Europe leads the globe for sustainable city development

New ARCADIS Sustainable Cities Index ranks of 50 of the world’s leading cities across the demands of People, Planet and Profit.

European cities have emerged as the global leaders in sustainable development according to the latest ranking and analysis by ARCADIS.

Frankfurt tops the list of world cities for its impact on people, the planet and profitability followed closely by London, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Berlin.

"Sustainability could prove more sensitive to changing economic circumstances or shifts in environmental policy."

Asian cities Seoul, Hong Kong and Singapore also made the top ten overall with Seoul ranked second in terms of impact on people and Hong Kong ranked third on profitability. 

However, at the other end of the scale, Manila, Mumbai, Wuhan and New Delhi propped up the 50-strong list taking four of the bottom five cites.

The ranking shows no North American city in the top ten. Toronto is the highest ranked at 12th, Boston (15th) and Chicago (19th) in terms of the most sustainable cities in the US.

The ARCADIS report breaks sustainability performance into three sub-categories in an attempt to better understand the drivers for sustainable growth:

  • The People sub-index captures ‘quality of life’ and rates transport infrastructure, health, education, income inequality, work-life balance, the dependency ratio and green spaces within cities. 
  • The Planet sub-index looks at city energy consumption and renewable energy share, recycling rates, greenhouse gas emissions, natural catastrophe risk, drinking water, sanitation and air pollution.
  • The Profit sub-index examines performance from a business perspective, combining measures of transport infrastructure, ease of doing business, the city’s importance in global economic networks, property and living costs, GDP per capita and energy efficiency.

The report highlights that sustainability of many global cities on the index appears to be unbalanced across the three indices. 

“Doha, for example scores much higher on the Profit sub-index than on People and Planet,” says the report. 

“Meanwhile the Brazilian cities of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo score highly on the Planet sub-index, but are impacted by weak People and Profit scores.,” it adds. “In these cities, the areas of potential improvement are clearer, but this also suggests that sustainability could prove more sensitive to changing economic circumstances or shifts in environmental policy.”

It also points out that the trade-off between Planet and Profit is most starkly seen in the Middle East where Dubai and Doha score much higher in Profit than Planet sustainability where they rank in the bottom four.

Other headlines include: 

  • Rotterdam tops the People sub-index. Many of the world’s economic powerhouses are becoming less affordable for their citizens, with the cost of property in New York, London, Paris, Tokyo and Hong Kong penalizing their rankings
  • The German cities of Frankfurt and Berlin lead the way in the Planet sub- ranking, scoring well for waste management and low levels of air pollution in particular
  • Frankfurt also leads the Profit ranking, along with London and Hong Kong. US cities perform significantly better for Profit factors – San Francisco (6th) is the highest ranked, and all the US cities appear in the top half of the table
  • Cities in the Middle East have seen the highest real term population growth over the past five years, with Doha, Dubai and Abu Dhabi experiencing a rise of over 30%

The report points out that while city leaders in all 50 cities must plan for population increases over the coming 15 years, but the pressure on some is now “immense”. 

“Whilst Tokyo’s citizens are expected to increase by just 1% by 2030, Nairobi’s population will grow by 121% and Shanghai will grow by 54% to over 30 million people,” says the report.

For detail of the report click here.

Top ten

1. Frankfurt

2. London

3. Copenhagen

4. Amsterdam

5. Rotterdam

6. Berlin

7. Seoul

8. Hong Kong

9. Madrid

10. Singapore

14. Manchester

18. Birmingham

Bottom ten

41. Rio de Janeiro

42. Doha

43. Moscow

44. Jeddah

45. Riyadh

46. Jakarta

47. Mumbai

48. Wuhan

49. New Delhi

50. Nairobi

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