In a visually stunning and remarkably detailed 2010 report prepared by The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) of The Economist magazine and Siemens AG, an expert advisory panel ranked 17 major urban centers of Latin America utilizing an eight category green city index. The index categories include:
- Energy and carbon dioxide
- Air quality
- Land use and buildings
- Environmental government
While most of the cities individual ranking(s) varied by category, here’s a look at how they were rated overall by using the green city index:
Well above average
Belo Horizonte, Brazil
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Sao Paulo, Brazil
Mexico City, Mexico
Porto Alegre, Brazil
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Well below average
The key overall findings of the study include the following:
- Curitiba, Brazil is in class all by itself, leading all other cities as a sustainability pioneer.
- Brazilian cities are leading the way on policies.
- There is no clear link between environmental performance and income.
- An ad hoc approach is the principle method for addressing environmental issues.
The most exciting part of the report to me was to read about the innovations that these cities are employing to address environmental issues and enhance sustainability. Here are just a few of my favorite ideas:
- Sao Paulo harvests methane to power the city. One reason I like this is Greater Lansing gets a portion of its power from landfill methane too.
- Quito limits accessibility to its city centre on weekends to pedestrians and bicyclists. What a great idea, particularly in such a historically rich setting – the city is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
- Curitiba is the city that literally invented bus rapid transit (BRT).
- Medellin is using aerial cable cars (Metrocable) to link the impoverished portions of the city to the primary transit corridors.
- Several cities are reimbursing waste pickers and recyclers.
- Quito has implemented a strict auto emissions testing and monitoring policy with hefty fines for not correcting identified problems.
- Curitiba requires emission audits of all factories every three years.
The extent of detail and research that went into preparing the Latin America Green City Index is exceptional. It is hard to imagine a more thorough report. My only wish would have been to include a few more cities in the study. In particular, I think it would have been nice to include Panama City, Caracas, Asunción, La Paz, Guayaquil, and perhaps a few others.
My kudos to The Economist and Siemens for conducting a terrific and important study that demonstrates the exciting and innovate environmental programs underway in Latin America. All environmental and urban planners should find this report to be a very useful resource. One must say, that many of the efforts that are identified put many places in the United States and other nations around the planet to shame. Congratulations to those in these great urban centers that are leading the way!