October 2021 Director’s Blog

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With COP26 just a few weeks away, I wanted to update you on activities underway or in planning across the Region to support the climate change agenda. Apologies in advance for the length of this month’s blog. But it is representative of the volume of work that is going on.

Firstly, at Cabinet this week, the leaders of the Region’s eight councils, considered a draft version of our new Regional Economic Strategy. Climate Change is one of the Region’s three grand challenges to economic growth and resilience, and as such activities to support the transition to a net zero, climate resilient economy within planetary boundaries are tightly woven through the actions we plan to take forward.

Stock photograph of Glasgow tenement flats

In fact, one of the key deliverables from the economic strategy is to deliver on our plan for a Home Energy Retrofit programme for the Region’s 428,000 domestic properties. An update on findings from an independent study we commissioned on this was considered by Cabinet.

The study highlights that to meet government committed net zero targets, retrofitting the Region’s 428,000 homes is a necessity. A programme of this scale and type offers many environmental and economic advantages. Not only would it decarbonise and insulate domestic properties which would help fuel poverty. It also has the potential to create thousands of new local jobs and support the growth of businesses across the Region involved in delivery of the scheme. But this won’t happen without extensive public sector intervention – both in shaping the pipeline of the new skills needed and to support local companies to build and scale up capacity to be ready for the upcoming opportunity. A number of actions will now be taken forward in relation to this.

You may have heard the recent interview with Councillor Aitken, the GCR Cabinet Chair on BBC Scotland where she talked about the plans for a Metro for the entire Region, part of widespread environmental commitments from the city and the Region and a key ambition within the Regional Economic Strategy.

Another priority we have is to ensure that the transition to net zero is fair and equitable, particularly since the most deprived communities are likely to be impacted most from climate change. Work has been commissioned in partnership with Skills Development Scotland to support the creation of a Regional Just Transition Skills Action Plan.This will focus on skills – so that we support people most in need to access the job opportunities arising from the net zero, climate resilient shift, (such as from a new Housing Energy Retrofit scheme), as well as supporting people working in industries where jobs may be affected by the transition, or by the impacts of climate change.

Regardless of how quickly we reduce emissions, climate change is inevitable. However, our first Regional Climate Adaptation Strategy and Action Plan, launched in June, has been recognised by the independent Committee on Climate Change as one of the leading UK examples of how to address the risk of climate change. We now need to put it into action. And we want to hear from you. In terms of current progress in the 16 flagship actions, we’re currently exploring the potential for a multi-hazard climate warning alert system for the Region, recognising that the range of climate hazards we are facing is increasing. We’re also looking to establish a standardised set of climate resilient design principles and guidelines, to incorporate climate risk assessment in to large capital investment projects. We are seeking your input and contribution, so please get in touch. Contact details are on the website.

Photograph of a tree

Progress also continues to be made with the exciting Clyde Climate Forest (CCF) project, also launched in June, which commits to 18 million new trees planted in the Region over the next 10 years. A key part of work to date has been to engage with public and private land owners to identify sites for planting, some of which are eligible for grant funding.  Sites in urban locations are also required to grow the urban tree canopy.

Interestingly, tree planting is providing a growing investment opportunity for carbon offsetting, and for this reason the CCF project is included within the new Greenprint investment prospectus which was launched at the end of last month. The Greenprint spans £30 billion of investments and place-based development opportunities and invites international investment in the run up to COP26. It is key to the city’s 2030 target for a Net-Zero Economy, Climate Resilience and a Just Transition for Glasgow City Region. Projects include scaling up the Clyde Climate Forest by 9,000 hectares, the Metro, the Energy Retrofit programme and a proposal to power district heating systems using the River Clyde – all of which will contribute to Scotland’s target reduction targets.

I wanted to also mention one other exciting initiative underway.

Forests can play a significant role in providing positive climate outcomes and addressing socio-economic challenges exacerbated by Covid. The Region is working with EIT Climate-KIC, the World Economic Forum and the Nature Conservancy to explore the opportunity to make a new market by increasing the amount of ‘home grown’ wood in local construction and as an export opportunity. This would increase the amount of carbon stored during construction, as well as local jobs and investment opportunities and support rapid decarbonisation.

Before I close – I want to return to the Regional Economic Strategy which I mentioned at the start. I’m delighted to say that this was approved by Cabinet and it will now go forward to the Regional Partnership Group which includes government partners, for sign off. We cannot deliver without a combined effort and vitally without support from government, particularly funding. The strategy will be formally launched at the end of this year, once it has been approved by the Regional Partnership and to ensure alignment with emerging UK and Scottish government key programmes. Follow us on twitter and sign up to our newsletters to keep up to date on developments.

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