Innovative SF Environmental Policies and Results Lauded at Aspen Ideas Festival this Week
Mayor Edwin M. Lee today announced that San Francisco has received the distinction as the “greenest” city in North America in the first North American Green Cities Index.
Announced at the 2011 Aspen Ideas Festival, San Francisco was ranked ahead of New York, Seattle, Denver and Boston as the top five “greenest” U.S. cities. The research study conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) and commissioned by Siemens assesses and compares 27 major U.S. and Canadian cities on environmental performance and policies across nine categories – CO2 emissions, energy, land use, buildings, transport, water, waste, air quality and environmental governance.
“It’s certainly an honor for San Francisco to be named the ‘greenest’ city in North America, and it’s great to get recognition for the good work San Franciscans have done,” said Mayor Lee.
San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, center
“San Francisco is committed to working toward a greener, healthier future for the City, and I think there’s nowhere else on earth where you will find more environmentally involved residents, businesses and visitors than in San Francisco.”
“The Green Cities Index demonstrates that America’s cities are the driving force behind the nation’s sustainability efforts,” said Siemens Corp President/CEO Eric Spiegel.
“Despite the fact that we do not have a federal climate policy in the United States—and no federal carbon standard—21 of the 27 cities in the index have already set their own carbon reduction targets. Cities are creating comprehensive sustainability plans, utilizing current technology and proving everyday that we don’t have to wait to create a more sustainable future.”
San Francisco ranked first overall in the Index due to an impressive performance across the board, with a top five ranking in six of its nine categories. San Francisco’s strongest area is waste, where it led the pack with efforts such as being the first U.S. city to mandate composting and recycling for residents, food establishments and events in 2009. The city also claimed second place in buildings, transport and air, bolstered by strong green building and energy efficiency building standards, the second longest public transport network, and low levels of all pollutants measured in the Index.
“San Francisco’s sustainability programs deliver on multiple levels simultaneously,” said Environment Director Melanie Nutter.
Melanie Nutter, far right
“They need to be good for the environment, but in order to have community-wide impact, they also have to address the economic needs of individuals, improve the local economy, and reverse social inequalities. You can see that commitment in play from our recycling and toxics reduction programs to our all-out effort to shut down gas-burning power plants operating within city limits.”
The nine categories of the U.S. and Canada Green City Index are based on 31 individual indicators — 16 of which are quantitative (e.g. consumption of water and electricity per capita, recycling rate, and use of public transportation) and 15 qualitative (e.g. CO2 reduction targets, efficiency standards and incentives for buildings, and environmental governance). A key element of the study is the comparability of the results from each city — within the individual categories and in the overall evaluation. The study also includes in-depth city portraits that reveal the strengths and weaknesses of each urban center, while also highlighting initiatives and projects from which other cities can learn.
The study of U.S. and Canadian cities provides important key findings. Cities that performed best in the rankings are the ones that have comprehensive sustainability plans that encompass every aspect of creating a greener future including transportation, land use, energy use, carbon dioxide emissions, and water. While there is a correlation between wealth and environmental performance, it is weaker in the U.S. and Canada than in Europe and Asia.
“City budgets are as tight as they have ever been, but mayors are leading the charge around making their cities more sustainable because they know they can’t afford to push these decisions off until tomorrow,” said Siemens Corp Chief Sustainability Officer for the Americas Alison Taylor.
“Our goal with the Green City Index is to identify best practices, advance good ideas and provide a baseline for cities to help them set targets for themselves so that they can serve as role models for others with their innovative policies.”
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