17 Nov 2021
By Richard Muir, Deputy Chief Executive of Glasgow Chamber of Commerce
COP26 has left town but only in time will we really know the true impact that the two week UN Climate Conference has had on business in Glasgow and Scotland. In the short term, the impact might well be less than many had expected, however more might just benefit from the longer term spin offs that stem from Glasgow being centre stage to a worldwide audience, and being positioned as – in the words of Professor Muhammad Yunus, Nobel Laureate Professor - ‘The Climate Capital City of the World’.
Glasgow Chamber of Commerce was a key voice for COP26 and was dedicated to maximising the opportunity for Glasgow and its business community, leaving a legacy for young people, and creating long lasting international relationships. As host city, we were always keen to represent the business community, facilitating meaningful connections through the wider British Chamber of Commerce international network, and influence policy based on the requirements of businesses. We wanted to work with cities and countries to determine how Glasgow sits in terms of sustainability under a global lens.
Through our hybrid ‘Climate Chamber Mission’, we hosted the largest ever international trade mission by a Chamber of Commerce in the UK alongside our partners Scottish Government, Scottish Leather Group and Scottish Water, and attracted 85 participating companies of whom 60 were international businesses. Over two intense days of activity at the City of Glasgow College, we heard many truly inspiring stories from Scottish and international businesses.
Derek Provan, CEO of AGS airports Ltd, owners of Glasgow Airport, spoke of trialling the UK’s first medical drone distribution network, playing a key role in reducing the carbon emissions generated by existing, road-based distribution networks within Scotland.
We also heard from Edrington during a site visit to its HQ about its aim of sending zero waste to landfill from its operations by 2025, with plans to become a carbon-neutral business by 2030 for its distilleries, offices and travel.
Toby McCartney, CEO of Scottish business MacRebur, discussed that the introduction of a carbon tax would help us reach net zero in a reduced time scale. He argued that by taxing fossil fuel companies and corporations emitting carbon dioxide into our atmosphere, we can not only reduce the CO2 emitted, but also harvest further innovation from environmental enterprises like MacRebur whose innovation directly replaces the fossil fuels used in road building.
Internationally, we heard from the likes of Seth Siegel, chief sustainability officer at N-Drip, about the first micro irrigation solution powered by gravity, saving between 50-70% of water use in otherwise flood irrigated methods in the Middle East, while US based biotechnology company LanzaTech spoke of the world’s first yarn and fabric created through recycled carbon emissions that would otherwise be emitted to the atmosphere as pollution.
As we look ahead, and reap the long-term benefits of hosting COP26, we have now created a platform to keep these conversations going, ensuring that our businesses build on the momentum of our Climate Chamber Mission and create an ongoing legacy for Scottish business, and we hope that annually, we will come together, once again in a hybrid way, to share sustainable opportunities on an international scale.
While Glasgow was faced with some disruption as host city, for many of our members, the opportunity lies with the long term gains and the global doors that have been opened. The Chamber of Commerce will certainly continue to support the collaborations and encourage businesses to work out of silos, making new connections, learning and sharing best practice in operating in a sustainable or circular way, and ultimately developing new trading partners.
This article was first published in The Herald on Wednesday 17 November 2021