By Andrew Nusca
Posting in Cities
Researcher Boyd Cohen ranks the top 10 most resilient cities in the world, based on mitigation efforts, adaptation schemes and more. Plus, the top 10 cities in the U.S.
We've previously written on SmartPlanet about the importance of a resilient city -- that is, one that's flexible yet durable enough to handle whatever environmental threat climate change throws its way.
But how are we doing today? And what more can be done?
In a small but detailed survey, author and researcher Boyd Cohen ranks the top 10 most resilient cities at TriplePundit, judging them on criteria from mitigation efforts to adaptation schemes to basic coordination and preparedness.
He calls it "one of the first ever global rankings of resilient cities." We call it interesting, to say the least.
Here are the top 10, and why:
- Copenhagen, Denmark. Favorable policies, very low emissions and all that bicycling puts it on top.
- Curitiba, Brazil. The world's first bus rapid transit system, extremely low emissions, a high percentage of renewables and a long-term adaptation plan.
- Barcelona, Spain. A solid adaptation plan grounded in metrics and a world-leading push on solar.
- Stockholm, Sweden. Political support, high rates of rail use and aggressive emissions targets -- plus all those public parks -- helps this town keep its footprint small.
- Vancouver, Canada. A goal to be the world's greenest city by 2020 has all cylinders firing: policy, a 90% renewables energy portfolio, low emissions per capita, local food sourcing and lots o' LEED buildings.
- Paris, France. Decent political support, extremely high public transit usage rates (go Metro!), a detailed adaptation plan and an aggressive greenery program.
- San Francisco, USA. The politics are present, the LEED buildings are gleaming, aggressive emissions reductions are targeted and a group purchasing program for renewable energy is underway.
- New York, USA. Extremely strong support from the mayor as well as continent-leading use of public transit shore up NYC's efforts, along with a laser focus on data and a detailed adaptation plan.
- London, UK. This dense city's congestion pricing was politically risky but has indeed resulted in reduced emissions. A focus on supporting public transit and greener vehicle fleets helps, too, but the real gem is its movable flood barrier, the largest in the world, protecting 125 sq. km. of the city from surges.
- Tokyo, Japan. Leads the world in public transit use, as well as sheer population. A climate action plan is in place, but a detailed adaptation plan is not, and renewables remain an attractive target without a specific mandate.
It's an odd list. Among the top 10 are some of the world's most populous and global examples mixed in with smaller but progressive towns, and the list of honorable mentions certainly diversifies the results even more: Cape Town, Johannesburg, Kyoto, Melbourne, Sydney, Seoul, Taipei, Amsterdam, Madrid, Brussels, Rome, Bogota, Mexico City, Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, Austin, Chicago, Seattle and Toronto.
So how did he get there? For cities with populations of 600,000, Cohen looked at factors that include political commitment, density, transit access and use, renewable energy capacity, greenhouse gas emissions, GHG reduction targets, climate change mitigation and adaptation planning, and acreage of parks.
And what of the United States, you ask? Cohen just so happened to publish his Top 10 U.S. cities last month.
- San Francisco
- Portland, Ore.
- San Diego
- New York & Philadelphia (tie)
- San Jose
Why the difference with the global rankings? For one, Cohen had to remove the green buildings ranking, since a similar metric does not exist outside North America and the U.K. Second, university leadership was also included.
All in all, fascinating stuff. Is your city prepared?
Photo: Nicolai Perjesi/VisitCopenhagen
Jun 29, 2011
Its hilarious that you list three california cities that rely on water shipped in from hundreds of miles away as 'sustainable'. Of course, they are also wasting their money on the thorougly debunked fiction of global warming, so I guess I shouldnt be surprised.
San Diego, that's a surprise! on the edge of a desert with limited water...? Of course its only major cities he's looked at, and the benchmarks have to be pretty subjective. In reality many smaller towns will be way more sustainable, with closer access to food and water. First thing to look at would be climate, San Francisco or maybe Barcelona or Santa Fe, places where you need very little heat or cooling for buildings. Agree that cities a metre or two above seal level don't look particularly safe.
A city that has shown it's resilience in the past buy coming back from the loss of it's major income producer and polluter is Pittsburgh. I'd like to know where it sits on the list. People are always surprised when the come to Pittsburgh now.
I guess I misunderstood the qualifications. Chicago has it's share of problems - but in terms of long term viability in a changing world it does have some important favorable points. - a northern climate. - 579 ft above (current) sea level. - 20% of the earth's available fresh water supply laps against it's shores. -just sayin'
San Franciso, Seatttle, Vancover, New York & others are all located on coast lines, low enough that even a single meter of sealevel rise will cause major problems. How 'green' a city is says little about it's ability to adapt and survive--which is resilience.
Some of the cities have great intentions and are reducing vehicle emissions, their buildings have more problems than understood. Vancouver as an example is employing great policy but their building development is super heating the atmosphere and contributing to climate change. If you use finishes on the exterior of a building that are excitable by UV, the buildings will generate heat that exceed BC Building Code. Here is what it looks like in the infrared spectrum. http://www.thermoguy.com/blog/index.php?itemid=61
If you read the study, sea level rise is a part of the "adaptation plan" rating. The question -- one worth debating -- is whether being collectively more sustainable is enough to avoid sea level rise in the first place.