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Measuring Urban Sustainability: the potential and pitfalls of city rankings

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Measuring the sustainability of a city, and ranking the city against other cities, is increasingly seen as a way to achieve urban sustainability. A number of studies have highlighted how Sydney is unsustainable, with two recent ranking exercises appearing to confirm these findings by placing Sydney below many other Australian cities for urban sustainability. These two exercises are situated within international moves towards ranking cities. The article explores the assumptions and criteria used by Mercer in its Eco-City Index and the Australian Conservation Foundation in its Sustainable Cities Index. The conclusion discusses how Sydney could become more sustainable, and identifies why normative urban sustainability rankings should be recognised for their potential while simultaneously being treated with caution.

Keywords: Comparative urban sustainability; Eco-City Index; Sustainable Cities Index; Sydney; city rankings; measuring sustainability

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of Sydney, Australia

Publication date: 2012-12-01

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