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20 Most Acclaimed Green Cities in The World

Green cities in the world are an increasingly popular topic on the list of things to aspire too. The world’s greenest cities score high marks in CO2 emissions, transportation options, water and waste management, and overall environmental governance.

Worldwide, the green economy is generating amazing opportunities for sustainable employment, community development, and creativity. These cities offer plentiful bike paths and thriving farmers’ markets to ensuring cleaner air, a city’s environmental efforts don’t just help the earth – they benefit residents too.

What is a green city?

Green cities, also known as Sustainable cities or eco-cities are cities designed with consideration for social, economic, environmental effect, and resilient habitat for current populations, without compromising the potential of future generations to experience the same.

20 Greenest Cities in the World

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20. Montevideo, Uruguay

Montevideo is the capital and largest city in Uruguay. Uruguay is a leading nation in south America when it comes to eco-friendly policies, with its capital Montevideo at the forefront.

This small country creates over 85% of its electricity from renewable sources, that include hydroelectric facilities and wind parks. Montevideo, itself is greatly known as a walkable, green city, with plenty of parks and other green spaces.

The city’s airport, Carrasco,  was also the first in south America to generate its own energy from clean renewable sources. Montevideo is a coastal city and part of its sustainable strategy is the protect the natural eco-system, waterways and rural environment.

19. Prague, Czech Republic

Prague ranks 13th in the world and 9th in Europe for parks, forests, and other greenery, that’s using the HUGSI index, which maps urban greenery. Prague did inherited quite a bit of its green areas from the past.

The city has done well in renovating the existing significant green areas, while also systematically working on establishing new green areas both on former agricultural land and unmaintained areas.

Over the last two decades, the city’s public green areas have increased by a further 300 plus hectares, which is a great achievement for the city and an amazing one when you compare to other cities. And the city isn’t standing still, with a further 35 hectares already currently in development.

Prague also has great infrastructure in place for transportation that supports electric cars and bikes and the target of reduction in CO2 emissions. Prague City Council approved a commitment for the city to reduce CO2 emissions by 45% by 2030 and eliminate them entirely by 2050 at the latest.

18. Helsinki, Finland

Helsinki has greenery covering well over 40 % of the city’s land surface, nature is a high priority in the city. Helsinki’s residential areas are surrounded by forests and parks, this together with the blue space such as the sea, rivers, lakes and streams act as reminders for visitors and residents that their everyday choices can contribute to the environmentally friendly development.

The development of Helsinki’s public transport infrastructure has helped to towards the statistic of 77% of all journeys in the city are by sustainable means, whether that’s Walking, cycling or public transport.

Helsinki is currently working towards becoming carbon-neutral by 2035, One of the targets to help achieve this goal, is to cut greenhouse emissions by 60 percent by the year 2030.

These improvements in public transport, recycling and reducing unnecessary consumption, added to future plans for even more green targets are all key to making Helsinki a smart and sustainable city.

17. Cape Town, South Africa

Cape Town is South Africa’s second largest city and is one of Africa’s greenest cities. Cape Town is always making positive environmental strides from pushing for more energy conservation and a greater use of renewable resources.

Cape town has plenty of green spaces including the popular Table Mountain National Park, and a lot of investment has gone into maintaining the city’s precious green spaces.

These Healthy green spaces provide plenty of places to grow food, and there has been a steady rise in the amount of farmer’s markets selling locally grown food.

The city has also put much needed funding into public transport to make it greener and more appealing to residents. Authorities have also introduced a network of cycle lanes to make it easier and more eco-friendly to get around the city.

Cape town was also the first city to have a commercial wind farm in South Africa. Cape town has also been awarded  ‘Africa’s Leading Destination’ accolade two years in a row for responsible tourism.

16. Madrid, Spain

Madrid has become a much  greener city in quite a short amount of time, since large investments where made into the city’s infrastructure, which allowed for the architectural attractions to be more accessible and plant life and green spaces to be expanded and improved.

Madrid now has some form of green space at virtually every turn, this is all part of the government’s plan to help against climate change, with further plans to expand more of the city’s parks and add another 22 gardens as well. Vacant land areas will have trees planted or made into community gardens and more green roofs are planned to be added.

