IN many ways Glasgow has mirrored the cities of the world, from a rural, agriculture-based economy, to an industrialised, capitalist centre full of carbon-heavy industry; and to the technology and finance-reliant city of today.

COP26 last Novemeber saw Glasgow thrown into the global, climate-focused, spotlight for all the world to see. But, what change will we see in our Dear Green Place in the future. What is COP26’s true legacy in Glasgow?

The first question that must be asked is whether COP26 was a success.

Dr Duncan Booker, below, COP26 stakeholder manager for Glasgow City Council, thinks that from the council’s perspective, it was.

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“From the start we wanted COP26 in Glasgow to be safe, welcoming and successful,” he said.

“As a council we had a key role to play alongside the Government and national services to make that a reality. Hearteningly, we did not have the Covid ‘super-spreader’ that it was feared we would. All our biosecurity protocols worked well. There were lots of challenges which we managed well and proved another example of our great track record for hosting major events.

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“COP26 was not just a big event, but it had a deep meaning and global impact. At the end we saw the nations of the world come together to sign the Glasgow Climate Pact. Everyone will have their own views on the success of that, but we have played our part in keeping the world on the right path with climate action,” said Booker.

However, Lang Banks, below, director of WWF Scotland, argues that the Glasgow Climate Pact and COP26 fell short of the mark.

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“Judging the success of these things is always a challenge, when the world’s still burning outside once you leave,” he said.

“We came in with an expectation of what we want from the COP in Glasgow, to keep the global 1.5 degrees target alive. I would say that expectation was met, but only just.

“Why is it only just? There is a whole load of other stuff that we wanted to see happen that did not. The most disappointing outcome of COP was the fact that the rich nations of the world could not deliver on their climate finance commitments, a promise that had been made almost a decade before. That is just unacceptable.”

The Glasgow Climate Pact was agreed upon by almost 200 countries at COP26. While arguments on the success of it will rage on, it is the linchpin of the global legacy that the 26th incarnation of the Conference of the Parties will have.

Speaking on the importance of the pact, Booker said: “The Glasgow Climate Pact is significant. It has happened in the past where there is lots of nice things said at the end of a COP but no agreement. The pact was agreed upon and it is a base to improve on. Undoubtedly there is more work to be done, but if all the agreements in the pact are kept, we should keep global temperature rises below two degrees.”

HOWEVER, looking closer to home, with the media spotlight and the legions of activists now gone from Glasgow, what is the local legacy of COP26?

Glasgow City Council’s approach to COP26’s legacy has been based on two main goals: aiming for Glasgow to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by the year 2030; and an aim to ensure that a just transition takes place for the city’s workers, businesses and communities. Both goals will be mobilised through the city’s Sustainable Glasgow partnership to help push these ambitions forward further and faster.

EXPLAINING the importance of Glasgow’s net-zero ambitions, Booker said: “The UK committee on climate change has set a target of the year 2045 for the UK to achieve carbon neutrality. That is an earlier target of 2040 for Scotland, recognising certain advantages that we have here, and Glasgow set the target of 2030. So, success for Scotland depends upon achievement in Glasgow, as it does also for the UK.

“Whilst nation states make pledges at COP, it is cities that are leading the way on the delivery of a low-carbon and climate-resilient future. Therefore, you need to focus on what cities are doing if you are to succeed with national ambitions.”

Banks applauded the city’s ambition, but called for action to back up the words.

He said: “I would call them bold commitments about trying to get to net zero by 2030. If they were to happen, they would be transformative for Glasgow – it would be an amazing place to live and work. The job, of course, is of politicians to lead and to deliver. Citizens in Glasgow need to hold their city council and leaders and elected representatives to account.”

But change does not come cheaply. Booker acknowledges the financial burdens the council sees ahead.

He said: “While we are not short of ambition, we know we are short of the capital to deliver on that. And so, one of the big debates that took place at COP was about climate finance. Glasgow will look to national governments as much as we can for further money from them.

“We also need to reach out to the private capital markets. So one of the things we did during COP was publish a £30 billion green investment prospectus of projects that the market can consider and look to work with us on. We also began to develop a whole team of people that can work on climate finance, delivering on our ambitious 2030 targets.”

Then there’s the second goal of Just Transition.

Booker went on: “Sustainability and social justice must go together. We need to protect our most vulnerable people in the transition that is ahead of us.

“There is a real sense of Glasgow’s scars from a previous transition that was unmanaged, disorderly and unjust – from the 1970s, 80s, 90s – onwards where we lost industry,

and we have a long trail of generational exclusion that still goes with that.”

Just Transition is something Banks is passionate about. He too believes that the people of Glasgow will be key going forward.

“I think it’s really important that those who live in Glasgow really make the most of it and push their elected representatives as far and as fast as they can before that interest dissipates, because it’s the action in the next couple of years, not in the next decades, that’s going to make the difference,” said Banks, who sits on Scotland’s Just Transition Commission.

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COP26 put Glasgow centre stage in a global theatre. Now the “Dear Green Promise” of this Scottish city might hold the greenprint to the future.

If Glasgow can achieve its goals by 2030, the true legacy of COP26 may well be the host city’s vital role in the global battle against climate change.

Just as Glasgow has mirrored past global change, now the Dear Green Place looks forward to showing what the future can hold for the world.

This article was written as part of a collaboration between The National/Sunday National and City of Glasgow College in which we are seeking to find and support the journalists of the future