Glasgow to ban all cars from city centre within five years

Looking along Glasgow's George street towards George Square and St George's Tron Church (Nelson Mandela Place). People Make Glasgow (the city's brand slogan) banners line George Square.
Cars are set to be banned from Glsgow city centre over the next five years. (Getty/file photo)

Scotland's second biggest city is to ban all cars in the coming years in an effort to tackle climate change.

Within the next five years, the centre of Glasgow is to become car-free as part of a £30bn plan to make the city carbon-neutral by 2030.

The area will be created by 2026 and will stretch from Hope Street and across George Square, to Cathedral Street in the north and Argyle Street in the south of the city centre.

The move comes as part of Scotland’s wider net-zero target of 2045, which details the plans in its fourth National Planning Framework (NPF).

No major road schemes were identified as national priorities with the document.

Scotland’s planning minister, Tom Arthur, has stressed that the planning framework was “a draft document” and said that government policy “aims to reduce car kilometres by 20% by 2030”.

Glasgow, Scotland - Rear view of cars waiting at traffic lights in central Glasgow.
Cars in much of Glasgow city centre will soon be a thing of the past. (Getty)

SNP councillor Aitken said Glasgow City Council had already taken some "tough decisions" around pollution and congestion including Scotland's first low emissions zone (LEZ) and wanted to take this a step further with their plans to remove cars altogether.

She insisted that the “core” of Glasgow city centre “will be given over entirely to public transport and to people moving actively”.

Susan Aitken, the leader of Glasgow City Council, added: ”It's a big step and we don't underestimate the challenge of making that transition from what has been for far too long a private car dominated city centre.

Watch: What is net zero?

"It is something that will have to be delivered in partnership with city centre businesses, which is why we will do it incrementally over the next five years or so.

"But I think it's the kind of ambition that we have to demonstrate. We have to move beyond doing this partially and do it on a bigger scale.”

The announcement was made at an event today promoting the role of cities in tackling the climate crisis.

It comes after the council rolled out its Spaces for People project during the Covid pandemic, which aimed to prioritise pedestrians and cyclists over cars in large areas of Glasgow.

The city is currently hosting the COP26 climate summit. On Thursday, the event's president, Alok Sharma, admitted there was still a lot more work to be done to secure an agreement that will significantly move the needle and reduce global temperature rises.

The penultimate day of the talks “must represent another gearshift” in negotiations, Sharma said, as countries try to resolve political differences in a number of areas that still need to be hammered out.

Overnight, new draft texts were published for negotiations that are going on in a number of areas, including on providing future finance for poorer countries to develop cleanly and cope with the impacts of climate change – where Sharma said he was concerned about progress.

There were also draft texts on supporting countries to adapt to climate change, and on addressing the loss and damage to vulnerable nations caused by climate-driven extreme weather, as well as parts of the so-called Paris rulebook to help make the global climate treaty agreed in 2015 operational.

Under the Paris Agreement, countries pledged to take action to curb global temperature rises to “well below” 2C and pursue efforts to limit rises to 1.5C , beyond which the worst impacts of climate change will be felt.

Scientists have warned that keeping temperature rises to 1.5C requires global emissions to be cut by 45% by 2030, and to zero overall by mid-century.

Protesters gather in Trafalgar Square having marched into central London from the City of London during a global day of action on climate change on November 6, 2021, during the COP26 UN Climate Change Conference, taking place in Glasgow. - From Paris to Sydney, Nairobi to Seoul, more than 200 events are planned worldwide to demand immediate action for communities already affected by climate change, particularly in the poorer countries in the South. (Photo by Niklas HALLE'N / AFP) (Photo by NIKLAS HALLE'N/AFP via Getty Images)
Protesters gather in Trafalgar Square in London during a global day of action on climate change last week. (Getty)

But countries’ plans for this decade, which they were supposed to develop in the run-up to the Glasgow summit, leave the world facing rises of at least 2.4C.

The first draft called on countries to develop more ambitious plans in the next year for cutting emissions up to 2030.

And they were urged to bring forward long-term net-zero plans, as well as action on climate finance, helping poorer countries to adapt to the impacts of global warming and to address the loss and damage they will inevitably suffer.

And it called for an acceleration in phasing out coal and subsidies for fossil fuels, a first for such a UN text, although that is likely to be getting major pushback from some quarters as negotiating teams consider the draft and will probably be lost from the final text.

A new draft of the cover decision is expected overnight on Thursday.

Watch: What is the Paris Agreement?