Revised estimates suggest that the world’s population is likely to reach 9.6 billion by 2050 – 0.3 billion larger than under earlier UN projections. And for the first time in history, the majority of the world’s population lives in cities, with urbanization growing fastest in the developing world. Population in urban areas is projected to increase from 3.6 billion in 2011 to 6.3 billion in 2050. In many circumstances, city infrastructures are unable to keep pace with such rapid increases in population – nor the growth of their inhabitants’ demands. Among the 63 most populated urban areas (with 5 million or more inhabitants in 2011), 39 are located in regions exposed to a high risk of at least one natural hazard; 72 % are located on or near the coast; 2/3 are in Asia.
In order to tackle these issues we need to improve the quality of life and economic competitiveness, cities have to become sustainable communities, i.e. more resource-efficient and environmentally friendly with access to basic services, energy, housing and transportation – for all.
According to the Institute for Sustainable Cities “A sustainable community is one that is economically, environmentally, and socially healthy and resilient. It meets challenges through integrated solutions rather than through fragmented approaches that meet one of the goals at the expense of the others. This requires a long term perspective. One that is focused on both the present and future, beyond the next budget or election cycle.”
Key Findings Sustainable Cities Index
The Sustainable Cities Index from ARCADIS, a global natural and built asset design and consultancy firm, explores the three demands of People, Planet and Profit to develop an indicative ranking of 50 of the world’s leading cities. The research examined 50 cities from 31 countries ranking them across a range of 20 indicators in 5 key areas (the economy, business, risk, infrastructure and finance) to estimate the sustainability of each city. A detailed, evidence-based metric is derived to quantify each city’s performance. The headline ranking can then be divided into three broad subcategories: People, Planet and Profit.
Overall the top ten and bottom ten cities in the 2015 Sustainable Cities Index are:
“Green City” Frankfurt am Main, Germany, Left picture: http://www.frankfurt-greencity.de/en/frankfurt-to-be-the-european-city-of-the-trees-2014/, Right picture: http://greencitytrips.com/destination/frankfurt/
8. Hong Kong
40. Rio de Janeiro
49. New Delhi
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.
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.
Asian cities show the most divergence, with Seoul, Hong Kong and Singapore in the top ten and Manila, Mumbai, Wuhan and New Delhi forming four of the bottom five cites.
No North American city makes it into the top ten.
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 %.
Conclusions drawn from the report:
Across the world, cities are performing better for being sustainable for Profit and Planet purposes, but are failing to sufficiently meet the needs of their People.
City leaders need to find ways to balance the demands of generating strong financial returns, being an attractive place for people to live and work in, whilst also limiting their damage to the environment.
City leaders in all 50 cities must plan for population increases over the coming 15 years, but the pressure on some is 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.
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.
The full rankings can be found here.