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Smartest and most sustainable cities


London has once again been revealed as the smartest and most sustainable city in the world, according to the seventh edition of the IESE Cities in Motion Index 2020.
Prepared by IESE Business School´s Centre for Globalisation and Strategy, the annual index analyses the level of development of 174 world cities.

Sustainable Cities have an essential role in the urbanisation trend to improve residents lives by focusing on environmental initiatives and projects such as limiting CO2 gas emissions in the air, using renewable energy sources, or bringing awareness to environmental issues. With outdoor pollution killing over 3 million lives yearly, mostly in cities, it is evident that urbanisation can increase the environmental effect upon cities. Many cities around the world have redesigned their city planning strategies and commenced initiatives to target these issues directly.

The cities are analysed across nine dimensions considered key to truly sustainable cities. These are: human capital (developing, attracting and nurturing talent); social cohesion (consensus among the different social groups in a city); economy; environment; governance; urban planning; international projection; technology; and mobility and transportation (ease of movement and access to public services).

New York takes the second spot in the index, followed by Paris. The top 10 list is rounded out by Tokyo (4), Reykjavik (5), Copenhagen (6), Berlin (7), Amsterdam (8), Singapore (9) and Hong Kong (10). At the other end of the index are Lagos, Nigeria (171), Lahore (172) and Karachi (173), Pakistan, and Caracas, Venezuela (174)

According to the report authors, professors Pascual Berrone and Joan Enric Ricart London’s world-leading ranking is due to it being well placed in almost all nine dimensions. The city comes in first place for human capital, second place for governance and urban planning, and is in the top 10 for the dimensions of mobility and transportation, and technology. Its worst performance can be seen in the dimensions of social cohesion (64th), and the environment (35th).

Promoting a new focus on urban resilience is essential and it can be achieved by combining a solid infrastructure with agile and efficient management

Meanwhile, New York City’s second place is down to the economy, urban planning, mobility and transportation (all position 1) and human capital (position 3). The metropolis also fares poorly in social cohesion (151st) and the environment (69th).

Third in the overall ranking is Paris with a “very good” performance in mobility and transportation, as well as in international projection (2nd in both dimensions). It also occupies a prominent position in human capital, the economy and urban planning.

Globally, cities in Europe continue to dominate the ranking, the index finds, with 27 among the top 50. This select group also includes 14 cities in North American, five in Asia and four in Oceania.

Contextualising these results amid the current pandemic, the report’s authors, provide a set of conclusions and recommendations which highlight the relevance of urban resilience today and the need to promote public-private collaborations:

  1. People first The Covid-19 crisis makes it clear that smart urban design must focus on the quality of life for its people. In this sense, cities should emphasise the joint advancement of social cohesion and the economy for a just recovery.
  2. Identify what is essential in your city City managers must determine their top priorities and which needs require the most resources, time and effort.
  3. New strategies for a new environment Covid-19 will impose a new future on cities. For example, social distancing measures mean low-cost mass tourism will no longer be an option for many cities; traditional retail will face tougher competition online; public transportation will have to be redesigned; and public interactions in green spaces may change. Cities will have to adapt to this new scenario.
  4. Resilience as a new urban paradigm The pandemic has demonstrated the importance of cities’ capacity to overcome traumatic circumstances. Promoting a new focus on urban resilience is essential and it can be achieved by combining a solid infrastructure with agile and efficient management.
  5. Recovery through collaboration If all social actors (the public sector, private companies, civic organisations and academic institutions) collaborate, cities bounce back quicker. We must break down the silos that prevent leaders from seeing possible synergies.
  6. Link between territories In recent decades, the growing hegemony of the city has come at a cost to the countryside. However, during the health crisis, territories’ interrelation and dependency are increasingly clear. Reconsidering and strengthening urban-rural links can create more efficient systems.
  7. Lead by example For a quick, effective, and inclusive recovery, urban managers should lead by example, guided by principles of justice and collaboration for the benefit of all. “Ultimately,” the authors conclude, “we will need urban managers who apply the concept of smart governance, which includes accurate diagnosis, clear vision and multidimensional management of challenges.”
    The map below, created by Greenmatch, highlights Arcadis’s Top 40 Sustainable Cities around the Worldtheir current projects and environmental goals:This table key ranks the Top Sustainable Cities in order:

