Singapore Asia's greenest metropolis

GREEN CITIES

For the study, which was carried out over the past few months, the EIU analysed the aims and achievements of 22 major Asian cities with respect to environmental and climate protection. Singapore City stands out in particular for its ambitious environmental targets and its efficient approach to achieving them.  In other Asian cities as well, environmental awareness and climate protection guidelines are playing an increasingly important role.

“The Asian Green City Index supports cities in their efforts to expand their infrastructures on a sustainable basis,” said Barbara Kux, member of the Managing Board of Siemens AG and the company’s Chief Sustainability Officer. “We want to enable Asia’s up-and-coming urban centres to achieve healthy growth rates coupled with a high quality of  life.”

The Green City Index examines the environmental performance of 22 major Asian cities in eight categories: energy and CO2, land use and buildings, transport, waste, water, sanitation, air quality, and environmental governance. The EIU developed the methodology in cooperation with leading urban experts around the world, including representatives of the World Bank and Asia’s regional network of local authorities, CITYNET.

Resource consumption

“The study of Asian cities shows one thing very clearly:  higher income does not necessarily mean higher resource consumption,” said Jan Friederich, research head of the EIU study. While resource consumption increases substantially up to an annual gross domestic product of about 15,000 euros per capita, it drops again when income rises beyond this. The explanation is that in the prosperous Asian cities, environmental awareness is greater and infrastructures are more efficient.  These cities are actively cutting their consumption of natural resources and are thus developing more sustainability.

Also among the study’s gratifying results were the following:

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, and below the corresponding figure for Europe (5.2 tons per capita and year).

The 22 Asian cities produce an average of 375 kilograms of waste per capita and year, less than in Latin America (465 kilograms) and Europe (511 kilograms).

According to the study, the biggest challenges facing Asia’s cities are in the areas of air pollution and renewable energies. Air pollution levels are relatively high in all the cities studied, regardless of income. The average values for all the cities substantially exceed WHO standards. Asia’s metropolises have also much catching up to do in the area of renewable energies, which on average account for 11 per cent of the total electricity generated in the 22 cities. By comparison, the average in Latin America is 64 per cent, due to the high proportion of hydroelectric power plants there.

The progressive rural exodus in Asia is unprecedented in human history. According to the United Nations Population Division, the proportion of Asia’s population living in cities has grown in the last 20 years by around a third, to over 40 per cent. In the last five years alone, the number of inhabitants in Asian cities has been increasing by about 100,000 a day – and this development is expected to continue in the years to come. In China alone, experts predict that by 2025, there will be well over 200 cities with a population of over a million each.

The increasing urbanisation is having an enormous impact on the infrastructure: with the additional number of inhabitants, correspondingly more energy, clean water, transportation and energy-efficient homes are required. The Asian Development Bank estimates that to cope with the influx, the Asian cities must, for example, build 20,000 new homes and 250 kilometres of road and provide transportation infrastructure  and an extra six million litres of  drinking water – all on a daily basis.

In addition, the cities are the main emitters of harmful greenhouse gases.  Cities are the great engines of the future, but they are also responsible for 75 per cent of worldwide energy consumption and for around 80 per cent of the human CO2 emissions. “The battle against climate change will be decided in cities. This applies to Asia, with its booming conurbations, more than anywhere else on earth. But only green cities will make life worth living over the long term,” said Barbara Kux, Siemens’ Chief Sustainability Officer.

Indian cities

Some interesting findings of the study as they relate to Indian cities (with the exception of Chennai, which was not covered) are:

Mumbai is the densest city among the 22 cities covered by the Index, with 27,000 people per square kilometre.

Kolkata has a relatively low level of water consumption, at 138 litres per person per day.  This is one of the best rates among the 22 cities, and better than the average of 278 litres.

Delhi has an extraordinarily low per capita waste generation figure of 147 kilogram per year.

Bangalore has some of the lowest levels of CO2 emissions per capita.

This is partially reflected in the fact that 30 per cent of the city’s energy consumption comes from renewable energy;  61 per cent of the electricity generated is from renewable sources, mainly hydropower.  

The overall results rank Mumbai, Kolkata and Bangalore as “below average” when it comes to environmental and climate protection, while Delhi is listed as an “average” performer.

The scope of the Green City Index is unique in the world, with Asia being the third region to be analysed for Siemens in this way by the Economist Intelligence Unit.  The series began in 2009 with the European Green City Index, which identified Copenhagen (Denmark) as the greenest metropolis.  In the 2010 Latin American Green City Index, Curitiba (Brazil) came out on top. Similar studies are planned for other regions of  the  world.

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