Friday, 22 October 2010

Birmingham Jump Two Places in the Sustainable Cities Index

This week the forum for the future released their Sustainable Cities Index. The index, which has been running since 2007, tracks the progress on sustainability of Britain’s 20 largest cities. In 2007/8 Birmingham sat one place from the foot of the table in 19th place, however, last year it jumped two places to 17th place. Continuing with these improvements, Birmingham has jumped a further two places to rank in 15th place this year.

Positions are decided on the measurement of 13 indicators in three broad baskets: Environmental impact, quality of life, and future proofing. Birmingham was awarded its lowest score for quality of life, where it finished 19th. A high unemployment rate, low level of education and lack of green flag or green pennant awards were the major contributing factors. Other low scoring areas were air quality, household waste and local food.

Improvements could be made in these areas by investment in recycling schemes, which would lower the amount of household waste and create more jobs which would follow with more training and improve education. Currently, Birmingham sends most of its commercial waste to the Tysley incinerator, which has been a long term concern of Birmingham FOE because much of the waste sent here could be recycled. Although the council have alluded to changing the system with a Total Waste Strategy, there are no plans to remove the incinerator but instead plans may include utilising the heat generated.

The Big City Plan put forward by the council contains plans for more allotment spaces, but this is an area which needs a large amount of work. Things are already being done, however, for more information see this article.

Air quality should be a major concern for Birmingham, finishing 17th in the category. Major improvements could be made with changes toward low carbon transport, something that the council is planning on, ensuring that all Council vehicles will be electric or powered by liquefied gas by 2015. Although this would help in decreasing the air pollution in the city, it wouldn't have much impact on carbon emissions overall, so more work needs to be done to reduce the number of individual single occupancy cars on Birmingham's roads.

However, Birmingham performed best in future proofing climate change, finishing joint 4th and leaping 15 places. Scoring 21 points of an available 27, on the basis of the Climate Change Action Plan (our response here). Although Birmingham has scored highly for the councils plans, there is still a difference between a plan and action.

Newcastle finished top of this years rankings for the second year running, with forum for the future commending their ambition, “aiming to become a world class hub of science and innovation”. However, key to their success in the rankings was their actions. Birmingham isn't lacking ambition with the Big City Plan and Climate Change Action Plan, and if it can follow through with its plans then major advancements will be seen throughout the categories.

The breakdown of Birmingham's performance in the forum for the future Sustainable Cities Index can be found here.

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