Thursday, October 28, 2010

Vision and long-term planning make sustainable cities

Forum for the Future’s annual Sustainable Cities Index tracks progress on sustainability in Britain’s 20 largest cities - highlighting their environmental performance, quality of life and their readiness for the challenges of the future.

The index is intended to highlight and reward cities’ achievements, encourage healthy competition, and give citizens the tools to hold their leaders to account. It attracts considerable media attention, raising awareness of what it means to be a sustainable city.

Newcastle is the leader for the second year running and Bristol and Brighton topped the table in 2008 and 2007. The index has succeeded in showcasing what they have achieved to their citizens and to other cities.
“Forum for the Future’s Sustainable Cities Index has driven real change by inspiring cities to adopt more ambitious sustainability strategies and by providing a framework against which they can benchmark their efforts.” Margaret Eaton, Chairman, Local Government Association
We measure 13 indicators in three broad baskets:
  • Environmental impact – the city’s impact in terms of resource use and pollution;
  • Quality of life – what the city is like for people to live in;
  • Future-proofing – how well the city is preparing for a sustainable future.
The indicators are designed to give a snapshot of sustainability in each city and chosen to reflect areas in which local authorities have the power to enhance the sustainability of their city.

The index has also gone international. Darwin topped the first Australian index, which was compiled by the Australian Conservation Foundation adapting Forum's methodology.

The 2010 results
Download the Sustainable Cities Index 2010

Cities with strong visions of a successful future lead the 2010 Sustainable Cities Index which is sponsored by GE.

Newcastle, top for the second year running, and Leicester, in second place, are outpacing rivals Brighton, Bristol and London. But all five have set themselves ambitious targets and are guided by long-term visions of how to improve life for their citizens by reducing their impact on the environment and seizing new opportunities in the green economy.

Newcastle, which was eighth in 2007, has extended its lead over a tight cluster of four rivals. “Sustainability is right at the top of our agenda, and we intend to keep it there,” said Barry Rowland, Chief Executive of Newcastle City Council.

It has placed itself at the centre of an increasingly vibrant clean tech cluster in the North East and aims to become a world class centre of science and innovation, benefiting economically and socially from the green economy. It aspires to become the UK’s “electric car capital” and has started installing 580 charging points in the region.

Leicester, in 14th place four years ago, is second and leads on environmental performance. It has the lowest ecological footprint, produces the least household waste and is best at managing its biodiversity. It has a strong climate change plan, a high recycling rate and an emerging new business sector pursuing opportunities in sustainability and environmental management.

Brighton, third, scores well for quality of life and future-proofing, with a healthy, highly skilled population and a vibrant economy, but high-consumption lifestyles give it the worst ecological footprint of any city.
Bristol falls to fourth place but retains the top spot in the quality of life basket, with a low unemployment rate, highly skilled and qualified residents, and improving school standards.

London is fifth and comes top on future-proofing with strong new plans to reduce emissions and adapt to climate change and the highest level of business start-ups. It has the longest life expectancy, but by far the worst air quality and one of the largest ecological footprints.

Overall city rankings
Click on city for detailed factsheet.  
2010 rank (2009) [2008] {2007} 
  1. Newcastle -----(1)-------[4]------{8}
  2. Leicester-------(4)-------[8]-----{14}
  3. Brighton--------(3)-------[2]------{1}
  4. Bristol-----------(2)-------[1]------{3}
  5. London---------(5)-------[9]-----{10}
  6. Leeds-----------(6)------[13]------{5}
  7. Coventry------(11)-----[14]-----{17}
  8. Plymouth------(12)------[3]------{4}
  9. Edinburgh------(7)-------[6]------{2}
  10. Sheffield--------(9)-------[7]------{7}
  11. Cardiff---------(10)-------[5]------{6}
  12. Nottingham----(8)------[10=]---{11}
  13. Manchester---(14)-----[15]-----{12}
  14. Liverpool------(15)-----[17]------{20}
  15. Birmingham--(17)----[19]------{19}
  16. Sunderland---(13)-----[12]------{13}
  17. Derby – First year in index
  18. Bradford------(16)-----[10=]-----{9}
  19. Glasgow------(19)-----[18]------{15}
  20. Hull------------(20)-----[20]------{18} 

Vision and long-term planning make sustainable cities

Newcastle has extended its lead as Britain’s most sustainable major city, we announce today. What makes a city sustainable and what progress are our cities making?

Forum for the Future’s annual Sustainable Cities Index ranks Britain’s 20 largest cities on their environmental performance, quality of life and how well they are preparing for the challenges of the future.

Newcastle takes the top spot for the second year in a row, followed by the same four cities as last year: Leicester, Brighton, Bristol and London with only the smallest of margins between their overall scores, although their strengths and weaknesses lie in different areas.

These leading cities have not always performed well... it takes time, vision and long-term planning.  What they have in common is high aspirations, strong governance structures and civic leaders who see sustainability as a priority. A supportive population also helps – Brighton has the UK’s first Green Party MP, while Bristol, Brighton and London all have green party councillors.

Since we started the index in 2007 most cities have improved in most areas. We look at 13 indicators – from air quality to action on climate change – and 11 have improved. The exceptions are employment, which has followed national trends, and provision of allotments, which has seen a slight decline  potentially because urban space is at a premium and recent planning and development policy has driven inner city regeneration.
But it's the places that are improving faster than average that move up the ranks.  Newcastle was eighth in 2007, Leicester has moved from 14th to 2nd in the same time and Coventry from 17th to 7th.

One disturbing trend that has emerged is the widening gap between the top and bottom performers. Those already performing relatively well are improving faster than others which have the furthest to go.

And none of Britain's cities can in any way be complacent.  We have a long way to go to match the best from across the globe, such as Freiburg in Germany, Stockholm in Sweden or Whistler in Canada.

It’s important that cities now accelerate the speed of change to a low-carbon economy, and low-impact future, that supports the complexity and diversity of our collective and individual needs.