THIS week marks one year to go until Glasgow hosts COP26. COP really is a pivotal moment for the future of our planet, with almost 200 global leaders gathering at the SEC to thrash out how they will respond to the Climate Emergency.

For those two weeks the eyes of the world will be on them. But they will also be on us and our city. I am determined that an event of this scale and importance will not simply happen to the people of Glasgow. It must happen with us. The ambitions and aspirations discussed at COP, and the benefits of hosting such a major event, must be shared with Glasgow and its communities. And in the 12 months until November 2021, the City Council and our partners will continue our work to ensure that happens.

At the same time as we prepare for COP, the next year must be about ramping up Glasgow’s action and commitment on climate action, particularly as we plot our recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. Glaswegians have witnessed our city transform beyond recognition in recent decades, from the despair and desolation of the 1970s to the vibrant international city we are today. Well, to achieve our target of carbon neutrality within the next decade – and to renew our economy and communities in the wake of Covid-19 – our city is transforming again.

The City Council and local elected members must have the will and the urgency to lead the climate change agenda. But it’s critical that we also ensure that residents know that these changes are about improving the lives of ordinary Glaswegians and their communities.

It’s been clear to me that in a city like Glasgow, climate justice and social justice must go hand in hand. When we talk about reducing emissions from our homes, one of the biggest contributors to global emissions, we have to address the root cause of that. For most Glaswegians that means ensuring their homes can better retain heat, especially those living in our 70,000 pre-war tenements. In the coming years we’ll have to invest heavily in both improving the capability of homes to be healthier and warmer and addressing the appalling levels of fuel poverty many still experience.

Similarly with transport and getting around Glasgow. It’s a grim irony that the city with the UK’s lowest car ownership rates suffers from the ill effects of such high rates of pollution and congestion. And too often it’s the communities which contribute least to transport emissions which suffer most. People increasingly tell us the transition towards becoming a city where walking and cycling are the norm needs to be much faster.

They also want a higher quality public transport system. To reduce the chronic levels of emissions from transport, and to allow Glaswegians to better access employment, education and leisure opportunities, significant change and investment has to happen in the next 10 years.

And with climate change and Covid threatening to have a disproportionate impact on the young and the poorest communities, we have to address the real concern about the impact on jobs which an economy moving away from its dependency on fossil fuels will have.

We need to protect workers from the shocks of change and to maximise opportunities for the future workforce. To do that we must provide new skills, opportunities and professions for a new economy.

There are so many more benefits to a carbon zero Glasgow. It will help address Glasgow’s high levels of vacant and derelict land and repurpose them for affordable housing or as green spaces, woodland, nature havens and for food growing. Investment in flood prevention measures will not only help protect Glasgow against rising temperatures but also open up more land for recreational, economic and residential use, while building on that promise to really and properly return the Clyde to the heart of city life. And good quality design of our streets and neighbourhoods will go a significant way towards our low carbon future.

It’s no coincidence our most popular thoroughfare, Buchanan Street, has been closed to traffic for 40 years. Projects like The Avenues and removing the majority of traffic from George Square are just some of the highest profile plans. But that focus on design will create cleaner, greener and more attractive places for our citizens to spend time.

These are the changes we have to make and have to start making now. Glasgow has already declared a climate emergency. The need for change is pressing and the next year must be about driving that forward. Hosting COP though does much more than simply provide us with a focus. As the biggest and most significant COP since Paris in 2015 it puts us in the world’s shop window, as the city where solutions to the climate emergency can be found. It gives us a platform to attract the investment, expertise and innovation and to promote ourselves to new and influential audiences. And I want to ensure COP gives us leverage over Government. Carbon neutrality and Covid recovery will require significant investment. If the Scottish and UK governments want to show the world they mean action on climate change there is no better place to demonstrate that than the COP host city.

There’s a section in our plans for how we’ll address the Climate Emergency which states: “We are the city that brought clean water from Loch Katrine. We are the city that pioneered social housing reforms. We were the pre-eminent city of the carbon-based Industrial Revolution. It is transformation time once more for this great city.” It’s time for Glasgow to work together to build a cleaner, greener, fairer and prosperous future.