Consultancy firm Arcadis has released the new Sustainable Cities Index which ranks the most sustainable cities in the world, with four Australian cities making the top 100.
Compiled by the Centre for Economic and Business Research (CEBR) for Arcadis, the 2016 index ranked four Australian cities, with Canberra placed 18th out of the 100 cities indexed globally, ahead of Sydney (21st), Brisbane (30th) and Melbourne (32nd).
The index explores three pillars of sustainability to develop an indicative ranking of 100 of the world’s leading cities - people, planet and profit.
The overall results in the index are informed through an analysis of 32 different indicators.
Arcadis Australia Pacific CEO Greg Steele said the index demonstrates that Australia is sustainably minded, but also reveals our cities could be making more effort to better plan for a sustainable future.
“Australia performed relatively well overall but further examination of our city’s rankings across the three pillars shows there is room for improvement,” Mr Steele said.
“Cities like Seoul, Zurich and Singapore reveal areas Australia can develop in order to build a sustainable future for its cities.
“True sustainability is about more than just environmental footprint; issues such as an ageing population and geographically large cities require long-range, integrated planning in order to keep pace with international sustainability standards.”
Mr Steele considers one of the main elements setting higher ranked cities from the others, like Zurich which is ranked at number one, is a highly coordinated network of public transport options.
“By comparison, Australian cities are characterised by ‘radial’ networks’, meaning people need to go to the city centre to go back out to adjacent communities.
“Combined with fewer, less frequent transport options, it’s no wonder a significant number of the population still choose to drive,” Mr Steele said.
Australian cities averaged 67% for work-life balance, 44% for affordability, and 71% for transport infrastructure.
“A theme we saw emerge across a number of indicators was Australia’s traditional preference for low-density living, which can inhibit housing affordability, access to services and even work-life balance,” Mr Steele said.
“Finding a comfortable ‘liveable density’ makes factors such as transport, waste management and connectivity easier to improve, increasing the overall quality of life in cities.
"Importantly though, planning for the quality of infrastructure is critical to make this work.”