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Glasgow: Banking on the Power of Partnership for a Sustainable City

Saltmarket, Glasgow
Saltmarket, Glasgow

April 14, 2010 By

The story of 20th century Glasgow after the First World War, is in bleak contrast to the previous century. Once an industrial and trade powerhouse, it was hit terribly by the industrial decline of the British Empire and the changing pattern of trade. Over the years since that war, Glasgow has tried hard to regain much of its former glory by transforming from its inward-looking, post-industrial slump, to a confident, outward looking, and a whole new economic base. And now Glasgow as a city is embarking upon something few other European cities have done before.

It is aiming to become one of Europe's greenest industrialized cities within 10 years, by taking the lead in the delivery of Scotland's ambitious carbon reduction targets. These included a huge 80% reduction of carbon emissions by 2050 (42 per cent by 2020) and eradicating fuel poverty by 2016.

In an example of sorts, the city is not depending on the government alone to achieve these targets. Critical to achieving its goal is what its administrators call "a unique initiative" -- one that will engage the City Council and industry as well as key stakeholders such as communities, housing providers and employers.

To kick-start this initiative at the end of January, the City launched The Sustainable Glasgow report that has laid the roadmap of "the first of its kind in the field of sustainability." The most significant feature of this roadmap is that it encompasses a wide gamut of green projects including renewable energy, district heating, sustainable transport, smart grids, biogas, biomass and energy management and efficiency.

"We want to really change the city," said Richard Bellingham, Senior Research Fellow, at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, who crafted the city's sustainable strategy in collaboration with Glasgow City Council.

This collaboration also has some Scotland's big corporate houses like Scottish and Southern Energy, Veolia (Source One), Scottish Enterprise and Blitzer, and Clancy and Company as partners.

"So this isn't about having high-level rhetoric but it is about using real benefit that people can touch and make a difference in their day to day life. We aim to improve the lifestyles and opportunities for city's people and businesses, as well as enhance its image as a leader in sustainable urban living," he added.

Indeed, given that the biggest challenge of any advancing city is climate change that comes with an additional challenge of energy management, Sustainable Glasgow "is a unique project." It aims drive down carbon emissions while expanding its energy generation to meet the needs of a growing city.

Bellingham says that to deliver large scale carbon emission reduction, any city has to understand its existing pattern of carbon emissions. "This may sound surprising but cities in Europe really haven't done geographic mapping of carbon emissions to any significant extent," he says.

Experts in Glasgow thus started with a bottom-up analysis of what the issues and opportunities are and what level of carbon emission reduction is technically and financially deliverable for the city on a reasonable time scale.

"Before we did that analysis nobody had any idea what Glasgow could achieve. The analysis revealed that a carbon reduction of 30 percent is entirely achievable for the city," said Bellingham. "This I think was significant finding given that Glasgow has no power stations, no fuel refineries, and things like that."

That information, says Bellingham, enabled experts to come up with a number of techniques to deliver carbon reduction with realistic targets.

Equally important was tackling the city's transportation system. Besides targeting a major reduction of the number of vehicles in the city center through intelligent transport, an incentive for using non-fossil fuel transportation, and similar efforts, Glasgow, as some say,  is "looking back to the future," to meet its green transportation needs.

It is planning an expansion

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