photo: Mat McDermott
Ranking the greenest city anywhere is a complex thing, with so many factors playing a role, but nevertheless various people always try: In the latest effort by Siemens (and conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit) to rank Asia's greenest cities, Singapore comes out on top. Hong Kong, Osaka, Seoul, Taipei, Tokyo, and Yokahama also scored 'above average' ratings.
Karachi was judged 'well below average', with Bengaluru (that's Bangalore if you didn't get the memo about its official name change), Hanoi, Kolkata, Manila and Mumbai also not scoring well. Making average strides environmentally were Bangkok, Beijing, Delhi, Guangzhou, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Nanjing, Shanghai, and Wuhan.
Cities were ranked on Energy and CO2, Transport, Water, Air Quality, Land Use and Buildings, Waste, Sanitation, and Environmental Governance. Singapore ranked above average or well above average in each, though no city ranked in the latter category for air quality, sanitation, or environmental governance.
Praising Singapore, Siemens said, "Singapore City stands out in particular for its ambitious environmental targets and its efficient approach to achieving them."
Only Slightly Greater Income Helps Environmental Awareness
SmartPlanet on an important correlation observed in the data:
Higher income does not necessarily mean higher resource consumption. In fact, it increases substantially up to an annual gross domestic production of about $20,300 USD per capita--but then drops beyond that.
The reason: in prosperous Asian cities, environmental awareness is great and infrastructures are more efficient, according to the study's authors. In other words, wealthy Asian cities tend to become more sustainable beyond that $20,000 limit.
This is something that has been demonstrated numerous times correlated with life satisfaction, even if the exact monetary figure varies from place to place.
The gist of the past research: Past a very modest income that raises a person from absolute poverty and then a subsistence-level existence (remember that there are about one billion people in the former category and another four billion in the latter) additional gains in income don't lead to greater increases in life satisfaction.
The new wrinkle: What this data then shows is that though environmental awareness and more importantly acting on does increase to a point, somehow the accompanying levels of higher resource consumption that have accompanied increasing income elsewhere haven't always manifested in these cities.
Whether even this $20,000/yr income is globally and equitably sustainable, measured in terms of ecological footprint, is questionable. An interrelated and uncomfortable issue.
Waste, Greenhouse Gas Emissions Lower in Asian Cities Than Elsewhere
Other notable findings of the study, as touted by Siemens:
- "Environmental awareness is growing, and the majority of the Asian cities have already introduced comprehensive environmental guidelines."
- Average annual CO2 emissions per capita are 4.6 tons in the Asian cities; in Europe that's 5.2 tons per capita.
- The 22 cities surveyed produced an average of 375kg per capita waste annually; in Latin America that's 465kg, in Europe 511kg.
- Air pollution is relatively high in all the cities studied; average values in all cities "substantially exceed WHO standards.
- "Asia's metropolises have much catching up to do in the area of renewable energies, which on average account for 11 percent of the total electricity generated in the 22 cities."
Read the full report: Asian Green City Index [PDF]