BLOG: Scotland can inspire the world as COP comes to Glasgow – Jim MacDonald

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A key focus of our work is to support places to combat the climate emergency. In this blog Jim MacDonald, Chief Executive, Architecture and Design Scotland hopes that as COP26 comes to Glasgow, Scotland can inspire the world. 

COP26 will shine a light on Scotland in the coming weeks as the world gathers to debate – and hopefully agree – what we need to do to reverse the warming of our planet.  I live in hope that the delegates to COP are inspired by the many innovative and enterprising initiatives happening across Scotland right now.  

Contrary to the rhetoric of those reluctant to embrace change, these demonstrate what can be done by people who understand the importance of the moment and are willing to work together for the greater good.  

Rethinking how our places work

In recognition of the contribution that our built environment makes to emissions, at A&DS, we are committed to working with our partners to create net-zero places. This goes beyond simply looking at each element of a place individually, important though retrofitting buildings and switching to renewable energy and electric vehicles are. It means rethinking the way our places work, or often don’t work, for the people that live there and building this into our long term plans so that future problems are designed out. 

Our work on Carbon Conscious Places highlighted the value of setting out bold and ambitious spatial plans whose focus on achieving net-zero brings with it so many more benefits. As we work with others to realise these plans, the prospect of 20-minute neighbourhoods – mixed-use places which enable access to goods and services through high quality, walkable and accessible environments – is becoming a reality for others to follow.  

Empowering communities

More recently, we have begun work with communities with little or no track record on climate action to identify climate challenges in their places and discuss how these can be addressed. This is as much about empowering communities to shape their future as it is about mitigating the impacts of climate change or reducing local emissions. Importantly, both of these examples show how policy ambition is turning into on-the-ground reality as we speak. 

Next month, we will be supporting the Design for Planet Festival in Dundee’s V&A Museum. The aim of the event, which is being organised by Design Council to coincide with COP26, is to stimulate the systems shift required to address the climate emergency. As part of this, delegates will get to see What If…?/ Scotland, which showcases the power of imagination, community and creative thinking as a force for change. 

All of this, and much more besides, can be explored on our website and shows that real change can happen and that a just transition to low-carbon living is within reach. 

We all hope that Glasgow will go down in history as the moment the world finally accepted the need for action and committed to a course that will steer us away from climate catastrophe. And with the example being set by communities across Scotland, surely the delegates will be emboldened to embrace change. After all, as someone said recently, green is good.

(updated 21 November 2021)

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