    Ranking 1 – 10Ranking 11 – 20Ranking 21 – 30Ranking 31 – 40


    RankingCity Score

    Arcadis’s Sustainable Cities Index Information & Evaluation

    Arcadis, a leading global design & consultancy firm for natural and built assets, composed a list of 100 Sustainable Cities around the World that have engaged in initiatives, projects and other forms to resolve the effects of urbanisation on the environment.

    The city evaluations for Arcadis’s Sustainable Cities Index are based on three themes: People, Planet, and Profit. Greenmatch decided to filter the results and look into the Planets‘ theme’s score for the top 40 cities. A city is evaluated into 7 categories under the Planet theme, then the scores are averaged.


    Sustainable Cities Moving Forward

    According to Arcadis’s Index, Zurich takes first place with a total score of 87.9%. Zurich has initiated several projects that earned them first place such as their long-term goal to becoming a 2000-watt society by 2050. Another project was the Green City Zurich project that aims to preserve and increase all green spaces. These difficult goals are feasible when their government allocates investment fundsfocuses on energy efficiency, renewable sources, and increasing the public’s awareness on sustainability.

    Another city who has had a strong impact in combating climate change for its residents is Sydney. Coming out in the top 10, Sydney began the Sustainable Sydney 2030 initiative to reduce the city’s carbon emissions by 70%. This goal will be beneficial for its residents because the quality of breathing air will improve along with reviving dying ecosystems. In addition, Sydney envisions a Smart City for the future to help improve public transportation, bring its citizens together and overall make the city more sustainable.

    City planners, politicians and other organisations have designed many of the core sustainability projects and initiatives for cities; however, many ideas have been rooted from the public. For example, Rome, ranking 7 in Arcadis, began the Participate 3- Year Project that allows citizens to contribute to possible resolutions for urban problems. Sustainable and innovative solutions like this allow for the public to engage in the transformation of their cities and develop effective resolutions.

    Although sustainable cities are a great way to combat urbanisation issues, Smart Cities go further by improving the quality of lives through better communication technologies and efficiency of urban operations while enveloping sustainable cities core values.


    The Transition: Sustainable to Smart Cities

    Imagine: Walking out of your home at 6:15 AM and you begin to drive to the inner city for work. Through the congested traffic on the freeway and street, you manage to arrive at the inner city by 7:15 AM. However, you must now spend the next 30 minutes looking for an available parking space, leaving you less than 15 minutes to arrive in the office.

    Now, for many of you, this scenario is a daily occurrence of your life and this causes frustration, stress, and difficulty to continue. However, for the past few years, many cities have begun their Smart City transformation in order to address these urbanisation issues and help its residents live a more efficient, happy, and comfortable life.

    What is a Smart City?

    According to the Focus Group on Smart Sustainable Cities of ITU’s Telecommunication Standardization Sector (ITU-T), “a smart sustainable city is an innovative city that uses information and communication technologies and other means to improve quality of life, efficiency of urban operation and services, and competitiveness, while ensuring that it meets the needs of present and future generations with respect to economic, social and environmental aspects.”

    If you would reimagine the scenario with Smart City applications, your daily commute can be reduced by half. By incorporating smart devices, you can optimise traffic, find open parking spaces, and make your life less stressful. The United Kingdom has been noted to take a strong interest in transforming their cities in becoming smarter. Take a look at the map below, created by Greenmatch, that highlights the Top 17 Smart Cities in the UK that made it on Huawei’s UK Smart Cities Index.