Copenhagen named greenest city in Europe

Posted: 8 December 2009

Copenhagen is the "greenest" major city in Europe, followed by Stockholm, Oslo, Vienna, and Amsterdam, according to the European Green City Index presented during the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. London ranks eleventh.

The Index is a unique study of the environmental sustainability of 30 major cities in 30 European countries, analysing their achievements in environmental and climate protection. It was developed by the Economist Intelligence Unit and written in co-operation with Siemens.

Copenhagen - greenest city
Copenhagen - greenest city
The City of Copenhagen is small by European standards, being home to just over 500,000 people, or around one-tenth of Denmark's population. Copenhagen achieves the highest ranking in the European Green City Index, with a score of 87.31 out of 100. The city performs well in all eight categories of the index, and is ranked joint first in the environmental governance sub-category.
The study looks at eight categories: CO2 emissions; energy; buildings; transportation; water; air quality; waste and land use; and environmental governance. "We support the cities' efforts to achieve efficient climate protection by providing them with comprehensive standardised data," said Dr. Reinhold Achatz, head of Corporate Research and Technologies, at Siemens AG which presented the results.

"Our analysis indicates that European cities are leaders in environmental performance. In particular, almost all of the 30 cities - which are home to a total of nearly 75 million inhabitants - average lower per capita CO2 emissions than EU countries," said James Watson, managing editor at the Economist Intelligence Unit and the editor of the study.

Reduced emissions

The best city in this category, Oslo, emits only 2.5 tons of CO2 per capita and per year, far less than the EU average of 8.5 tons. What's more, almost all of the cities have already developed and partially implemented an environmental strategy.

"All of the cities face formidable challenges, however. For example, renewable sources of energy currently account for only around seven per cent of these cities' energy supply, which is significantly under the target of 20 per cent set by the EU for 2020," said Watson. Furthermore, the average share of waste that is recycled is less than 20 per cent, while one in four litres of water is wasted through leakage. Scandinavian cities generally achieve high scores. Awareness of environmental protection in these cities has been strong for years, which is reflected in the cities' ambitious climate targets. Copenhagen, for example, aims to be carbon free by 2025. In Scandinavian countries, GDP per capita income is above average, and these wealthy countries have invested substantially in environmental protection.

So far, Eastern European cities generally rank lower. This is largely due to a comparatively low gross domestic product and historic burdens, including the lack of attention paid to environmental protection in previous decades. In particular, high energy consumption in buildings and outdated infrastructures reflect this. In the area of public transportation, however, Eastern European cities often score above average: Kiev, which is ranked 30th overall, is estimated to have the highest percentage of people using public transport to commute.

Marked improvements

The eight categories in the Index are based on 30 individual indicators - 16 of which are quantitative (e.g. consumption of water and energy per capita, recycling rate, and use of public transportation) and 14 qualitative (e.g. CO2 reduction targets, efficiency standards for buildings, and support for environmental protection measures).

"As far as possible, the research is based on data from official sources, such as municipal statistics departments and city governments," said Watson. The study also includes in-depth city portraits that reveal the strengths and weaknesses of each urban centre, while also highlighting initiatives and projects from which other cities can learn. "A key element of the study is the comparability of the results from each city - within both the individual categories and in the overall evaluation," added Watson.

London, which returned a score of 71.56 out of 100, "clearly shows that it is making marked improvements in the way it tackles environmental challenges."

Rated tenth overall in the categories for energy, buildings and CO2 emissions, the city is well placed to achieve its aims to reduce emissions by 60 per cent from 1990 levels by 2025 and generate enough energy from renewable sources to power the equivalent of 100,000 homes by 2010, said Watson. Although ranked eighth in the category for water, one of its strongest areas, London has a lower performance in transport - "a trend that should be reversed with the planned upgrades to the London commuter rail network in 2010."

Siemens is supplying the estimated 341 turbines to power London Array that when completed, will be the largest offshore wind farm in the world. The project will supply enough power for 750,000 homes - about one-quarter of the homes in Greater London - and displace 1.9 million tonnes of CO2 emissions each year.