Thriving Glasgow Portrait paints a greener, fairer future for the city

Published: 22 November 2023

A new vision of Glasgow’s future as a world-leading, climate-resilient city is set to be officially unveiled.

A new vision of Glasgow’s future as a world-leading, climate-resilient city is set to be officially unveiled at an event at Kelvingrove Museum tonight (Wednesday 22 November).
The Thriving Glasgow Portrait offers a vision and urgent call to action for decision makers, organisations and local residents to consider how they can contribute to creating a sustainable city and achieve net-zero emissions by 2030.
The Portrait was developed by the University of Glasgow and Glasgow City Council as part of Glasgow’s role in the C40 Thriving Cities Initiative, launched during the 2021 UN climate conference COP26 held in Glasgow.
The Portrait aims to meet the needs of all Glasgow residents while respecting the planet’s ecological limits, using methods inspired by the 'Doughnut Economics' framework developed by economist Kate Raworth.
The Portrait is the culmination of an 18-month engagement process which brought together more than 130 policymakers, businesses, charities, scientists and local people from across the city. A group of volunteers discuss suggestions for the Thriving Glasgow Potrait at a workshop event held in the city
It creates 44 ambitious social and environmental definitions that consider how to balance the needs of the planet with the wellbeing of people in Glasgow and around the globe.
It is a holistic framework for organisations and businesses across all sectors to identify their role in creating a thriving future for Glasgow.  
Examples of the definitions that people from across the city have collaboratively created include:

  • Glasgow gets all its energy from renewable sources that everyone can afford
  • All Glasgow residents breathe healthy, unpolluted air within safe guidelines
  • Sustainable farming practices across global supply chains provide food to people across Glasgow with minimal use of fertilisers
  • Glasgow does not contribute to threatening the stability and security of global communities by sourcing goods and materials produced under coercive or illegal conditions

The Thriving Glasgow Portrait plan sets out four questions that need to be considered to help the city achieve its 44 definitions: What would it mean for the people of Glasgow to thrive? What would it mean for Glasgow to thrive within its natural habitat? What would it mean for Glasgow to respect the wellbeing of people worldwide? What would it mean for Glasgow to respect the health of the whole planet? 

A series of suggestions for actions thta could be taken to help Glasgow become more sustainable are on display at a Thriving Glasgow Portrait workshop event

By working together to consider how we can find solutions that address multiple targets without undermining efforts to find solutions to others, the Portrait can guide policies, plans and strategies across all sectors to make Glasgow a world-leading sustainable city.

Professor Petra Meier, Professor of Public Health and Associate Director of University of Glasgow’s Centre for Sustainable Solutions, led the development of the Thriving Glasgow Portrait.
She said: “The Portrait is the result of collaboration with people in Glasgow from a range of backgrounds, with their own skills, expertise and preferences for how we might create a better, fairer future for the city.
“That broad base has helped us build an ambitious collective vision that aims to benefit everyone, not just the privileged or those who are already engaged in action on sustainability. This will help guide policy, plans and strategies across every sector as we work together to make Glasgow a world-leading sustainable city.
“We are inviting every institution, business and resident of Glasgow to view this Portrait as their own and use it as a guiding compass for their decisions about sustainability. The scale of the transformation required demands 'everyone, everywhere, all at once' working in ways that reinforce our shared social, ecological and economic ambitions."
Professor Jaime Toney is Director of the Centre for Sustainable Solutions and principal investigator of GALLANT, an ongoing research project which is using Glasgow as a ‘living lab’ to find fair and just solutions to the climate crisis.
She added: “We adapted the methodology piloted by the Doughnut Economics Action Lab and C40 Cities to develop the Thriving Glasgow Portrait and find new ways for the city to settle in the ‘safe and just space’, where human and ecological wellbeing can be nurtured together.
“The Portrait as a whole represents the kind of whole-system transformation that we know is necessary to target the scale and urgency of the interlinked ecological and social challenges we face both as a city and as a planet.”
The Thriving Glasgow Portrait has been formally adopted by Glasgow City Council and will be used to inform future policies, plans and strategies in the years to come.
Leader of Glasgow City Council Susan Aitken said: “Glasgow is a city increasingly recognised by the world as a leader for climate action and ambition; where the legacies of a heavy industrial, high carbon past drive our commitment to a socially just and ecologically safe city.
“The Thriving Cities Initiative is a guide to Glasgow’s social and economic transformation and how that can – and must – sit within planetary boundaries.
“By bringing together the social and ecological, the local and the global, this Portrait will also help us to monitor Glasgow’s progress on our journey towards being a truly thriving place, and to work with our communities and across all sectors to secure that.”
The C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group is a global network of nearly 100 cities that are united in action to confront the climate crisis. It represents one twelfth of the world's population and one quarter of the global economy. Glasgow is participating in the Thriving Cities Initiative, which supports cities in downscaling doughnut economics by identifying avenues to address inequities in urban consumption.
Aida Mas Baghaie, Senior Manager of the C40 Thriving Cities Initiative, said: "The Thriving Glasgow Portrait sets a strong vision for Glasgow to support wellbeing for all people within planetary boundaries. This is no small feat, as this ambitious goal will require active and ongoing participation on behalf of Glaswegians of all walks of life, including residents, community organizers, policy makers, elected officials and businesspeople.
“Through the Thriving Cities Initiative, C40 Cities will support Glasgow City Council in moving from ambition to action by convening changemakers to build a robust and inclusive approach for Glasgow to tackle the most pressing social and ecological challenges of our time.”
The Kelvingrove Museum launch event for the Thriving Glasgow Portrait will include a panel discussion on the city’s transition to a sustainable and just future, chaired by Elaine Heslop from Lucidity Services Limited. Cllr Susan Aitken of Glasgow City Council, Prof Chris Pearce and Prof Jaime Toney of the University of Glasgow, Aida Mas Baghaie of the C40 Thriving Cities Initiative and Leonora Grcheva of the Doughnut Economics Action Lab will contribute to the discussion.
The development of the Thriving Glasgow Portrait is part of the Glasgow as a Living Lab Accelerating Novel Transformation project, or GALLANT, led by the University of Glasgow. GALLANT has £10.37m in funding from the Natural Environmental Research Council, part of UK Research and Innovation.

First published: 22 November 2023