In November 2021 the world's eyes will be on the city as it hosts the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP26; and decision-makers are trying to make long-standing changes to its transport systems to help support net zero ambitions.
In 2019 Glasgow City Council (GCC) set up a Climate Emergency Working Group, subsequently declaring a climate emergency in the city and making 61 recommendations (19 transport related) with a target to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030. Calling on a radical change to the city's transport system, progress mostly stalled in 2020. Some initiatives accelerated due to Covid-19 – with GCC embarking on a Spaces for People programme leading to a significant expansion of cycling and walking infrastructure across the city.
Consultation closed last week on GCC's Climate Change Implementation Plan which takes into account the recommendations from the Working Group but also GCC's strategic plan and the UN's Sustainable Development Goals. Key actions include how proposed land use and connectivity can help to achieve the 2030 target which will form part of the City Development Plan 2; developing its three new transport strategies which are expected for consultation this year; and the development of Glasgow's metro strategies, which will include an airport link.
Glasgow's Connectivity Commission had called for a national focus on Scotland's principal engine for productivity growth – it was "now Glasgow's turn". It's hard to believe that it has been two decades since a core stakeholder steering group developed similar policy objectives for the Glasgow Airport Rail Link Bill – to stimulate economic growth in the West of Scotland; to support the sustainable regeneration across the city region; and to improve social inclusion and accessibility by connecting areas of low car ownership and high deprivation within West Scotland to economic opportunities across the city and the Airport. It was therefore welcome news last week that Transport Scotland included the development of the metro strategies in the Strategic Transport Projects Review 2, consultation which now runs until 31 March.
We need ambitious transport proposals like this in helping the city to not only become a global champion in tackling the climate emergency, but to assist the city, the city region and Scotland become economically competitive and to create connectivity and access to jobs to facilitate economic growth, all of which are especially welcome in the aftermath of the pandemic. However, it is unfortunate that it has taken a global pandemic, for many of the city's sustainable travel measures to have been accelerated. Pavement space will become of intrinsic value to pedestrians and the hospitality trade when we begin to unlock again.
Sitting outside in November on the north bank of the Clyde might not appear to have the same kerb appeal as the café's on the left bank in Paris had at COP21 but us Glaswegians are a likeable lot who pride ourselves on being friendly. We might not have the Eiffel Tower but we have the Titan Crane. Our metro system might be small but it is the third oldest in the world - and a 100 years before it opened we were building the Forth & Clyde Canal. All of this reminding us that the city and its people have ambition to innovate, pioneer and shape the modern world on a global scale, especially when it comes to transport – COP26 presents us with the opportunity to showcase it all again.
Sarah Baillie is a Planning and Infrastructure Consenting Partner at Addleshaw Goddard
This blog was published as part of the Decarbonising Transport series with Greener Transport Solutions