These green roofs and spaces will keep the city cool, absorb carbon dioxide and other nasties from the air as the city’s temperature continues to rise due to climate change.

15. VANCOUVER, CANADA

Vancouver is a very scenic destination, due to its natural surroundings of mountains, forest and oceans. Vancouver produces the lowest greenhouse gas emissions of any city located in North America, Compared to other cities of its size, Vancouver scored incredibly well in C02 emissions and air quality, due partially to the city’s emphasis on promoting green energy and its use of hydropower.

As other cities continued building freeways, Vancouver remained committed to urban living, as evidenced by the development of Granville Island, a pedestrian-friendly peninsula where residents frequently visit large public markets and art studios. These Farmers’ markets also move around the city, helping residents find local organic produce.

Vancouver has recognised room for improvement, where its environmental footprint is currently three times larger than what the Earth can sustain. To tackle this issue the city launched the Greenest City initiative. The initiative has set realistic goals that can be achieved in the near future.

There is evidence that Vancouver is making strides towards creating a more sustainable city for its residents, with a 23% increase in green jobs and a 26% increase in local food jobs and a further 23% of Canada’s CleanTech companies are located in the capital.

14. SINGAPORE, SINGAPORE

Singapore is recognised by many as the greenest city in Asia and has targets of becoming one of the world’s most eco-friendly cities in the future. Singapore is also working towards a goal of 80% green energy for all its public city buildings by 2030.

Singapore has put much investment into its lush parks and areas of Marina Bay, a development created with reclaimed land that’s now filled with gardens, pools and waterscapes, that protect the city from flooding as well as providing beautiful recreational places for residents and visitors.

Singapore’s future Sustainability efforts include – the eco-town of Tengah, which promises 42,000 new homes across five residential districts. The development will be the first with centralized cooling, automated trash collection and a car-free town centre. The hope is this new eco-town will be the future example of how the Southeast Asian city-state can greatly reduce its CO2 emissions.

13. Canberra, Australia

The capital of Australia relies heavily on solar powered energy and wind farms to fuel their city. not only does Canberra offer a sustainable living for its citizens but it additionally has a programme to make sure that 94% of their citizens have internet access to make Canberra a connected city. The city also offers 48 per cent of its energy in sustainable ways and scored among the lowest on pollution rates in the global ranking.

Australian cities in general perform well, with ‘excellent’ solar power bidding farewell to energy options of the past. In addition, Australia is often regarded as a leader in sustainable development as it recognises the role it plays in the wellbeing of its people and nation.

12. TOKYO, JAPAN

Tokyo the capitol of Japan is known for being one of the smartest cities in the world, but also has aims of being the greenest in Asia. The city is close to having 30% of the city’s energy run by renewable energy sources, and is well on its way to the goal of 50% renewable sources by 2030.

Tokyo is one of the leading nations when it comes to public transport as well, with one of the lowest carbon emissions transportation systems around the world. When it comes to green space, Tokyo is full of large parks and many beautiful gardens. Ueno Park, Yoyogi Park, Shinjuku Gyoen and Hibiya Park are some of Tokyo’s most iconic open green spaces.

The city seeks to achieve its ambitious goals for a cleaner and greener future by utilizing state-of-the-art technology, implementing environmental policies, and cooperating with academic institutions, public and private sectors, and NGOs. A good example of this, Tokyo recently hosted the Olympic games, where a 100% of the electricity used to power the event came from renewable energy sources. Another of its 2030 targets is to have 50% of all new cars sold, will be zero-emission.

11. VIENNA, AUSTRIA

Vienna has won the title of European Best Green Capital in recent times and as well as being known for its sustainability, it is also known as one of the safest cities in Europe for you to visit. The city has 2,000 parks and other recreational green spaces at nearly every turn for visitors to enjoy, with over 50% of Vienna reserved for these different green spaces.

Additionally, with a growing focus on composting and renewable energy, 30% of Vienna’s energy does come from renewable sources. The city also ranks high for ecological travel, with more than 80% of Vienna’s population choosing to commute to work using either public transport, cycling or walking. And for these reasons Vienna appears on many of Europe’s top 10 green cities lists.

