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The Top 25 Green Cities in the UK

By: Kelly Fenn - Updated: 17 Dec 2012 | comments*Discuss
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The seaside resort of Brighton and Hove, famed for its beaches and piers, was recently crowned the greenest city in the UK. An in-depth study into the energy efficiency and sustainable habits of cities across the country found that it wasn't just the sea air making this area environmentally friendly - it fared the best overall in terms of quality of life, environmental impact and its localised green plans for the future. It was closely followed by Scottish capital Edinburgh, whose green spaces and high air quality scored highly.

How the Study Scored the Nation's Cities

The study, conducted by the charity Forums for the Future, indicated that while the environmental message may be getting across to the nation, some areas of the UK were performing much better than others. They scored each city in the UK in terms of:

  • Its quality of life: employment, health, education
  • Its green credentials: recycling facilities, energy efficiency, CO2 emissions, air quality
  • Its environmental policy: initiatives and commitment to environmental efficiency and how well local authorities were planning to combat climate change in the long term

Liverpool Comes Bottom

And while Liverpool may be this year's European capital of culture, it didn't fare as well in the environmental stakes, coming bottom in the study. In particular, high unemployment, poor water quality and lack of long-term vision for combating climate change means the city has a long way to go before rivalling other areas in tackling climate change.

Bradford is a Surprise Green Contender

In a surprise to many, Bradford - the traditionally industrial Yorkshire city - came out on top in terms of sustainability. It was praised for its green approach to recycling and waste minimisation and the regeneration of countryside areas that had blighted by the effects of long-term industrialisation since the 19th century. Once the dumping ground for industrial waste, the surrounding vicinity of the city has been transformed back into a green and eco-friendly area, attracting new plants and wildlife.

The Wealthiest Cities Perform Best

The study highlighted a distinct correlation between green performance and regional wealth. The top five cities - Brighton and Hove, Edinburgh, Bristol, Plymouth and Leeds - are all relatively wealthy areas compared to the five worst performers Wolverhampton, Coventry, Hull, Birmingham and Liverpool. Wealthiest of all, the capital, London, came out in tenth position overall. Because of its size, the city performed worse than others when measuring its environmental impact and CO2 emissions. However it was praised for its lead on tackling climate change with its forward-thinking approach to green issues in urban areas.

Conclusions from Forums for the Future

The charity, now planning to make its green study into cities an annual review, believes that while there were certain positives to take from the study, and some good practices taking place in some of the cities measured, there is still a long way to go before UK cities become truly green. They suggest:

"British cities still have a long way to go on the journey to sustainability. For example, while we can congratulate Brighton and Hove on coming first, it still has a very high environmental footprint. Cities like Bristol and Plymouth perform well on Quality of Life and environmental Impact, but poorly on Future Proofing. They may be storing up problems for the future, particularly if they experience rapid economic and population growth."

The Top 10 Green Cities

  • Brighton and Hove
  • Edinburgh
  • Bristol
  • Plymouth
  • Leeds
  • Cardiff
  • Sheffield
  • Newcastle
  • Bradford
  • London

The Bottom 10 Green Cities

  • Liverpool
  • Birmingham
  • Hull
  • Coventry
  • Wolverhampton
  • Glasgow
  • Leicester
  • Sunderland
  • Manchester
  • Nottingham

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