The World’s 15 Greenest Cities

by Kevin Jon Heller

Grist, a website dedicated to environmental news and commentary, has released its list of the world’s 15 greenest cities. Despite the unconscionable omission of Auckland, I present them here:

1. Reyjavik, Iceland
2. Portland, Oregon
3. Curitiba, Brazil
4. Malmo, Sweden
5. Vancouver, Canada
6. Copenhagen, Denmark
7. London, England
8. San Francisco, California
9. Bahia de Caraquez, Ecuador
10. Sydney, Australia
11. Barcelona, Spain
12. Bogota, Colombia
13. Bangkok, Thailand
14. Kampala, Uganda
15. Austin, Texas

London, Bangkok, and Kampala come as a surprise to me, although that almost certainly reflects my own ignorance, not any kind of problem with the survey. Here is the survey’s explanation of London’s success:

When Mayor Ken Livingstone unveiled London’s Climate Change Action Plan in February, it was just the latest step in his mission to make his city the world’s greenest. Under the plan, London will switch 25 percent of its power to locally generated, more-efficient sources, cut CO2 emissions by 60 percent within the next 20 years, and offer incentives to residents who improve the energy efficiency of their homes. The city has also set stiff taxes on personal transportation to limit congestion in the central city, hitting SUVs heavily and letting electric vehicles and hybrids off scot-free.

And here is what the survey has to say about Kampala:

This capital city is overcoming the challenges faced by many urban areas in developing countries. Originally built on seven hills, Kampala takes pride in its lush surroundings, but it is also plagued by big-city ills of poverty and pollution. Faced with the “problem” of residents farming within city limits, the city passed a set of bylaws supporting urban agriculture that revolutionized not only the local food system, but also the national one, inspiring the Ugandan government to adopt an urban-ag policy of its own. With plans to remove commuter taxis from the streets, establish a traffic-congestion fee, and introduce a comprehensive bus service, Kampala is on its way to becoming a cleaner, safer, more sustainable place to live.

Given Uganda’s well-known political difficulties, Kampala’s accomplishments are particularly impressive. It’s interesting to note that environmental consciousness can sometimes coexist with ideological conflict; as I noted a few months ago, the LRA has pledged to protect a rare species of rhino in a park it occupies in eastern Congo.

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