The UK capital finished ahead of Paris, Frankfurt, New York, Los Angeles and Tokyo in the Index which scores 100 global cities based on their environmental, social and economic sustainability.

Arcadis’ report places London 9th for its environmental sustainability, thanks to the 3,000 parks and green spaces that make it one of the greenest capitals in the world, despite also having deadly pollution levels.

The capital has reached a “tipping point”, Arcadis says, as demonstrated by a big difference in its people and profit rankings within the report. “In the aftermath of Brexit, the Mayor [Sadiq Khan] needs to persuade global businesses that London’s infrastructure priorities have not changed and that the capital remains just as viable outside of the EU,” it reads.

Green transport

With London’s population projected to reach 10 million people by 2030, improving infrastructure capacity and toxic air quality levels will be critical.

Public transport in the capital must play a key role too – proposed low-emission zones are expected to reduce bus NOx emissions by 84%. London’s buses are currently making good progress towards all single-decker buses being electric (including hydrogen) by 2020, while Mayor Khan will this month introduce “one-hour hopper” fares allowing journeys on multiple buses to be made for the same cost.

London will not have the capacity to enhance the UK’s green credentials without help from other major British cities. A recent report proposed that the city of Leeds should convert its gas grid to an all-hydrogen version by 2030 in order to test the viability of using hydrogen to help meet national carbon reduction targets.

The five other British cities included in the Arcadis research – Manchester (ranked 25th), Birmingham (31st), Leeds (38th), Glasgow (36th) and Edinburgh (13th) – all joined London inside the top 40 cities for overall sustainability.

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.

“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.”

European dominance

Building on last year’s index, Arcadis has sought to create a more indicative global picture of urban sustainability through including an additional 50 cities to the ranking and incorporating seven new indicators of sustainability to the index. As a result of this, the organisation states that it would be inaccurate to compare the rankings to last year’s.

The Index highlights the fact that the more sustainable an urban area is, the higher the quality of life, greater prosperity and lower per capita greenhouse gas production it possesses. While Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, Edinburgh and Glasgow joined London inside the global top 25 for environmental sustainability, the Index states that all six UK cities need to do more to improve the quality of life for inhabitants.

Globally, well-established European cities dominate the top of the overall ranking making up 16 of the top 20 positions. According to the report, Zurich is the city with the greenest credentials in the world, while Singapore, Stockholm and Vienna make up the rest of the global top five.

Today’s planet is dominated by cities; which are home to 54% of the population, account for 70-80% of economic output and produce 80% of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. In a recent blog written exclusively for edie, BT Group‘s head of sustainable business innovation Richard Waters suggested that 66% of the population will live in urban areas by 2050, with an estimated 41 mega-cities – those with more than 10 million in habitants – by 2030.

George Ogleby

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