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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)
  • Amsterdam takes top spot as most Sustainable City, thanks to strong economic performance, social equity, and investments in renewable energy, while US cities continue to lag
  • Maintaining trajectory now critical as SDG deadline approaches, with opportunities for even the highest-ranking cities to accelerate sustainability goals

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), Boston (56th) and Asian giants like Taipei (62nd).

Ranking Methodology

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.

European Cities Lead in Sustainability Efforts

Overall, European cities dominate the top of the SCI. Notably all four German cities included in the index – Frankfurt, Munich, Hamburg, and Berlin – claim spots in the top 10, buoyed by achievements in water sanitation and waste management, and low greenhouse gas emissions.

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. Amsterdam, the most sustainable city of 2024, ranks at the top of the Profit pillar, where it excels in income and living standards, employment, and transport infrastructure.

Inclusive Development Strategies Needed in North American Cities

North American 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 demonstrate robust business success, their overall rankings show how wage levels and living standards are not keeping pace with economic growth. To move higher up, 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.

Sustainability Progress Over the Last Decade

When it comes to progress over the last decade, many European cities have continued to make significant strides – despite their highly sustainable starting points – to cement their position at the top of the Arcadis Sustainable Cities Index. Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Warsaw, Copenhagen, Frankfurt, Munich, Hamburg, and Berlin have all sustained momentum to feature in the top third of the Progress pillar and the top third of the index overall. This is thanks to – in the case of Amsterdam in particular – a commitment to renewable energy production, as well as socio-economic factors such as female labor force participation, and healthcare.

Meanwhile, although appearing low in the overall rankings, the dominance of Asian cities such as Jakarta, Wuhan, and Shanghai at the top of the Progress pillar demonstrate that, in cities with limited prior sustainable infrastructure or practices, early steps towards urban sustainability can have an enormous impact in generating momentum for further advancements.

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.

Kerri Moore

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Kerri Moore, Corporate Communications Director

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