From the industrial revolution to the circular revolution: Glasgow’s role in circularity and as COP26 hosts

Alison McRae, Senior Director at Glasgow Chamber of Commerce, discusses Glasgow’s circular practices and its legacy as hosts for the much-anticipated COP26, that brings global leaders together to discuss the climate crisis. 

For two weeks this November, conversations between some of the world’s most powerful leaders, companies and influencers will take place in Glasgow. Delegates will travel to Scotland from across the world to discuss the most imminent threat to our planet – climate change.

The climate crisis affects us all, and therein lies the global significance of this event. This will be 14 days for policymakers, thought leaders and climate experts to look outwards and develop actionable steps which will help reduce climate emissions, control the core temperature of the planet and slow down climate change.

As hosts, Glasgow is ready to make sure that the promises and pledges made at COP26 are upheld. Glasgow is a city of action – this can be seen in the way that the city and its businesses have been preparing for this monumental event arriving in our city. 

This event will have a legacy which Glasgow will endeavour to upkeep, and through its strong international relationships, we will work with our allies to ensure that we are all held accountable to the standards which will be laid out during these two weeks, and that we, as a city, have been championing for so long.

In the last month, Glasgow became the first UK city to sign the Circular Cities Declaration. The declaration, developed by the ICLEI Europe with support from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, recognises Glasgow as one of the leading European cities working in the circular economy, which aims to decouple economic growth from the consumption of finite resources.

This underlines the city’s dedication to embedding circular practices, with Glasgow now ranking 19th globally for its all-encompassing environmental sustainability. Glasgow is leading this circular revolution, and it can be seen across so many of the sectors which make this city a hub of economic activity and the perfect host for COP26.

In its past, Glasgow was a leader in the industrial revolution, known particularly for its strengths in manufacturing, engineering and construction. Notably, these three sectors are among those with the greatest circular potential, and we are already seeing a great number of companies from each playing a major role in Glasgow’s efforts to move to more sustainable economies.

Construction and real estate are up there with the industries which have the most intensive use of raw materials, therefore a transition to circular practices, and moving away from the linear system inherited from the past, is essential in the sector’s circular journey and as we move closer to Government targets, will be vital for their existence.

From design to construction and from disassembly to the point of repurposing, with well-considered, sustainable methods, it is completely achievable for businesses in the sector to embed a circular life cycle into the build of each and every new project.

This can be seen in Glasgow in the likes of Kelvinside Academy’s School of Innovation. A beacon for the construction sector, the building is Scotland’s first sustainable building designed and constructed using circular and eco-design principles. 

Visitors to COP26 will undoubtedly enjoy the culture and history which Glasgow has to offer. With some of the most iconic buildings in the UK, the city is brimming with architecturally significant sites. So, how does a city with so many homes and buildings dating back centuries embed circularity into its fabric?

This answer comes in the form of smart construction technologies and repurposing existing structures for new purposes. Through renovations and upgrades to buildings in line with circular principles, we can achieve low-carbon solutions for the built environment, ensuring that they meet future requirements for buildings. Effective use of resources will play an important role here to lower the burden on the planet’s resources and making best use of what we already have access to. 

In addition to reducing the embodied carbon from the real estate sector, such projects with circularity built in will create skilled jobs, support the city’s post-Covid economic recovery, and help to unlock areas of the city, facilitating increased population density, maximising building value and minimising vacancy.

COP26 will turn all eyes on to Glasgow and we are ready. Our sustainability efforts over the last few years have prepared us for our role as host and we are leading the way in circular practices. Through experience and research, we know what needs to be done during and long after COP26, and we look forward to bringing these methods on to the global stage in November.

Those looking to find out more about Glasgow’s sustainability efforts ahead of COP26 should get in touch via https://glasgowchamberofcommerce.com/climatechamber/