Glasgow: Best Climate Practice City in the United Kingdom

Glasgow: Best Climate Practice City in the United Kingdom

This Post was submitted by Climate Scorecard UK Country Managers Thomas Christensen and Gwenyth Wren



In November 2021, Glasgow will be the host city of COP26, the fifth-year anniversary of the Paris Agreement, where world leaders will convene and aim to establish new, ambitious emissions reduction targets in the hope of staving off the climate crisis and rising global temperatures. While the conference programming and external outreach is underway, what are the plans of Glasgow City itself for demonstrating its commitment to addressing climate change? Although COVID-19 protocols are expected to remain in place and the conference proceed as a combination of in-person and virtual participation, thousands of attendees are expected over the course of nearly two weeks, with the transportation and hospitality sectors largely at capacity within the city center.


Glasgow climate awards and partnerships

Glasgow won the Sustainable Cities and Human Settlements Award in 2020 from the Global Forum on Human Settlements, a global non-profit organization recognized by the United Nations system which focuses on Sustainable Development Goal 11: to make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. Glasgow is a member of ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, the world’s leading network of local and regional governments committed to sustainable development through partnerships between civil society, business leaders and government, and has pledged to adopt the twin goals of climate justice and social equity in its climate roadmap.  Glasgow is also a signatory of The Aalborg Commitments, which develop a common understanding for embedding sustainability across municipality sectors. Finally, Glasgow was recognized in 2019 as one of the world’s top five cities for sustainable business tourism.

Glasgows climate commitments

The policies mentioned in this report are either newly formed or newly updated in light of COP26, which is taking place in Glasgow in November 2021. Thus, availability of impact reviews is limited. In some ways these policies are reactionary, following negligence in the waste management sector for instance; in other ways, they demonstrate Glasgow’s leadership, reflecting its current priorities and how far it wishes to take its climate and sustainability goals. As the world’s attention turns to Glasgow for two whole weeks this year, the city is seizing the opportunity to raise its own ambition level. Climate Scorecard will produce a report on Glasgow’s progress on these policies in the year following COP26.


Glasgow aims to achieve net zero by the year 2030. 

Additionally, Glasgow has joined Race to Zero, which means it must reach (net)-zero in the 2040s or sooner, in line with global efforts to limit warming to 1.5°Celsius, as stipulated in the Paris Agreement. Membership requires determining steps taken toward achieving net zero, especially in the short- to medium-term, as well as set an interim target to achieve in the next decade, and report progress annually.

Glasgow is aiming for ambitious changes and to shed its industrial past which has allowed derelict and contaminated land, congestion, poor planning decisions and high levels of social deprivation. In 2021, it is seeking to convert such land into affordable housing, green spaces, woodland, nature havens and urban food production centres.

Main climate-related policy strategies

Glasgow’s climate-related policies are implemented by the Glasgow City Council, a body of 17 thousand staff members with a budget of £2,225,458/year. The council spends around £100 million/year on environmental protection.


I] Climate Emergency Implementation Plan


Main Aim

This plan envisages how the Council works with multiple partners in government, the public sector, private sector and local communities to achieve the ambition of Glasgow becoming a net zero city, as well as addressing energy poverty and pollution. Multiple sub-plans are outlined, such as the Carbon Management Plan (CMP3), which will set out how the city’s own estate can contribute to the achievement of carbon neutrality by 2030, the city’s Local Heat and Energy Efficiency Strategy (LHEES) with carbon reduction targets across the built environment by 2050 through investment in building rationalisation and retrofitting measures that will provide good-quality, low carbon and affordable housing and energy, and The City Development Plan (CDP2) which will help build climate resilience through better land use policies.

Glasgow has been working with the education sector to install district heating systems and solar panels (e.g. the Strathclyde University District Heating Scheme, and Glasgow University Heat Network linking 53 buildings, or the Solar Schools Programme). It also put together the Affordable Warmth Team to facilitate the installation of external wall insulation (EWI) as part of the Scottish Government’s Home Energy Efficiency Programme for Scotland and has delivered over 75 projects and £104m worth of energy-efficiency measures to households. Finally, as part of the plan the Glasgow Strategic Drainage Partnership aims to transform how the city region manages stormwater (e.g. South Dalmarnock Sustainable Drainage Scheme easing pressure on wastewater drainage, stemming flooding and improving water quality).



