of a cap over the motorway which will improve connectivity with the city centre, because now getting across the motorway is a problem,” said Rush. “We would also create a new park and redesign the public realm.”

The Greenprint is not all about the city. The Clyde Climate Forest, for example, aims to plant 18 million trees around Glasgow over the next decade, creating over 9,000 hectares of new woodland and expanding the region’s “green lung” by 3%.

Detailed negotiations are going on with potential investors on the 11 projects in the Greenprint, which are all transformational but also shovel-ready. They are also designed to align with the four umbrella UN Sustainable development goals: decent work and economic growth; sustainable cities and communities; climate action; and partnership.

“Our budget is £2 billion a year, so we know we cannot even begin to develop these projects by ourselves,” said Rush. “We can only meet the challenge in partnership with the private sector and we are confident that, as Mark Carney said at COP-26, there is a huge amount of capital available for green investments. Our role is to make a strong case and remove bureaucratic hurdles and all other barriers to investment.”