Sustainable Cities Index reveals mixed fortunes for UK

Six UK cities have made the top 50 of a new index that ranks cities according to their sustainability. But other than London and Edinburgh, they all fared poorly in terms of economic resilience.

The Sustainable Cities Index, produced by infrastructure consultancy Arcadis, assessed 100 global cities according to their social, environmental and economic sustainability using 32 different indicators.

Of the six UK cities included in the study, London came out top of the pile in fifth place overall followed by Edinburgh (13th), (Manchester (25th), Birmingham (31st), Glasgow (36th) and Leeds (38th).

Only Zurich, Singapore, Stockholm and Vienna surpassed London’s performance, which scored highly for its economic performance and environmental credentials. It was judged to be one of the world’s greenest cities thanks to 3,000 parks and green spaces.

Although Manchester, Birmingham, Glasgow and Leeds scored highly on social and environmental indicators they were outside the top 50 for their economic strength.

According to Arcadis ‘all four cities scored poorly on the profit scale… with low GDP per capita scores, high unemployment and poor high-productivity job creation being perennial factors’.

It added: ‘The findings should serve as a warning to policy makers: Post-Brexit, the UK government needs to spread prosperity more evenly to the regions by boosting the economic capacity of these cities. All five UK urban centres outside London fared poorly in terms of local transport infrastructure, whilst Leeds and Birmingham were also held back by a relative lack of connectivity to national and international networks.

‘Further investment in transport infrastructure and connectivity as part of the government’s National Infrastructure Plan would improve mobility, reduce journey times and boost employment. However, in an era of devolved power, civic leaders also need to do more to push their own regional agendas.’

It said progress was being made with Manchester beginning to ‘reap the benefits of long-term economic planning and increased business rate retention’ while commitment from HSBC and Jaguar Land Rover to the Birmingham city-region had boosted its profile with investors.

However, it warned Leeds ‘runs the risk of being left behind and needs to do more to put itself in the shop window’. Arcadis said all three cities should do more to turn investment into high quality jobs. And the six UK cities featured in the index must work harder to improve the quality of life for residents, it said, in particular London.

Richard Bonner, UK cities director at Arcadis, said: ‘As one of the world’s greenest capitals and position at the centre of international trade, London can reap the long-term benefits of being a truly sustainable world city. However, three of the UK’s largest regional centres – Manchester, Birmingham and Leeds – are being outperformed by their European rivals. In particular, their poor economic performance should be of concern to policy makers looking to rebalance the country’s economy in the wake of Brexit.

‘As powers become increasing devolved, regional leaders must do more to attract investment and create high productivity jobs. Central government can also help by investing in local transport and connectivity infrastructure as part of the National Infrastructure Plan, boosting mobility, reducing journey times and increasing employment.

‘All cities have a tough task balancing the pillars of people, planet and profit and whilst Arcadis’ Sustainable Cities Index shows that there is no such thing as a utopian city, the UK’s urban centres need to be doing more to improve their long-term prospects.’

Sustainable Cities Index

  1. Zurich
  2. Singapore
  3. Stockholm
  4. Vienna
  5. London
  6. Frankfurt
  7. Seoul
  8. Hamburg
  9. Prague
  10. Munich
  11. Amsterdam
  12. Geneva
  13. Edinburgh
  14. Copenhagen
  15. Paris
  16. Hong Kong
  17. Berlin
  18. Canberra
  19. Rotterdam
  20. Madrid
  21. Sydney
  22. Rome
  23. Vancouver
  24. Barcelona
  25. Manchester
  26. New York
  27. Wellington
  28. Montreal
  29. Antwerp
  30. Brisbane
  31. Birmingham
  32. Melbourne
  33. Toronto
  34. Boston
  35. Dublin
  36. Glasgow
  37. Warsaw
  38. Leeds
  39. San Francisco
  40. Brussels
  41. Macau
  42. Milan
  43. Seattle
  44. Washington
  45. Tokyo
  46. Lisbon
  47. Lyon
  48. Taipei
  49. Denver
  50. Los Angeles
  51. Philadelphia
  52. Dubai
  53. Baltimore
  54. Miami
  55. Kuala Lumpur
  56. Dallas
  57. Moscow
  58. Abu Dhabi
  59. Houston
  60. Chicago
  61. New Orleans
  62. Pittsburgh
  63. Atlanta
  64. Shenzhen
  65. Indianapolis
  66. Athens
  67. Bangkok
  68. Tampa
  69. Detroit
  70. Kuwait City
  71. Santiago
  72. Doha
  73. Beijing
  74. Shanghai
  75. Muscat
  76. Riyadh
  77. Istanbul
  78. Guangzhou
  79. São Paulo
  80. Buenos Aires
  81. Jeddah
  82. Rio de Janeiro
  83. Lima
  84. Mexico City
  85. Tianjin
  86. Amman
  87. Hanoi
  88. Jakarta
  89. Chennai
  90. Johannesburg
  91. Bengaluru
  92. Mumbai
  93. Chengdu
  94. Wuhan
  95. Cape Town
  96. Manila
  97. New Delhi
  98. Nairobi
  99. Cairo
  100. Kolkata

Photo by lsbardel

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Austin Macauley

Austin Macauley

Editor, Environment Journal

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