Agenda: Town and Gown partnership to drive innovation to solve the climate crisis

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Prof Jaime Toney, director of the Centre of Sustainable Solutions at Glasgow University
Prof Jaime Toney, director of the Centre of Sustainable Solutions at Glasgow University

By Professor Jaime Toney

REGARDLESS of the outcomes of the international-level climate negotiations at COP26 last November, cities across the world are continuing to deliver low-carbon, climate resilient pathways forward and Glasgow is no exception.

The University of Glasgow in partnership with Glasgow City Council will lead a £10 million National Environmental Research Council programme, called GALLANT, which will use Glasgow as a living lab to trial new sustainable solutions throughout the city.

GALLANT takes a whole-systems view, which means that we create novel solutions for the city’s key environmental challenges, while considering the co-benefits and trade-offs for public health, wellbeing and economy. GALLANT aims to deliver the social priorities of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals while remaining within the planetary boundaries of a 1.5°C world.

The programme brings together over 50 multidisciplinary researchers with 29 public and private sector partners across the city region. Together we aim not only to bring nature back into the city system, but make meaningful, lasting change that embeds sustainability across major policy decisions and empowers communities as stewards of their local places. GALLANT will work with local partners and communities to transform the city into a thriving place for people and nature.

GALLANT will help Glasgow achieve its goal to be carbon-neutral by 2030 and accelerate its path to climate resilience. One of the biggest risks that the Glasgow city region faces is flood risk related to tidal changes, sea level rise, and increased water from extreme weather events. GALLANT aims to transform land use along the River Clyde by identifying sites for urban corridor parks for flood water storage, while also improving areas along the Clyde for wildlife and people.

Cities can play a key role in halting biodiversity loss by restoring and connecting currently isolated habitat patches. GALLANT will improve biodiversity by restoring and connecting habitats across Glasgow. Citizens will play a key role in helping researchers to map important bird and mammal species that lead to new management practices in greenspaces to increase connectivity between habitats.

The programme will trial new ways of regenerating derelict and polluted land through technology that mineralises greenhouse gases and traps organic pollutants into building materials for the future. Returning these sites for community use and ecologically functional places.

Connectivity is important not only for nature, but for active travel and inclusive mobility. GALLANT will work with communities to increase active travel including cycling, wheeling and walking to reduce car journeys, improve air quality and reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

In Glasgow, like many cities, sustainable heating and housing are key challenges to achieving net zero carbon. GALLANT will develop sustainable low-carbon energy solutions at the community scale that empower local people as active energy citizens to co-create clean energy demand.

Through our living lab approach we will learn how to create solutions that are place-based and meaningful to local people. Our global network of partners, including with C40 Cities, means that we will exchange our learning and solutions with both academics and policy leaders across the world. This is an exciting opportunity for Glasgow to lead and carry on the legacy from the recent COP26.

Professor Jaime Toney is director of the Centre of Sustainable Solutions at Glasgow University

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