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