10. LJUBLJANA, SLOVENIA

Ljubljana is much more known for castles and other historical buildings, but it’s also known for being one of Europe’s most sustainable cities and was Europe’s Green capitol in 2016. Ljubljana has an incredible 75% of the city dedicated to parks, forests and other green spaces.

The city has also put a great deal of investment into cycle lanes in a really short amount of time, with over 230km of cycling routes around the city. The banks of river ava are reserved walkways for pedestrians and cyclists also. Ljubljana also boasts a fleet of free electric taxis servicing the city.

Ljubljana also has a Path of Remembrance and Comradeship stretching 32.5 km circling the city that is surrounded by 7,000 trees, this with the city’s green mobility scheme, where a much greater number of people choose cycling over cars, and Ljubljana’s sustainable urban planning make it a truly impressive sustainable city.

9. REYKJAVIK, ICELAND

Reykjavik, the capitol of Iceland is great example of a sustainable city that uses all its natural resources to its their own advantage. The majority of city’s electricity is powered by hydroelectric dams that are built on glacial rivers and city’s buildings can be heating from natural sources such as hot springs and geysers. This means Reykjavik can be completely powered by renewable energy sources, with little cost.

Reykjavik plans on eliminating greenhouse gas emissions by 2040. The city is promoting walking, cycling and the use of public transport, with millions of investment spent on the creation of cycling paths and the continued introduction of hydrogen buses, Reykjavik aims to treble the use of public transport by 2030. Encouraging electric car use is also a major target as well, Reykjavik’s 9,000 public employees have been offered free parking and lower taxes as incentives.

8. PARIS, FRANCE

Paris is seen as a very eco-friendly city, especially with having a climate change treaty named after it. The city continually implements initiatives that encourage sustainable transportation, with CO2 emissions dropping annually.

The city has recently turned 40 miles of road into bike lanes and banned cars from the Rue de Rivoli, with a distance that stretches from Louvre, all the way to the Place de la Bastille. Paris has also committed to a Further seven percent of the city – going car-free as early as next year.

Paris has plans to expand its green space, plans include four new ‘urban forests’ next to major landmarks including the Hôtel de Ville, the Gare de Lyon and the Opéra Garnier. The city has also pledged to plant more than 170,000 trees across the capital, with 50 percent of the city to be covered by planted areas by 2030.

7. Bristol, UK

Bristol is recognised by most as greenest city in the UK, outside of London and was also awarded European Green capital in 2015. The city has a rich history of environmental history, from the growth of its city farms to the UK’s first green bookshops back in the 80’s. Bristol also become the home of the UK’s biggest renewable energy supplier, ecotricity.

Bristol has a number of green spaces and parks, including large estates such as Stoke Park or Ashton Court, through traditional parks such as Victoria Park and St George Park, all highly valued green spaces in residential areas throughout the City. Bristol ranks really high on air quality and continues to grow the number of cyclists on its roads.

When it comes to waste, residents in Bristol recycle or compost over 50% of their household waste and consume below 3,000KWh of gas annually. These are just some of the reason why Bristol is a great sustainable city to visit.

6. SAN FRANCISCO

A pioneering city, San Francisco was making strides into sustainability long before it was popular to do so. The city was also the first in American to ban plastic bags (2007). The city has long planned to be waste free, with About 77% of the waste in San Francisco currently recycled and there are also large-scale commitments to solar energy as well. San Francisco currently boasts double the amount of homes using solar energy than any other city in the USA.

San Francisco has a thriving organic market scene, with many of its restaurants committed to sustainable sourcing. As well as this, the authorities are pushing forward bans on certain products that are causing damage to the environment. It has even pushed through legislation to ban plastic bags and plastic water bottles, among others. This is definitely a step in the right direction for more beneficial environmental results.

5. LONDON, UK

London has over 3,000 green spaces, 35,000 acres of public green spaces, including 3,000 parks, which makes up 40% of the city. London is home to more than 8.3 million trees and 14,000 species of wildlife. London is one of the greenest cities in the world for its size, with the city being home to  8.6 million people. The city was actually ranked as the most environmentally-friendly city by the IESE Cities in Motion Index 2020.

