Have you ever wondered how green your city is compared to the rest of the world? There are many factors to building sustainable green cities, and green cities across the globe are being formed using innovative methods. Some cities focus on recycling, some focus on green spaces, and some strengthen their eco-friendly infrastructure. More large cities across the globe are making the right changes and becoming green cities in order to protect their environments. Whether you’re hoping to spot your hometown, thinking of visiting one of these spots or just curious about how green cities are created, here is a countdown of the world’s seven greenest cities.
In December 2017, New York’s Governor and Controller separately announced plans to divest state and city funds from coal, oil, and gas companies. These announcements bring New York on board with the fossil fuel divestment movement, a global campaign which urges organisations to stop financially sponsoring the fossil fuel industry. The city is also constantly innovating as buildings are constructed and renovated, with sustainable green construction happening in places like the New York Police Academy and the Cornell Tech campus.
Over the past 30 years, Berlin has drastically improved its air quality through a series of government programs and the results are astounding. Between 1989 and 2017, Berlin has seen the following changes:
- 73% reduction in NOx
- 95% reduction in sulphur dioxide
- 80% reduction in motor exhaust emissions
The city contains over 900km2 of green space including parks such as Tiergarten and Viktoriapark. As well as being one of the greenest cities, Berlin is home to The Reichstag, the world’s greenest parliament building. The Reichstag uses a visually stunning glass dome to heat its meeting rooms and 40% of the building is powered by in-house biofuel generators.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan has put dozens of programs in place that will improve its green city status such as implementing a toxicity charge on older, more polluting vehicles and introducing the world’s first Ultra Low Emission Zone in the city centre. The City of London Corporation has also put a lot of resources into researching and promoting sustainable green building methods and features, such as green walls and green roofs. Their case studies of these features can be read here. London will be officially declared the world’s first national park city- a national park that contains the entire city- in May 2019 as part of the London National Park City movement, which has been improving London’s relationship with is green spaces since 2013.
As well as being one of the world’s greenest cities, Vancouver holds the title of the greenest city in Canada. Its Greenest City campaign is a huge, multi-faceted project that works on individual, neighbourhood, business, and federal levels. Its central missions include reducing vehicle emissions and having zero waste by 2040. Working in tandem with this is Metro Vancouver’s Integrated Air Quality and Greenhouse Gas Management Plan, which has the following three aims:
- Protect public health and the environment
- Improve visual air quality
- Minimize the region’s contribution to global climate change
As the first European Green Capital Award winner, Stockholm has been working to become one of the world’s greenest cities for a long time. According to a 2017 report by Environmental Management in Stockholm, the city’s air quality is the best it’s been for 50 years. The Stockholm City Council aims to have the green city be fossil-fuel free by 2040 with a strategy that primarily focuses on reduced fossil fuel use in heating and transport. The people of Stockholm have embraced this sustainable green lifestyle and have some of the world’s highest rates for recycling, eating organic food, and choosing bikes and public transport over cars.
Not only is Amsterdam one of the world’s greenest cities, it’s one of the most bike-friendly cities- there are actually more bikes than people! Combine that with the city’s initiatives to choose walking and boats over cars, and you’ll see why this city made it to #2 in this list. Even traditionally pollutant forms of transport have been revolutionised- Amsterdam has spent the past few years implementing a strong infrastructure for electric cars across the city, and the airport is currently striving to generate 20% of its own energy needs using sustainable methods. So many of Amsterdam’s green strategies have been adopted by its population, and it can be seen everywhere from the presence of solar panels on houses to the shops stocking sustainably-produced clothing.
Ranking at #2 for best air quality in 2015 and winning the title of world’s most liveable city in 2016, Copenhagen has built a great name for itself as a green city. It’s currently working toward becoming the first carbon neutral capital by 2025, using the CPH 2025 Climate Plan that focuses on the following four areas:
- Energy consumption
- Energy production
- Green mobility
- City administration initiatives
Copenhagen has also committed to building the sustainability of its infrastructure- a key example of this is their harbour clean-up program. In 1995, the harbour water was unsafe to swim in due to its being pumped with the wastewater from 93 sewer and industrial overflow channels. Since then, the city has upgraded its water treatment, sewage, and waste management systems, resulting in it recently being awarded the title of the world’s best city for swimming. This is just one example of Copenhagen’s dedication to environment that has earned it the title of the world’s greenest city.
From New York to Copenhagen, communities around the world are working hard to become the greenest cities possible. Fossil fuel reduction, sustainable designs and green infrastructure have led to improved air quality and better health across the globe. If your city isn’t on the list, check out some of the links in this article and find out if there are any similar initiatives near you. Recycling, green spaces, and fossil fuel divergence are constantly growing in popularity, and you may see these movements in your hometown soon.