Sustainable Cities Index 2008

25 Nov 2008

Forum for the Future's second annual Sustainable Cities Index tracks progress on sustainability in Britain’s 20 largest cities, ranking them on environmental performance, quality of life and future-proofing – how well they are addressing issues such as climate change, recycling and biodiversity.

Bristol has beaten Brighton to claim the top spot in this year's index, thanks in part to its impressive increase in recycling and composting rates - on which it moved up the rankings by 10 places - and its consistently high scores on water quality, waste collection and green spaces.

Brighton and Hove, last year’s winner, is rated highest for quality of life and future-proofing but came in second because of its comparative poor performance on the environment. It is commended for its transport services, education provision, green spaces, climate change strategy and recycling rates.

Plymouth, in third place, has the best environmental performance. Its top ranking in this table reflects water and air quality and the limited impact of its services, housing, transport and consumables on the environment, relative to other cities. It also scored well on employment, life-expectancy and recycling rates.

Newcastle jumped from eight to four, the only northern city in the top five. Its future-proofing activities improved its ranking, with green businesses and recycling rates.

But the report reveals that a clear North-South divide still exists. Southern cities tend to perform better in the quality of life indicators and all feature in the top 10, while the industrial heritage of the Midlands and North is reflected in lower life expectancy.

Edinburgh and Leeds, which both featured in the top five last year, have slipped further down the scale, dropping four and eight places respectively. Liverpool, Birmingham and Hull remain in the bottom four.

Not even the UK’s best-performing cities can match international leaders in sustainability like Stockholm, Portland in the US and Curitiba in Brazil, the report finds.

Overall city rankings

2008 rank (2007 rank)
1  (3)    Bristol
2  (1)    Brighton & Hove
3  (4)    Plymouth
4  (8)    Newcastle
5  (6)    Cardiff
6  (2)    Edinburgh
7  (7)    Sheffield
8  (14)   Leicester
9  (10)   London
10= (9)  Bradford
10= (11) Nottingham
12 (13)  Sunderland
13 (5)    Leeds
14 (17)  Coventry
15 (12)  Manchester
16 (16)  Wolverhampton
17 (20)  Liverpool
18 (15)  Glasgow
19 (19)  Birmingham
20 (18)  Hull


Is this for real??

I am actually stunned by this, and feel obliged to ask, do the people who "measure" these things actually visit the towns and cities in question?

The reason I feel compelled to ask is because I live in Plymouth, know it's environs rather well, and do not recognise it from the glowing words given to it here.
"Water and air quality"
This city has rather poor water quality. I work as a plumbing and heating trade, and know all to well how poor the quality of the water in Plymouth from bitter experience. You could ask some of my customers. My own mother refuses to drink the stuff, as do a few people I know.
I am guessing pollution from the nuclear operations in helping maintain Trident submarines didn't factor into your equations in any way?
This story is from just this week - -
and is all too common.

Ach, I suppose you'll say it's all just 'relative'. And I should be grateful at least the buses run on time....

Yours unimpressed,

John Robb

Why the arbitrary use of 'City'?

Sustainability in our 20 biggest Cities....but why Cities? One assumes this list is here to inform us how Sustainable Development is being progressed in our most populous areas. I make this assumption based on the fact that the list consists of the UK's 20 biggest cities, as determined by their population size. However, the term 'city' refers to an area designated as such by the granting of a Royal Charter. It has little to do with the population size of a given area. So, focussing this list on designated cities alone means that those areas with bigger populations, but which have been over-looked through Royal whim, are left out of the equation altogether. Is this not somewhat against the purpose of the list...?

Case in point - Reading has a population of over 230,000 - one of the UK's 20 biggest urban areas, bigger than many cities. But it does not make the list.

Having said all that, I do appreciate that one of the purposes of this list is to sprinkle a little competitive zest around the paths that our major cities are taking. Still, that would not be lost if the list was revised. In fact it may have a bigger impact if this zest was sprinkled where most of our citizens reside.

So Cities = Sensible? I think not. Time for a re-think? Perhaps....

future proofing - add variable

Reading the future proofing indicators used for this report, I would like to suggest the following for the next study:

Include as an indicator of "preparing for the future" how councils and local governments are dealing with the risks of climate change. This is measurable in terms of risk/emergency programs,policies & institutions that would inform the public and prepare them for future emergencies related to climate change.

There should be capacity building at local levels to study the possible risks that community faces, develop contingency and mitigation plans and so on.

To me the above recommendation would indeed be "prepared for the future".