London is also a global leader in renewable energy, energy efficiency, and sustainable mass transit as pillars in the city’s net zero plan. London hopes to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. They’re investing in diesel-electric hybrid buses. They hope by 2037 all 9,200 of their buses will produce zero emissions.

4. Amsterdam, Netherlands

Amsterdam is one of the greenest cities in Europe and is very much associated with cycling as it is the city’s main type of transportation, with 58% of its residents choosing to walk or cycle to work, makes it the second highest city in the world. The city also has the largest number of restaurants offering meat-free alternatives.

There has also been investment in over 300 charging points, to help encourage the switch to electric vehicles and to help reduce CO2 emissions. The Dutch capital is aiming to reduce CO2 emissions by 55% in 2030, and a further target of 95% by 2050.

Amsterdam also has a target of powering 80% of local homes with sustainable energy by 2030, with More homeowners beginning to install solar panels. The city has also seen a growth in residents choosing to grow their own foods, or alternatively, purchase from local farmers’ markets, which in turn, puts money back into the local economy.

3. STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN

Stockholm is one of the most sustainable cities in the world and has such a clear plan when it comes to its sustainability goals, the city plans to become completely free of fossil fuels by 2040. One of the things helping them work towards that is bio-fuel generated from sewage, the bio-fuel is regularly available at petrol stations across the city. Bio-fuel is becoming more popular and with new policies that encourage a greener society, Stockholm is quickly becoming a smart, sustainable city.

Stockholm is also a leading city when it comes to shops selling sustainable fashion and vintage items. The city is also one of the only cities in the world that recycles all of its household waste. When it comes to restaurants and shops, information is clearly available, as to where food or materials have been sourced and if it’s by eco-friendly means.

Even Stockholm’s waterfront conference venue is built from recycled materials, and careful planning is taken to ensure the city’s main attractions and locations are easily accessible to visitors and residents by public transport, foot or bike.

2. ZURICH, SWITZERLAND

Zurich always ranks high in environmentally-friendly cities in the world. Over 80% of their electricity is now coming from renewable energy sources and Over 40% of the city’s waste gets recycled.

As well as focusing on energy efficiency, citizens and visitors are encouraged to consider their individual energy footprints, and reduce them via walking or using public transport and with homes and public buildings that comply with strict sustainable-building principles.

70% of Zurich’s hotels are sustainable certified and they offer bikes free of charge all over the city. Zurich is definitely a green city that every city around the world can learn from.

1. COPENHAGEN, DENMARK

Copenhagen has commonly been named the World’s Greenest City by many. The city is set to become the first CO2-neutral city and is expected to achieve this by 2025. Many of city’s residents enjoy cycling rather than using a vehicle, with only 29% of households owning a car. And for visitors, the majority of hotels offer their guests free bicycles. two-thirds of city’s hotels are also eco-certified, indicating they follow the top standards for sustainable energy, food, and design.

Organic eating is a new trend in the city too, with 88% of the food that is served in public organisations is actually organic. The city offers a high quality of life for its residents and has an ambitious goal to become even more eco-friendly. Copenhagen remains a benchmark for what can be achieved with a clear strategy and commitment.

What can cities do to become greener?

City leaders can institute the utilization of such things as local hydrogen fuel cells and local generation of power, and even smart meters just to name a couple of things. While this is not the foremost aesthetically pleasing thing that may be done, it’s something which will play a critical part in helping cities to enhance their levels of energy efficiency and to become greener in the future.

green cities in the world

Best Practices for turning your city into one that’s green is tougher that just having a decent urban plan and stricter codes. But they can start with having More Parks because 75% of the population of the world is expected to be living in urban areas by the year 2050.

So solutions for mass transit will also be needed to get people around more easily and quickly without needing their own vehicle are one of the key elements to a city going green.

And while we still have quite a long way to go when it comes to making our cities green, creating competitions and a bit of competitiveness between cities for first place can only be a good thing.

Conclusion

As the world becomes increasingly urbanized, building and keeping sustainable cities will be challenging. Even as urgent warnings ring globally on the climate crisis, C40 estimates that the world’s cities emit more than 70% of the world’s carbon dioxide.

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