Director’s Blog – November 2019

Glasgow City Region and Climate Change Adaptation

Climate Change is not something I’ve written about before.

However, the recent announcement that Glasgow will next year host COP26 is a massive coup for the City Region and I was lucky enough to be involved in preparing our bid.

It’s fitting that the most ambitious talks aimed at ending the world’s contribution to Climate Change and increasing resilience to its impacts are taking place in Glasgow. Scotland is a recognised world leader on cutting emissions and of course the talks will take place in the birthplace of the industrial revolution. I say that with James Watt’s eureka moment in 1765 on Glasgow Green in mind – as this sparked the invention of the revolutionary steam engine that would kick start the industrial revolution and change the world as we know it.

The conference will certainly bring an enormous economic uplift for the City Region. Glasgow’s hospitality sector’s hotels, restaurants, the SECC and other event facilities alone are estimated to benefit from a £70 million boost from the expected 30,000 delegates and visitors – even more than the Commonwealth Games

But hosting is a big responsibility – and we have an obligation to go beyond delivering a successful conference to sharing and showcasing our knowledge and expertise to accelerate global action not only on mitigation (cutting emissions), but also on adaptation (preparing for the unavoidable impacts).  

And I want to focus on adaptation – something that is perhaps talked about less often. How our local climate changes is very much down to global action on emission reduction. Already, it is estimated climate change is affecting 2% of the world’s GDP. Therefore, both reducing emissions and adapting to these changes are necessary priorities to ensure the City Region continues to prosper. In fact, a global investment in adaptation could deliver up to £10 of benefits for every £1 spent on reduced damages and broader benefits to society such as job creation, innovation or amenity

So how is our climate changing and how are we adapting at Glasgow City Region – or planning and managing the impacts of the climate change that’s now a reality we are increasingly experiencing? We are used to managing flood risk and there are many examples of projects delivered or underway which are making a real difference. For example, a number of City Deal funded Metropolitan Glasgow Strategic Drainage Partnership projects – the surface water management plans in various areas around the city – are reducing flood risk, whilst also creating economic benefits such as enabling new development and regeneration. 

But SEPA’s National Flood Risk Assessment, updated in 2018, shows us that existing flood risk is projected to increase with climate change. Sea levels in the firth of Clyde are also projected to rise between 0.5 metres to a metre by the end of the Century, and heatwaves, such as the one we had last summer, will become more common and more intense.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when we hear the science, particularly when coupled with impacts around the world. But, it’s important to know that Glasgow City Region has the expertise and political will to respond. And our response is led by Climate Ready Clyde – Scotland’s place-based adaptation initiative- which is working with stakeholders across the Region and beyond to create Glasgow City Region’s first Adaptation Strategy and Action Plan – Scotland’s first regional plan.

Funded by 15 partners, including all eight City Region Local Authorities, supported by the Scottish Government and drawing on technical expertise from sustainability charity, Sniffer, the initiative is also building capacity of its members to adapt to a range of possible climate futures, and sharing and learning on the international stage.

Our Adaptation Strategy is currently under development and it is underpinned by an extensive exercise to assess and understand all of the possible risks and impacts Climate Change could bring for Glasgow City Region’s economy, society and environment. This risk assessment, endorsed by the UK Committee on Climate Change, has identified 67 risks for Glasgow City Region, and prioritised them by urgency – identifying where more action is needed in the next five years to ensure we’re prepared for a changing climate until the end of the Century.

If unmanaged, Climate Ready Clyde conservatively estimate those risks will cost the City Region economy £400 million a year, every year by the 2050s. For businesses in particular, risks focus on flooding to premises, impacts on productivity, and vulnerability of supply chains to disruption.

The Adaption Strategy and Action Plan are due early next year – although a number of actions are already underway. For example, a number of public sector institutions including the University of Glasgow, South Lanarkshire and Glasgow City Councils have signed up to screen all new investments for climate risk.

I mentioned before that Scotland is recognised as a world leader in cutting emissions. We are doing what we can to support this accolade. But the Paris Agreement places equal weight on both mitigation and adaptation – recognising that we need both to ensure our places continue to thrive and prosper in a changing climate. We’re giving life to these principles and ensuring Glasgow City Region is living up to its obligations by going beyond and being part of the global quest for solutions.

In doing so, hopefully we can inspire those who are here next year and draw on our impressive industrial heritage to find creative, innovative solutions to Climate Change.

Kevin Rush, Director of Regional Economic Growth