The Programme for Government 2020 includes a major commitment to invest £1.6 billion over the next 5 years in heat and energy efficiency in homes and buildings. For the Affordable Warmth program, since 2013/14, the council has received over £37.5million in grant funding from the Scottish Government’s Energy Efficient Programme: Area Based Schemes. To significantly expand cycling and walking infrastructure across the city, the Scottish Government programme announced £50m to be invested in active travel as well as £275m to support investment in communities including ’20 minute neighbourhoods’. In 2017, Glasgow was awarded €4.1 million to develop a smart street district in the city, including district heating, EV charging, a solar PV canopy, power storage, ducted wind turbines, and smart grid controls.



The Council declared an ecological and climate emergency in 2019. The plan acknowledges that the current rate of change is too slow and that rapid action is needed to lessen the impact of climate change. There are approximately 260,000 vehicles registered in the city which is unsustainable from a number of perspectives, not least the congestion they cause. The Glasgow and West of Scotland Forum of Housing Associations (GWSF) is requiring ministers to provide clear guarantees that social housing tenants aren’t the ones responsible for paying for replacing existing heating with renewable systems. Uncertainty remains around availability of funds for installing and maintaining new heating systems and thus there is still risks that tenants will pay these costs through increased rents.


II] Circular Economy Route Map


Main Aim

The council is partnering with the Glasgow Chamber of Commerce and Zero Waste Scotland to support the fruition of a circular economy. The route map addresses two key concepts: 1) establish and mainstream the guiding principles of circularity by environmentally regenerating the city through design, sharing, reuse, repair and remanufacture across the public, private and community sectors of the economy, and 2) ensure the economic model is based upon collaboration, education and co-operation to address social inequalities. Glasgow has committed to being a circular city by 2045.

Glasgow City Council also signed the Circular Cities Declaration in March to seek liveable neighbourhoods of low-emissions, regenerated natural systems and improved human health and wellbeing, embedded circular perspectives in urban planning, favouring public transport, cycling and walking to avoid pollution and congestion, increased sharing of goods and spaces as well as greater proximity between places to live, work and play, and empowerment of consumers as involved in co-creation of circular solutions.



Zero Waste Scotland introduced the Circular Economy Investment Fund – an £18 million funding opportunity for small and medium sized businesses and organisations who have already tested their circular model and are looking for investment to further develop this to create a more circular economy.



Glasgow currently lags behind other Scottish cities in its recycling. Recent figures indicate that a quarter of the 250,000 tonnes of household waste is recycled each year, which means the city’s waste creates a climate impact of 774,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions. The Scottish Government aims to introduce a Circular Economy Bill has been delayed due to the pandemic.

III] Clean Glasgow Campaign 2021-2026


Main Aim

Clean Glasgow highlights key interventions as a way of influencing citizens’ and visitors’ behaviours through education, engagement, enhancement and, if required, enforcement. As part of the Clean Glasgow Campaign, Glasgow City Council is putting together a Litter Prevention Action Plan, which aims to tackle incidences of littering and general environmental dereliction through education, awareness raising and enforcement.

Additionally, the People Make Glasgow Greener Campaign was launched by the Glasgow Convention Bureau in partnership with Sustainable Glasgow to support the city in achieving its sustainable objectives by promoting sustainable businesses across the city to delegates and conference organisers. It launches this Spring as a high-profile marketing campaign to maximise the opportunities and attention that hosting COP26 will bring to the city. Glasgow has over 90 parks and gardens, eight of which have won the UK’s coveted Green Flag award, and at 32% Glasgow has the second largest proportion of greenspace for its residents of any European city.



The overall Clean Glasgow Campaign is financed through existing budgets. For the People Make Glasgow Greener Campaign, the Council is investing £1 million into frontline environmental services and £1.5 million into parks and open spaces.


Governing Body

Clean Glasgow will be governed by the Clean Glasgow Board. This will be the key structure that provides the strategic overview in terms of delivery and will be chaired by the Director of Operations within Neighbourhoods and Sustainability.



Scotland is still struggling with implementing sustainable or circular innovations for waste, still relying on incineration which produces emissions and pollution. Fly-tipping and waste still populate the streets and motorway ramps of Glasgow, most of it blamed for recent budget cuts, the pandemic lockdown and severe winter weather. A series of focus groups determined community views on the environmental issues associated with previous Clean Glasgow campaigns and the top three raised topics were: general litter, fly tipping – household items, commercial and construction waste, and litter coming from Fast Food Outlets/Convenience Stores which customers spread.


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