BY KATIE - MYGREENPOD, 20 Feb'15

NEW INDEX RANKS CITIES ON SOCIAL, ENVIRONMENTAL AND ECONOMIC PERFORMANCE

Across the world cities are failing to meet the needs of their people, according to the first Sustainable Cities Index from ARCADIS.

The Dutch design firm has used three separate sets of data – social, environmental and economic – to develop a ranking of 50 of the world’s leading cities.

The research examines 50 cities from 31 countries, and ranks them across a range of indicators to estimate their sustainability. Cities at various levels of economic development – and with different sustainability challenges – were selected from various regions around the world.

The balancing act

The 2015 report found that no utopian city exists, and that city leaders having to manage a complex balancing act between the three pillars of sustainability.

‘Today, cities dominate in population numbers (54% of the total), economic output (70-80%), energy consumption (80%) and greenhouse gas production (80%).

‘Notably, as this index demonstrates, the more sustainable an urban area is, the higher the quality of life, greater prosperity and lower per capita greenhouse gas production it possesses.

‘With more than a quarter-of-a-million cities worldwide, understanding their successes and failures in terms of sustainability through easily accessible measures may seem to be an insurmountable task. However, this index shows the way.’

Dr Eugenie L Birch, Nussdorf Professor of Urban Research and Chair of Steering Committee, World Urban Campaign, UN-Habitat

Top 10 sustainable cities

  1. Frankfurt
  2. London
  3. Copenhagen
  4. Amsterdam
  5. Rotterdam
  6. Berlin
  7. Seoul
  8. Hong Kong
  9. Madrid
  10. Singapore

Well-established European cities come top of the overall rankings, taking seven of the first 10 places. Frankfurt leads the world, followed by London, Copenhagen, Amsterdam and Rotterdam.

The least sustainable cities include some of the fastest growing cities on the Asian continent: Jakarta (45th), Manila (46th), Mumbai (47th), Wuhan (48th) and New Delhi (49th).

The triple bottom line

The headline ranking can be divided into three broad subcategories: People, Planet and Profit. These correspond to three dimensions of sustainability – social, environmental and economic – which ARCADIS describes as the ‘triple bottom line.’

People: Each city’s social performance, including the quality of life for those who live there. This sub-index rates transport infrastructure, health, education, income inequality, work-life balance, the dependency ratio and green spaces within cities.

Planet: Environmental factors such as emissions and pollution. Each city is rated for its energy consumption and renewable energy share, recycling rates, greenhouse gas emissions, natural catastrophe risk, drinking water, sanitation and air pollution.

Profit: Performance from a business perspective, combining measures of transport infrastructure (rail, air, other public transport and commuting time), ease of doing business, the city’s importance in global economic networks, property and living costs, GDP per capita and energy efficiency.

Rotterdam tops the People sub-index due to broad success including high literacy and a good work-life balance. Two Germany cities – Frankfurt and Berlin – lead the way on Planet factors, scoring particularly well for waste management and low levels of air pollution.

London

While London ranks second overall – plus second for Profit and third for People – it comes 12th for Planet, or environmental performance. Birmingham edged ahead in this sub-index, ranking 10th, while Manchester came 14th.

‘For years London has suffered from underinvestment in its infrastructure and is struggling to meet the demands of the existing population, let alone the impact of growth.

‘Congestion and aging infrastructure are at the heart of current issues, but so too are a chronic shortage of affordable housing, air quality, and the more visible impact of climate change and resilience against the elements.’

Sustainable Cities Index report, ARCADIS

Top 10 cities for the planet

  1. Frankfurt
  2. Berlin
  3. Copenhagen
  4. Madrid
  5. Rotterdam
  6. Amsterdam
  7. Singapore
  8. Rome
  9. Toronto
  10. Birmingham

‘As our world becomes increasingly more reliant on its urban centers, it is our hope that city leaders find this to be a valuable tool in assessing their priorities and pathways to urban sustainability for the good of all.’

John J Batten, Global Cities Director, ARCADIS

The full Sustainable Cities Index can be found on the ARCADIS website.