IT’S fondly known as the dear green place but environmental campaigners are calling for urgent action to make Glasgow greener before it hosts a critical UN climate change summit next year.

The clock is ticking with only 15 months to go until 200 world leaders and 30,000 delegates descend on the city for the most important climate change event since the 2015 Paris agreement.

Lasting for two weeks, COP26 will be the largest summit ever hosted in the UK but critics are warning that the “shoddy” transport system and illegally high levels of pollution in parts of the city will be a major embarrassment unless radical measures are put in place quickly.

While they acknowledge progress has been made, they say more has to be done now – particularly since both the City Council and the Scottish Parliament have declared a climate emergency.

READ MORE: COP26: The world’s foremost climate conference coming to Scotland

Action the council has taken includes the £115 million Avenues programme which is working to make the centre more “people-friendly” by introducing better and safer cycling and pedestrian routes. Construction work began with the Sauchiehall Street pilot project in 2018 and will run until 2024.

There is also the South-West City Way which provides two kilometres of urban segregated cycle route linking Pollokshields to the Tradeston footbridge in around eight minutes by bike, with only 12 minutes to the city centre.

Other similar projects already planned or in development include South City Way, Connecting Woodside, Sighthill Cycling Village the North East Active Travel Routes, the North City Way and Yorkhill and Kelvingrove Cycling Village.

To combat the high pollution levels in some parts of the city centre, Scotland’s first Low Emission Zone (LEZ) came into effect in Glasgow city centre last December.

To begin with, it only applies to local service buses but by the end of 2022, all vehicles entering the zone will have to meet specified exhaust emission standards.

The city is also planning to scrap fossil fuel cars and trucks within a decade and is lobbying for tax changes to unlock district heating systems.

A climate emergency working group was set up earlier this year and its report includes 61 recommendations which it is hoped the council will adopt to speed up the greening of Glasgow.

The National: Glasgow still has illegal levels of pollutionGlasgow still has illegal levels of pollution

The report has already been supported by the policy development committee and is going forward to the city administration committee.

THE recommendations range from the fairly simple that could be adopted quickly, such as 20mph speed limits and car-free zones around schools, to more radical suggestions like a free public transport system, the repurposing of some under-used municipal golf courses for food growing, tree planting, or as carbon sinks and the development of Scotland’s first plastic-free shopping zone.

Chair Martha Wardrop said she shared campaigners’ concerns about vehicle emissions and the lack of an integrated public transport system as offered by other European cities.

“We have got to encourage people to use public transport and cycle and walk so wider investment is needed to make it easier for people to get around without the car,” she said.

“Other cities have done this rapid investment so it can be done if there is a political will.

“The recommendations will hopefully will go forward as part of the budget in February but before that there will be efforts made to implement as many as possible.

“As part of the next budget we want clear information about what the climate impact on the budget will be and how the money that the council is going to spend is going to help reduce carbon emissions.”

She added: “There are currently a range of projects the council has ready to go to support cuts in carbon emissions. We have got a strong set of recommendations that have cross-party support and we have engaged with a range of groups to maintain community involvement. I am pushing for a rapid response.”
Councillor Wardrop said she was looking for backing from both the Scottish and the UK Government to help make Glasgow ready for the conference.

“It has to happen,” she said. “There will be problems with flooding, extreme heat and pressure on council services because of climate change, so this is about supporting public health, improving efficiencies and making us more resilient. We can’t avoid it.”

Professor Tahseen Jafry, director of the Centre for Climate Justice at Glasgow Caledonian University said one of the reasons COP26 had decided to come to Glasgow was because Scotland was demonstrating leadership in terms of bringing down emissions.

However, she added that while the city had to bring down its emissions in the areas of transport and housing, public engagement was “critical”.

Gavin Thomson of Friends of the Earth Scotland said: “The air quality in Glasgow is still at illegal toxic levels. The slow pace of the Low Emission Zone means we won’t see that much improvement by the time UN climate negotiations comes around. Delegates from around the world will be breathing in Glasgow’s toxic fumes.’’

REBECCA Menzies of Get Glasgow Moving said: “It is 15 months until COP26 happens and what we want to see is the council and Government putting effort into making public transport cheaper and easier to use. It will be embarrassing if the delegates have to operate our disjointed system. A key way to improve it is to buy back First Bus and make a fully integrated transport service with the rest of the network.’’

Extinction Rebellion Glasgow said: “Glasgow City Council declared a Climate Emergency in May but when we conducted a quick survey last week only 9% of Glaswegians were aware of it. We call on the city council to make sure Glasgow has net-zero emissions by 2025 by rapidly boosting renewable energy and heating, creating a clean transport system and embarking on a massive programme of tree planting and local food growing.