Copenhagen has been elected as the greenest city in Europe...



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Copenhagen, Stockholm and Oslo
ranked the greenest cities in Europe

A report by Siemens, reviewed by Brian Baker

3 March 2010: Scandinavian cities occupy the top three places in a European environmental index. Copenhagen leads the index overall, coming marginally ahead of Stockholm, while third placed Oslo rounds off the trio of Scandinavian cities. Fellow Nordic capital Helsinki follows in seventh place. Vienna, Amsterdam and Zurich occupy fourth, fifth and sixth places, respectively.

The goal of the Green Cities Index, produced by Siemens and the Economist Intelligence Unit. is to allow key stakeholder groups — such as city administrators, policymakers, infrastructure providers, environmental non-governmental organisations (NGOs), urban sustainability experts, and citizens — to compare their city’s performance against others overall, and within each category. The index also allows for comparisons across cities clustered by a certain criteria, such as geographic region or income group. In short, this tool is provided in the hope that it will help European cities move towards being a bigger part of the solution to climate change and other environmental challenges.
 
Europe’s 30 greenest cities
1 Copenhagen; 2 Stockholm; 3 Oslo; 4 Vienna; 5 Amsterdam; 6 Zurich; 7 Helsinki; 8 Berlin; 9 Brussels; 10 Paris; 11 London; 12 Madrid; 13 Vilnius; 14 Rome; 15 Riga; 16 Warsaw; 17 Budapest; 18 Lisbon; 19 Ljubljana; 20 Bratislava; 21 Dublin; 22 Athens; 23 Tallinn; 24 Prague; 25 Istanbul; 26 Zagreb; 27 Belgrade; 28 Bucharest; 29 Sofia; 30 Kiew


There is a strong correlation between wealth and a high overall ranking on the index. Nine of the top 10 cities in the index have a GDP per head (measured at purchasing power parity, PPP) of more than €31,000. In many ways, this is unsurprising: wealthier cities can invest more heavily in energy-efficient infrastructure and afford specialist environmental managers, for example. Wealth isn’t everything, however: some individual cities punch above their weight within individual sub-categories: low-income Vilnius, for example, leads the air quality category; while Berlin, with a relatively low GDP per head, tops the buildings category and is ranked eighth overall.   

Among east European cities (which also represent the low-income cities of the index, with GDP per head below €21,000), Vilnius performs best of all, ranked in 13th place. It is followed most closely by Riga, in 15th place. The rest of the east European cities rank at the bottom of the index. The wealth divide aside, these cities also face the legacy of history, dealing with decades of environmental neglect during the communist period. This is most visible in the poorly insulated concrete-slab mass housing that was widely used, as well as the remains of highly polluting heavy industry. Although many have innovative ideas regarding specific environmental initiatives, such as a “lottery” in Ljubljana that promotes the sorting of waste for recycling, these cities must also balance with other pressing issues, ranging from unemployment and economic growth to informal settlements.   

The index shows little overall correlation between city size and performance. However, the leading cities in both the East and the West do tend to be smaller, with populations of less than 1 million. To some degree, this makes sense: physically smaller cities make it easier for people to cycle or walk to work, for example. However, wealth, and more importantly experience, can overcome the difficulties of size as policies that take advantage of environmental economies of scale, such as district heating or large public transport networks, come into their own. Accordingly, the index’s larger cities, with populations of three million or more, perform relatively well, generally occupying the top half of the rankings. Berlin does best overall (8th), followed closely by Paris (10th), London (11th) and Madrid (12th). This isn’t universal, though: Athens (22nd) and Istanbul (25th) both perform relatively poorly.

The index also attempts to provide a measure of current environment performance by the 32 cities. It uses 30 indicators, 16 of the quantitative and 14 qualitative, and groups them in 8 categories.

Results are calculated and displayed for overall performance and for each individual category. The eight categories are Carbon emissions, Energy, Buildings, Transport, Water, waste and land use, Air quality and Environmental governance. Oslo, Stockholm and Zurich score best in the CO2 category, while Stockholm, Amsterdam and Copenhagen were judged to have Europe’ greenest transport infrastructure.

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,,,while Newcastle upon Tyne is thought to be Britain's greenest city


Britain’s greenest cities
Newcastle upon Tyne is now regarded as Britain’s greenest city, according to an environmental charity’s annual survey. The North East city beat last year’s winner Bristol, which ranked second. Brighton and Hove came third, with Leicester fourth and London fifth. Edinburgh was seventh and Cardiff 10th. As well as their environmental performance, the survey also assessed indicators of quality of life in each of Britain’s 20 largest cities and their efforts in low carbon future-proofing.

The index was assembled by sustainable development charity Forum for the Future, which works alongside business and the public sector for its goal of "businesses and communities thriving in a future that’s environmentally sustainable and socially just". It says the index is aimed at promoting a dialogue between and around cities, in order to stimulate both competition between them and debate about new ways of thinking on the urban environment.

The index’s compilers argue that the on-going effects of the recession in the largest urban areas might allow city leaders to become complacent over sustainability as they contend with job cuts. However, ensuring that cities remain liveable for the future remains a key task in preparing for the upturn, they argue. Newcastle’s strong showing and improvement on its 2008 score was hailed by the compilers as illuminating the way for other cities to overcome the legacy of their industrial heritage. Praise is also given to Manchester, which while ranking 14 in the index, has shown political leadership through the Manchester City Region in calculating the cost of climate change to its economy (£21bn over the next decade) if it does nothing and by moving, in its words, “from red-brick to green-brick”. England’s other city region, Leeds, ranks sixth in the table.

Britain’s 20 greenest cites
1 Newcastle; 2 Bristol; 3 Brighton and Hove; 4 Leicester; 5 London; 6 Leeds; 7 Edinburgh; 8 Nottingham; 9 Sheffield; 10 Cardiff; 11 Coventry; 12 Plymouth; 13 Sunderland; 14 Manchester; 15 Liverpool; 16 Bradford; 17 Birmingham; 18 Wolverhampton; 19 Glasgow; 20 Hull;


The index was compiled using 13 indicators across three ‘baskets’ – environment, quality of life and future-proofing. Environment was assessed on the basis of performance in air quality, ecological footprint, household waste per head and biodiversity. Quality of life was measured according to life expectancy, green spaces, transport, unemployment and education. Finally, the future-proofing basket was compiled by looking at cities’ existing commitments on climate change, economic vibrancy, recycling rates and amount of food produced locally. The report’s authors note that some data for Scottish and Welsh cities, which often measure differently from their English counterparts, had to be extrapolated through different means owing to some data sets being incomplete (though this only represented three of the total 20 looked at). (Review by Andrew Stevens)