With so much attention on the overall health of the planet, the uptick in civic leadership on the environment by so many mayors around the world is certainly a measure of encouragement. In the United States of America alone, the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement is in essence, a petition to the federal government and pledge by 700 small and big city mayors to ratify the Kyoto Protocol and surpass global benchmarks.
Sage city leaders from Asia to Europe have also made up for the monumental failure of national officials to heed the dire forecasts of the global scientific community. As a result, many urban areas have led the charge in singular fashion on the reduction of carbon emissions that not only meet, but surpass, the Kyoto Protocol. Other positive developments that serve municipal populations at large, from bicycle paths to public transportation, park space to green waste management programs, make these twenty destinations great places to not only live, but visit.
Keep in mind however, that designation as a “green city” does not imply eco-perfection in any way. It simply illustrates positive and often, exceptional, measures undertaken to reduce negative urban effects on the environment.
20. Kampala, Uganda
Surprise, surprise. Despite the inevitable suspicion, Kampala has been a recent stalwart on environmental policy. Yes, the capital of Uganda has to contend with some syndetic obstacles, such as overpopulation, disease outbreak and sanitation. Still, bylaws to reconcile urban agriculture within the city and national food system have had impressive results. New measures to tax traffic congestion, eliminate noxious taxis and introduce a modern public transportation will hopefully serve as a model for other major urban centers in Africa and Asia.
19. Sydney, Australia
Sydney has bold plans to become a green and global city by 2030. The campaign has become a lynchpin in Lord Mayor Clover Moore’s administration, with splashy aims to develop an integrated inner transport system, green networks and activity hubs within close proximity to residential areas. City-wide energy and water efficiency is another vital goal in the plan, which in totality, comprises almost 70Mb of documentation on the city of Sydney’s website.
18. Cape Town, South Africa
With grand ambitions to attain “global sustainability”, Cape Town looks to be a green host of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, when without a doubt, the eyes of the globe will be on the beautiful coastal city. Accolades from the travel and tourism industry rain down on Cape Town with enviable regularity and perhaps have some influence in the overall green direction of the city, as leaders seek to have 10% of homes under renewable energy consumption by 2020.
17. Bogot, Colombia
Another potential shock to many, the metropolis of Bogot? has had to battle negative associations with cocaine cartel crime and violence for decades. Again, spartan civic leadership was at the forefront of a crusade to reduce vehicle congestion, rebuild infrastructure to promote pedestrian safety, implement a modern public transportation network and rejuvenate park space. With superb bicycle paths and goals to eradicate personal vehicle use at peak hours, Bogot? is a green pioneer in South America.
16. Vancouver, Canada
Vancouver has been a vanguard in the realm of methane expropriation. The city has a network of pipelines and wells that trap the greenhouse gas at landfill sites in order to redirect it for commercial use. Education programs foster the development of sustainable and energy-efficient construction projects in growth areas of the city. Many older edifices in Vancouver have undergone vast upgrades in recent years that respect future environmental concerns and minimize energy requirements. Needless to say, Vancouver is one of the most beautiful metropolitan areas in North America and a surfeit of parks and recreation space helps the city adhere to green provisions.
15. Montreal, Canada
Already quite cycle-centric, the city of Montreal has plans to add 100 km of new paths by 2009 and a self-rental bicycle program in the downtown core. With green space galore and a superb public transportation system that includes hybrid biodiesel-electric buses, Montreal is a pleasure to explore. For the residential population, renewable hydroelectricity is the energy source of choice and is relatively inexpensive. City inhabitants also recycle and compost more than proximate counterparts.
14. San Francisco, U.S.A.
San Francisco inhabitants are among the most savvy in America when it comes to the environment. Long a bastion of progressive liberal expression, this should come as no surprise. The fact that almost half of the population commutes by way of public transportation, bicycle or on foot, is an emblematic statistic. San Francisco also has a ban on non-recyclable plastic bags.
13. Heidelberg, Germany
The small city of Heidelberg in Baden-W?rttemberg, Germany has some big plans to be green, real fast. Incredibly, the populace of 150,000 has had a choice since 2000 to procure electricity from renewable resources. The municipal administration of the pictorial town has made significant investments in green technology and sustainable energy as a result.
