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JUN 12, 2024 | Press Release

“Cities have just 2,000 days left to achieve critical sustainability goals,” warns Arcadis in latest report

  • Arcadis’ Sustainable Cities Index 2024 reveals major disparities in sustainability progress, as cities race to meet 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
  • Six US cities rank in the top 10 on profit pillar, creating an opportunity for growth across other pillars
  • San Francisco top US city under Profit pillar, as home to many successful technology companies

12 June 2024 – Leading global design and consultancy organization Arcadis has issued a rallying call to cities worldwide, as the publication of its latest Sustainable Cities Index 2024 reveals the need for accelerated action in tackling climate change and other urban sustainability challenges.

The publication of the Arcadis report comes with nearly 2,000 days until the 2030 deadline for achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The new report reveals some clear differences between leading sustainable cities such as index-topping Amsterdam (1st), Copenhagen (3rd) and Munich (5th), and those trailing behind - particularly US powerhouses such as New York (48th) and Boston (56th), and Asian giants like Taipei (62nd). Overall, European cities dominate the top of the SCI.

The Arcadis Sustainable Cities Index (SCI) ranks 100 global cities across three pillars of sustainability - Planet, People, and Profit. Marking the 6th edition of the report since its inception in 2015, it comprises 67 metrics to highlight our evolving understanding of urban sustainability. Key data points include air pollution, waste management, and investment in low carbon infrastructure (including renewable energy and sustainable transport), as well as factors such as economic performance, social equity, and resilience to natural disasters.

This year, for the first time, Arcadis has also added a fourth ‘Progress’ pillar to the index. This measures change over time to demonstrate the impact of sustainability interventions made over the last decade. When considered alongside the other pillars, it provides insights into a city’s future trajectory and emphasizes the importance of continuous advancement to achieve the SDGs.

High performance in the Planet pillar is associated with overall success, as evidenced by nine of the top 10 cities for Planet also securing positions in the overall top 10. The Planet pillar is comprised of metrics like sustainable energy systems and low-emission transport, suggesting these are powerful tools for urban sustainability and should be key focal points for cities looking to effect meaningful change.

This year’s index also highlights the encouraging finding that high performance on the Profit metric does not necessarily come at the expense of environmental sustainability. The report emphasizes how a thriving economy should support investment in infrastructure, alternative energy sources, green initiatives, and social programs.

US cities dominate the Profit pillar. San Francisco, Dallas, Chicago, Houston, New York, and Seattle all appear in the top 10 for Profit, thanks to ease of doing business, GDP per capita, and employment rates. However, while these cities boast robust business success, their overall rankings demonstrate how wage levels and living standards are not keeping pace with economic growth. To move higher up, socially inclusive development strategies will be critical, and the report makes clear that North American and European cities must draw inspiration from each other to continue making sustainable progress across all pillars.

When it comes to progress, there is an opportunity for US cities to invest in sustainable practices that move their rankings high in the People and Planet pillars. While US cities may not have the same amount of infrastructure as European cities, investment in public transportation is expanding, especially with the support of almost $4 billion for 14 major transit construction projects across the US announced earlier this year.

Peter Wijsman, San Francisco Executive at Arcadis, said:

“Economies of local US cities are thriving, as we can see from SCI. The real opportunity for all US cities is to invest in sustainable energy systems and low-emissions transport with equity in mind. Amsterdam topping the Profit pillar as well as the overall report demonstrates that a city can have a robust economy while investing in sustainable infrastructure that improves the overall quality of life. I am optimistic that US cities will build on their current economic success to work towards global sustainability goals.”

John Batten, Arcadis Global Cities Director, said:

“Cities play a critical role in advancing the sustainable development agenda. However, our progress assessment shows that a lot more needs to be done to meet the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. With just 2,000 days to go, the challenge is to keep pushing the boundaries of innovation. Whether that’s by scaling up renewable energy initiatives, integrating climate considerations into infrastructure planning, improving mobility through intelligent traffic management, or supporting the retrofit of existing buildings through planning and investment, there are always areas to improve on. As the 2030 deadline approaches cities must build on their successes, identify areas for progress, and foster collaboration to address challenges with ever greater urgency and determination.”

For more information, the full report can be downloaded here.

Emily Cornell

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Emily Cornell, Media Relations Manager, North America

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