IN a future where we no longer rely on fossil fuels to heat homes and power our cars, the Glasgow we will live in 10 years from now may look a little different from the one we know today.

Glasgow Science Centre took the opportunity to speak with WWF’s climate and energy policy manager Holly O’Donnell to learn what the cities of the future will look like.

THE reality of Glasgow’s future is a far cry from flying cars and shiny, glass skyscrapers. In fact, the changes that O’Donnell talks about are simple but widespread modifications to city infrastructure that use technology we have today. So, let’s explore how these policies will shape Glasgow’s future.

Transport has always been a key topic of discussion when imagining a climate friendly future. O’Donnell explains some of the changes we will have to make to combat the climate crisis: “There are ... things we will have to do to minimise our climate impact from travel and the first thing is to reduce our use of transport. That means walking more and cycling more.”

Reducing the use of cars and other transport by walking or cycling where possible can make a huge difference to our carbon emissions. As O’Donnell points out, the majority of the car journeys we make are actually under three miles!

We have already seen increasing pedestrianisation in Glasgow in the last year – for example, the closing of Kelvin Way to cars – and a £115 million project to improve active travel in the city that has brought brand new two-way cycle paths to Sauchiehall Street.

Of course, we will still need cars and public transport to complete longer journeys. However, the kinds of vehicles we will see on the roads will be a little different: “In the next 10 years, diesel and petrol cars and vans will be phased out and electric charging points will spring up all over our towns and cities and villages.”

Glasgow already has a fleet of nearly 150 electric buses ready to take to the roads before COP26. However, this is not the first time that a fully electric transport system has graced the streets of Glasgow. In fact, from 1949 to 1967, electric trolleybuses were a popular way of getting around the city.

In Scotland, 97% of our electricity comes from renewable sources, however, there is still one place where we are burning fossil fuels on a near daily basis: in our own homes. Approximately 80% of homes throughout Scotland use gas boilers for heating. It might seem like a huge challenge to change the heating system for the majority of homes in our country, but O’Donnell reassures us that the switch to zero carbon heating may be easier than we think.

“We’re really lucky because we already have the heating technology to solve this problem and it uses a source of energy that we have all around us – the sun. We can use technology to take this [the sun’s] heat and use it to heat our homes.”

The technology that O’Donnell refers to here is a heat pump. Heat pumps are able to use the heat from the sun that warms the air and the ground and pump it into your home, working like a fridge in reverse. Whilst your fridge pumps heat out in order to keep the air inside cool, heat pumps pump heat from the air and the ground in. A benefit of using a heat pump to warm your home, O’Donnell says, is that it already works with existing radiators and underfloor heating: “We just need to change the box!”

Another method of heating our homes includes a solution that is already being implemented a little closer to home. In a water waste treatment plant in Stirling, waste heat is being used to keep houses warm as part of a heating network. Networks like these can use waste heat from hospitals and shopping centres and have proven to be extremely popular in other European countries. In Copenhagen, district heat networks are responsible for keeping 98% of homes warm throughout the year.

There are going to be a lot of significant changes to how we live our lives as Scotland continues towards the goal of net zero emissions by 2045. O’Donnell shares her vision that in the future of towns, cities, and villages “where you live and how you live will meet the needs of humanity, address climate change and reverse the loss of nature”.

If you would like to learn more about more climate innovations that will shape our future, visit the Our World Our Impact Hub through the Glasgow Science Centre website.