12. Copenhagen, Denmark
Copenhagen confirms the staunch bias that Scandinavia is avant-garde in the realm of social and environmental policy. A livable, complete, yet not inexpensive city, Copenhagen has big bets on wind energy and was the recipient of the European Environmental Management Award in 2006. Denmark’s capital city is also among the most bicycle-hospitable in Europe.
11. Oslo, Norway
Another capital in Scandinavia has made notable strides on the way to green status. Oslo city bureaucrats have taken up the challenge of sustainability and energy independence with atypical zeal. From electric cars to “eco-zones”, landmark principles in urban ecology and development to bicycle and pedestrian mobility, Oslo is a world pioneer.
10. Austin, U.S.A.
The capital of Texas is not the bastion of oil culture and a “bigger is better” moral code, unlike Dallas, Houston and quite honestly, most of the state. Rather, quirky, academic, artsy and bohemian Austin is on the forefront of sound eco-friendly objectives. The city is one of the top solar energy producers in North America and hopes to attain a benchmark of 20% renewable energy by 2020.
9. Stockholm, Sweden
Like Copenhagen and Oslo, the cosmopolitan capital of Sweden is a staunch advocate for the environment. The hearty populace favors non-vehicle modes of transport and the city has a wonderful bicycle program. Best of all, Stockholm contains the eco-quarter of Hammarby Sj?stad, a carbon-neutral urban development on a former industrial brownfield with 10,000 inhabitants.
8. Curitiba, Brazil
A lush, verdant metropolis of 3.2 million people, Curitiba suffers from a major dearth of publicity outside of Brazil. Green-aware associations however, know the city well. Curitiba has one of the best bus rapid transit systems in the world, with a spectacular 85% of the population on board. The layout of the city is a model for urban planners worldwide and in large measure, illustrates why everyone is green with envy about Curitiba.
7. Seattle, U.S.A.
Another Pacific Northwest leader on the environment, Seattle, Washington, parlays peerless natural beauty on the perimeter of the city into sound initiatives. These include hybrid public transit vehicles, green construction projects and investments in city parks.
6. Puerto Princesa City, Philippines
Home to Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the small city of Puerto Princesa in the Philippines is green in the most literal sense of the word. Known as “The City in a Forest”, city officials have done well to integrate the population within a lush environment unlike any other in the country. As a result, Puerto Princesa is not as vulnerable to flash floods in the monsoon rain season – a considerable problem in the Philippines.
5. Malmö, Sweden
Sweden’s “third city”, after Stockholm and Gothenburg, is first when it comes to eco-policy. Lovely Malmö, across the Oresund strait from Copenhagen, Denmark, has been on the cusp of sustainable urban development since the turn of the century. Pedestrian and cyclist-friendly with one of the most avant-garde cityscapes in Europe, Malm? has explicit ambitions to become a veritable eco-city.
4. Reykjavik, Iceland
Another steward of the environment in Scandinavia, the capital of Iceland earns international kudos every year. Reykjavik aims to be fossil-fuel independent by 2050 and is a leader in geothermal and hydro energy. If the municipal government can deal with noise pollution and fumes from the central city airport in green fashion, the mid-century objective will be even more impressive.
3. Freiburg, Germany
The Black Forest perimeter city of Freiburg is the romantic incarnation of everyone’s idyllic German town. Not only is Freiburg beautiful to look at however, the city is also a paragon of wise environmental analysis. From vast car-free zones to solar power adoption and a world class public transit system, Freiburg is a model for every city to emulate.
2. Portland, U.S.A.
A pioneer eco-city, Portland is the fresh epitome of a town that “gets it”. The first city in America to adopt a tough and exhaustive carbon-emission reduction plan, Portland has a popular rapid transit system, high-rate of bicycle use and over 370 km2 of park space. Perhaps more than any other step however, the City of Roses has a progressive populace that cares about the planet.
1. Växjö, Sweden
While Växjö is tiny in comparison to Bogot? or Kampala and will thus never face certain snags that impede green ambitions in massive population areas, the city of 80,000 people is nonetheless admirable. Municipal leaders enacted a bold forest and lake restoration project decades ago that has since paid lucrative dividends. In 1996, the city made a bet on clean and renewable biomass energy and is on pace to break with fossil fuels within the next generation. A network of bicycle paths is popular with the local populace and citizens can obtain a government subsidy for a number of eco-steps to reduce carbon footprints.