A Green Games? Really?

the scale of things to come: roads above rooftops

the scale of things to come: roads above rooftops

The Games organizers have made much of their green credentials leading up to 2014 – but do they really come up to scratch? Recent news that The City Council may be adding Ultra Low Carbon Vehicles (ULCV) to its fleet, seem on the surface to suggest that Glasgow is taking its commitment to the environment seriously. Yet the UK Government’s Ultra Low Carbon Vehicle Demonstration Programme (ULCVDP) only involves 100 cars nationwide.

Given that Glasgow City Council is steaming ahead with yet more destructive motorway projects, this looks more like ‘greenwash’ than ‘green games’ to us at the Monitor. The Scottish Government has recently admitted that planned new major roads will increase carbon dioxide emissions by more than 250,000 tonnes a year by 2025. More than half of the extra emissions will be produced by the five-mile M74 northern extension – a key ‘legacy’ component of both CG 2014 and the Clyde Gateway Initiative.

Glasgow City Council’s Development and Regeneration Services (DRS) reported on 3rd April, 2009, that a Glasgow-based consortium has been established with the aim of participating in the UK Government’s (ULCVDP) and Ultra Low Carbon Vehicle Procurement Programme (ULCVPP).

Involvement in these programmes, the report suggested, would complement and reinforce other City Council sustainable projects and strategies, including: the Climate Change Strategy; Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC); and ‘Sustainable Glasgow’ policy. It would also meet the requirements of Action 15 of the Glasgow City Council Environment Strategy. All of this, sounds like the City Council are taking the environment seriously, but are they really?

The bid for the Commonwealth Games has committed the Council to the delivery of a low-carbon Games. The City council has to be seen to be green. The report argues that, a supply of low carbon vehicles within the City, “would not only be an advantage during games time, but would also help showcase Glasgow and its innovative companies to the world” [our italics]. The DRS want the programme in place before CG 2014 – as a token of Glasgow’s green credentials.

Yet, the overall context for sustainability in Glasgow has already been laid down in Glasgow’s notoriously outdated, environmentally noxious roads policy.

THE M74: HEADING IN THE WRONG DIRECTION

Despite all the green advice to the contrary, the M74 motorway, a five-mile concrete monster on stilts, is set to dwarf these measures by causing more pollution, more severance, more car journeys and more C02 emissions. The motorway now has the infamous distinction of being “Britain’s most expensive road”, coming in at an astonishing £700 million pounds – which works out at over £80,000 a meter! All this disruption, pollution and expense was predicted by Jam74 (a coalition of community groups, activists and campaigners) who made sure, after tireless campaigning, that the road went to a public local enquiry. The recommendation of the Scottish Government’s own independent enquiry was crystal clear: the road should not be built. In 2004, the reporter, Mr. A. Hickman, recommended:

 “…that: this proposal should not be authorised, and that the various orders should not be confirmed”.

He concluded:

“looking at all the policy, transport, environmental, business, and community disadvantages of the proposal as a whole, it must be concluded that the proposal would be very likely to have very serious undesirable results; and that […] the economic and traffic benefits of the project would be much more limited, more uncertain, and (in the case of the congestion benefits) probably ephemeral…”

“…In this context, it cannot be concluded that the public benefits of the proposal would be sufficient to outweigh the considerable disadvantages that can be expected”.

Yet despite this evidence, Mr. Jack Mconnell, the Labour First Minister at the time, simply ignored the report’s findings and approved the road anyway, creating one of the most infamous democratic deficits of recent times in the process.

THE EAST END ‘DEGENERATION’ ROUTE

The East End Regeneration route, an £80-85 million 4-lane motorway (connecting with the M74 completion at Polmadie through the East End of Glasgow to the M80/M8 junction at Provan Road motorway) has also met resistance from locals, cyclists and green campaigners in another public local enquiry into the road’s suitability. The objectors argued that Glasgow City Council’s proposal would have a damaging impact on the environment, economy and social life in the East End of Glasgow.

They argued that the road will decrease already severely limited green space in the area; would bring further noise and pollution through an inevitable increase in traffic, and cause severance and disruption within the community. They also argued that the reported 59% of East-Enders who don’t have cars are unlikely to benefit from the road, and that there are no guarantees of jobs coming to local people due to the road. Noone knows for sure whether new roads bring jobs (as was evident in the M74 inquiry), and anyway, a road goes both ways – jobs might come, but they could just as well leave.

Never mind. Once again, the road has been approved despite widespread evidence that smashing a motorway through communities in city center locations is a backward step towards what should be a bygone era – look what the M8 has done to Glasgow’s urban environment! Massive new road building schemes in the Southside (M74) and in the East End (The ‘Regeneration’ Route), show up the Council’s claims to a ‘green’ transport policy as tokenistic garbage. Their environmental policy is more about selling the idea of a Green Games, rather than dealing with the reality of environmental degradation in the city.

Yes, people should fight to make sure we have as many cycle routes as we can; that new ideas for low carbon transport are given a chance; and that green measures are supported and put into place; but we shouldn’t forget the wider context of citywide ecocide in Glasgow. It will take more than a few cycle lanes – and electric cars – to make a green, healthy, unpolluted Glasgow – we need a revolution in transport policy.