In focus

Which city tops the Schroders European Sustainable Cities index?


Amsterdam has topped the first Schroders European Sustainable Cities Index, closely followed by London and Paris in second and third place respectively. The 59 cities in the index are ranked on 13 equally weighted environmental policies. These cover areas such as renewable energy consumption targets, cleaner public transport, public electric vehicle charging stations, single use plastics, air quality, climate plans, carbon neutrality targets and waste policy.

The Schroders team identified these as important areas while reviewing environmental policy documents for cities, as well as European Union directives and goals which were used as guidelines for best practice. For example, the renewable public transport category scores cities on whether they have policies to use cleaner fuels in public transport.

Western and northern European cities dominate top spots in index

Amsterdam, London and Paris received similar scores across the policy categories that were included in the index, many of which were underpinned by comprehensive climate plans.

Moreover, the top spots in the index were dominated by western and northern European cities, with northern European cities falling almost exclusively in the top quartile. Eastern European cities were mainly ranked towards the lower end of the index except for Prague and Sofia.

“Both Amsterdam and Paris scored well on their ambitious 2050 targets for 100% of energy to come from renewable sources, said Schroders’ Hugo Machin who compiled the index.

“In this category, London lagged somewhat with a target of 15% by 2030. This was lower than the EU’s renewable energy directive, which aims for 27% of final energy consumption from renewables by 2030 and which was used as an indication of best practice to guide the scoring in this category.”

Leeds scores well, ahead of EU capital Brussels

UK regional city Leeds came in at 16th place on the index, ahead of some of its bigger European peers, such as Brussels which was ranked 18th. Leeds scored well across all policy categories with a comprehensive Net Zero Carbon Roadmap and a clean air strategy for the city.

By contrast, Brussels relatively poorer performance is due to a lack of a more ambitious carbon neutrality target than the EU (by 2050), whereas Leeds targets carbon neutrality by 2030. Brussels also seems to lack a clear renewable energy supply target compared with other, better scoring cities, and has a waste management system that does the bare minimum. Leeds also has a comprehensive waste reduction strategy.

Rome ranked towards the end of the index

Coming in near the end of the index was the Italian capital Rome, which was ranked joint 44th. Although this disappointing showing may be partly due to poor disclosure, there was no evidence of a policy to improve the energy efficiency of buildings or increase the number of green areas. Targets were not found for renewables as a proportion of energy supply or for net zero carbon. 

“The Index is important because it ranks the European cities that will provide their inhabitants with a high quality of life, whilst minimising environmental impact,” said Hugo Machin.

“This is in accordance with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 11. The index shows which cities are implementing policies which will help the transformation to a low carbon future. It also shows areas where elected representatives fall short in minimising environmental impact.”

“The Schroders European Sustainable Cities Index has been constructed using research of city-level policies, Hugo Machin said. “Our research was reliant on the level of disclosure provided by city councils, and therefore we would like to provide a disclaimer that there may be policies in place that we are not aware of.”

See the top 20 cities in the index here

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