Bridging the gap to a sustainable future

 In recent years Newcastle has been notable for its high-profile football team’s absence from the upper echelons of the league, but there is one table the city is constantly coming out top of: the Sustainable Cities Index.

For the second year running, the North East’s biggest city has finished ahead of the pack, and in fact pulled further away from the sustainably aspirant cities below – securing its place through leveraging investment in the green economy, a 37 percent rise in recycling and composting, and the roll-out of 1,300 electric car charging points. 

And if anyone was surprised that the greenest city isn’t in the leafier districts, it might be time for a rethink. All 12 local authorities in the North East have signed up for the Covenant of Mayors, a Europe-wide commitment to cutting emissions of which we are a key advisor.

Another impressive result is Leicester, positively storming from 14th to second in the table for its work in encouraging new green businesses. London retains its fifth-placed berth from 2009. Again, a strong push on green business was mentioned, but the Capital was let down by its poor air quality and a rather large carbon footprint.

While fellow northerners Leeds came a very respectable sixth, the North is let down somewhat by Hull and Bradford, who showed relegation form in the ‘Sustainability premier league’: joined by Glasgow in the bottom three. Hull has languished at the foot of the table for three years now since a positively lofty 18th place in 2007.

Ben Ross, senior sustainability advisor at Forum for the Future (which runs the Sustainable Cities Index),  said the success of the five leading cities was the result of long-term, integrated and cross-sector policies.

“These leading cities have not always performed well… it takes time, vision and long-term planning,” he said. “What they have in common is high aspirations, strong governance structures and civic leaders who see sustainability as a priority.”

But there’s hope of a green resurgence from those cities that, on the face of it, didn’t come out so well from the survey. All the regional experts we talk to as part of our work with local authorities understand the benefits of energy efficiency on a local and regional level: cutting the bills of hard-up householders in their area, reducing fuel poverty, and of course doing their bit to hit the UK’s carbon reduction targets.

We’re here to help. We have given 144 local authorities one-to-one support on exciting sustainability projects and using our expertise in getting the numbers right, leveraging private funding and advising on ways of using best practice and economies of scale to do more for less on a local level. Our new ShARE system also helps spread the word of what works where. It’s never too late for a push for promotion.

The full Sustainable Cities Index can be viewed in here.