Sustainable cities

Discover the most sustainable cities in the world

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The world's population has reached 8 billion (UN, 2022), and a large part is concentrated in major cities. These cities contribute the most to greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), and yet, at the same time, they offer the best hope for reducing the ecological footprint on a global scale.

Sustainable cities, crucial to fight against climate change.
Sustainable cities, crucial to fight against climate change.

The world has experienced unprecedented urban growth in recent decades. In 2022, 4.2 billion people live in cities, and, this number is projected to grow to 70 per cent of the world's population.

This rapid urbanisation brings with it implicit numerous difficulties such as the growing development of slums, the inadequacy of basic services and infrastructure as well as uncontrolled urban growth, all of which increase the vulnerability of cities to natural disasters. It has also been shown that they are (very active) participants in the escalation of air pollution: According to the latest report Cities and Climate Change, urban settlements are responsible for up to 70% of greenhouse gases while only occupying 2% of the world's territory.

It is therefore necessary to improve urban planning and management in order to make these spaces more inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable, as was stated in Objective 11 of the Sustainable Development Goals approved by the UN in 2015.

Sustainable cities and climate change

Cities play a fundamental role in the fight against climate change: They are able to lead the energy transition towards low carbon development based on efficiency and renewable energy.

A sustainable city is one that has been able to introduce greenery into the urban environment to reduce CO2 emissions and improve the quality of its air, has promoted renewable energies to conserve and protect natural resources, has successfully implemented sustainable mobility and the use of public transport, and is committed to a circular economy.

The Sustainable Cities Index [PDF] External link, opens in new window., developed by ARCADIS in collaboration with the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT), is an annual report that is supported by the study of the three pillars of sustainability, whose objective is to develop a rating system for the 100 most sustainable cities in the world. These pillars are:

  • The social component: Factors related to the quality of life of a city's inhabitants — health, work, and education —.
  • The environmental factor: Factors related to the conditions which give a city its 'green label' such as its level of pollution, its initiatives to promote recycling, the extension of green zones, and so on.
  • The economic prerequisite: The economic health enjoyed by the inhabitants of a city.
Indice de ciudades sostenibles
The most sustainable cities in 2022

 SEE INFOGRAPHIC: Sustainable cities Index 2022 [PDF] External link, opens in new window.

Leaders in urban sustainability

Oslo tops the Sustainable Cities Index 2022. The Norwegian capital stands out mainly for having sustainable transport, lots of green spaces, clean air, responsible energy use and being one of the cities that spends the most annually on trying to maintain prosperity within its city. As a result, it is also the top-ranked city in terms of the environment.

Stockholm ranks second in the world thanks to its ability to have a great work-life balance, as well as helping to make its businesses mostly green. It is also the city with the best Wi-Fi of all the cities surveyed and has a very good position in terms of air pollution.

Tokyo is the first Asian city and closes the podium as the only Asian city to make it into the top 20. This is because it has made it into the top 10 cities in the environmental and social categories, thanks mainly to its low inequality and great transport infrastructure. It is also the only non-US city to break into the top 20 economically.

The other cities that close the top 10 are: Copenhagen, Berlin, London, Seattle, Paris, San Francisco and Amsterdam. 

Ciudades verdes europeas
European Green Cities

 SEE INFOGRAPHIC: European Green Capitals [PDF] External link, opens in new window.

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