Top 10: Sustainable Cities

Top 10: Sustainable Cities
The 10 most sustainable global cities are revealed, measured on 12 categories and including places of all sizes, from Lahti in Finland to London, UK

When it comes to carbon-reduction, integration and partnership are crucial.

Working in isolation will not save the planet. Which is why, increasingly, cities of all sizes are seen as a single organism, with every individual action affecting the entire body.

Sustainable Cities is a mindset that encapsulates these ideas. And the Corporate Knights Sustainable Cities Index further broadens the view by ranking cities against their rivals.

The cities are ranked according to 12 measures:

1 – Scope 1 GHG emissions

2 – Consumption-based emissions

3 – Particulate air pollution

4 – Open public space

5 – Water access

6 – Water consumption

7 – Road infrastructure efficiency

8 – Sustainable transport mode share

9 – Automobile dependence

10 – Solid waste generated

11 – Climate change resilience

12 – Renewable energy policy.

This year’s Top 10, in reverse order, is:


10. Vancouver, Canada

The City of Vancouver was the first major North AMerican city to develop a 100% renewable energy target for its electricity supply. As of 2023, it is at 95%.

Vancouver’s city design is driven by eco-density, which means more vertical development and less urban sprawl.

The 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver was a catalyst for sustainable projects, many of which have been maintained and built upon since.


9. Winnipeg, Canada

The City of Winnipeg has drawn up its OurWinnipeg 2045 vision.

The six areas that are being focused on are: leadership and good governance; environmental resilience; economic prosperity; good health and wellbeing; social equity and city building.

Its Strategic Priorities Action Plan has five areas, including ‘a green and growing city with sustainable renewal of infrastructure’.


8. Berlin, Germany

According to Visit Berlin, sustainability is “not only a trend in Berlin, it is a movement”.

The movement features numerous organisations and individuals, including CityLAB, which aims to create the Smart City of the Future.

CityLAB’s projects use Internet of Things sensors to collect noise pollution data and, in the summer, the Erfrischungskarte (refreshment map) uses data to pinpoint areas where people can find shade.


7. Sydney, Australia

Sydney is guided by a sustainability strategy that has 10 clear goals to achieve by deadlines up to and including 2050.

The goals include:

  • Net zero emissions in the City of Sydney by 2035
  • By 2030, every resident will be no more than a 10-minute walk from ‘what they need for daily life’
  • By 2050, a minimum overall green cover of 40%
  • By 2030, a 15% reduction in waste generated by each person.

6. Auckland, New Zealand

Auckland has committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 50 per cent by 2030 and reaching net zero GHG emissions by 2050.

In order to understand its own progress, in 2023 city authorities commissioned a report to compare it with other global cities.

The report found it to be a more sustainable city than Amsterdam in The Netherlands, with eight out of 10 awarded for sustainability.

But it fell short of its peers in the areas of innovation, knowledge and opportunity.

London Sustainable Development Commission's latest report

5. London, UK

The world’s largest cities tend to struggle to be among the most sustainable, so London – with nine million residents – has worked wonders to be 5th.

Much of the work is being driven and coordinated by the London Sustainable Development Commission, which was set up in 2002 to advise the Mayor of London on making it a ‘sustainable world city’.

One recent initiative was to install free drinking water fountains across the capital.

By April 2023, more than 730,000 litres of water was dispensed – equivalent to 1.4 million single-use plastic bottles.

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4. Lahti, Finland

Lahti has a fine recent heritage, having been named the European Green Capital for 2021.

Lahti abandoned the use of coal in 2019 and is set to be the first major city in Finland to become carbon-neutral by 2025.

It is also the first city in the world that has a personal carbon trading system for local residents.


3. Copenhagen, Denmark

The capital of Denmark has long been a sustainability trendsetter.

Green initiatives include car-free bicycle bridges, 10 public bathing zones in the harbour, 546km of cycle paths and a fleet of electric harbour ferries.

Copenhagen also has offshore wind turbines in the Oresund Strait, electric buses and green wave traffic lights for cyclists – with digital countdowns and footrests at junctions.


2. Oslo, Norway

The Scandinavian theme at the top of the list continues with Oslo. It beat Lahti to the button by being named European Green Capital in 2019.

It was the first city in the world to have a climate budget and the first to focus on carbon capture and storage from waste facilities.

Oslo’s targets for transport emissions are particularly impressive – and on track.

Public transport is set for zero emission by 2028, private vehicles by 2028 and , by 2030, all HGVs in Oslo will be either zero emissions or using renewable fuel.


1. Stockholm, Sweden

No surprise here – it is Scandinavia again, showing the world the way to go on sustainability.

Stockholm is a pioneer for sustainable cities.

Since 1990, the city’s climate impact and greenhouse gas emissions have decreased by more than half, while the city has grown and increased its population significantly during this time.

Reduced emissions and increased carbon sequestration should ensure that the city is climate-positive by 2030 and fossil fuel-free by 2040.

A huge network of food banks ensures unused food from homes and restaurants is passed on, reducing waste.

Also, 80% of Stockholm’s heating comes from district heating, which, instead of heating each building individually with electricity or oil, uses local resources such as burnt rubbish or captured excess heat from industrial production or data centres to heat up water and distribute it to everyone connected to the system.

By doing so, 93 per cent of all energy in the system is either recycled or comes from renewable resources.


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