Glasgow deserves to win green prize

The following article appeared in Parliament Magazine on 24 June 2013. 

I was delighted to see earlier this year that Glasgow had been shortlisted for the 2015 European Green Capital award. Though the other nominated cities – Bristol, Brussels and Ljubljana – are all worthy contenders for this distinction, Glasgow’s reinvention from industrial powerhouse to leader in green innovation puts it head and shoulders above the rest.

Indeed, in one ambitious project that gives an indication of the scale of Glasgow’s green ambitions, the city is looking at ways to heat its homes using water trapped in the abandoned mines that criss-cross underneath the city from which came the coal that helped fuel the city’s industrial development. It is estimated that up to 40% of Glasgow’s heat could be generated in this way, which promises a dramatic fall in emissions compared to conventional power sources.

Other works aimed at improving the environmental performance of the city continue apace. I am particularly excited to see new improvements in water-related infrastructure, with the local authority working with partners to clear watercourses and sewers. These improvements will help ensure that Glasgow benefits from an environmentally-friendly drainage network that can support modern development while meeting the challenges of climate change.

Great progress has also been made in reducing water leakage which has led to a huge reduction in the amount of water produced at the Milngavie and Balmore water treatment works which serve most of the city and surrounding area. This has led to consequent savings in both operating costs and carbon output.

Glasgow is also committed to making next year’s Commonwealth Games one of the greenest ever. This has led to the creation of an ambitious waste strategy that will see all food waste composted or sent to anaerobic digestion plants. Additionally, everyone involved in the event, from volunteers to contractors, will also receive “sustainability training” to help ensure that all other waste is being reduced, reused or recycled as required.

The city now looks set to make serious headway in meeting its environmental challenges as it recently became the first city in the UK to win a grant from IBM’s Smarter Cities Challenge initiative. Glasgow plans to use the grant and access to IBM experts to push forward its green agenda by leveraging data and analysis to identify areas where environmental performance can be improved.

In January this year, the city also won £24 million in funding from the UK’s Technology Strategy Board’s Future Cities competition that aims to demonstrate how the intelligent deployment of technology can better integrate and connect city systems. This funding will help effect a step-change in the efficiency of city services, minimising waste and increasing sustainability.

Glasgow has a clear vision for the future and is committed to following through on its environmental ambitions and becoming the first British city to win the European Green Capital award would be a major achievement. It would not only recognise the progress Glasgow has made in tackling its environmental issues but also provide a platform to share its expertise with cities across Europe.

The green revolution we’re seeing promises to be no less transformative than the Industrial Revolution that Glasgow helped initiate over 250 years ago. Once again the city finds itself on the forefront of a brave new world and is ready to lead the way.