Dubai is the most sustainable city in the region, followed by Abu Dhabi and Doha, according to the inaugural Sustainable Cities Index from Arcadis, a leading global natural and build asset design and consultancy firm.
The Index, which was prepared by the Center for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) explores the three demands of social (People), environmental (Planet) and economic (Profit) to develop an indicative ranking of 50 of the world’s leading cities.
The 2015 report finds that no utopian city exists, with city leaders having to manage a complex balancing act between the three pillars of sustainability.
Across the world, cities are performing better for being sustainable for profit and planet purposes than they are for people factors.
Many of the world’s economic powerhouses are becoming less affordable for their citizens, with the cost of property in New York, London, Paris, Tokyo and Hong Kong penalizing their rankings. There is also a trade-off globally between strong education and poor work-life balance, particular demonstrated in Hong Kong.
Terry Tommason, Doha city executive of Big Urban Clients at Arcadis, said: “The trade-off between Planet and Profit is most starkly seen in the Middle East where Dubai and Doha score much lower on environmental factors than economic ones.
“Cities in the Middle East have seen the highest real term population growth over the past five years, with Doha, Dubai and Abu Dhabi experiencing a rise of over 30 percent, putting a strain on city infrastructure.”
Dubai led in the Middle East at 33rd, followed by Abu Dhabi at 34th, Doha at 41st, Jeddah at 43rd and Riyadh at 44th. Dubai also took first place in the region on the profit sub-index at 27th, followed by Doha at 30th.
Abu Dhabi topped the Middle East people sub-index at 25th due to success in dependency ratio and income inequality.
Meanwhile two cities in Saudi Arabia – Jeddah at 39th and Riyadh at 40th – led the region’s way on planet factors, scoring particularly well for drinking water and sanitation and low levels of air pollution.
Hisham Malaika, Jeddah city executive at Arcadis, said: “City Leaders need to find ways to balance the demands of generating strong financial returns, being an attractive place for people to live and work in, whilst also limiting damage to our environment.
“To truly understand how sustainable a city is, we must understand how it ranks in People, Planet and Profit. Then we can act to assess priorities and the pathway to urban sustainability – for the good of all.”