Dubai, Abu Dhabi ‘most sustainable’ cities in Middle East

Sustainable Cities Index ranked how cities handle expansion of infrastructure and development

PHOTO: Dubai was ranked the 33rd most sustainable city worldwide. Credit: Shutterstock

Dubai and Abu Dhabi have been ranked the most sustainable cities in the Middle East, in a first-of-its-kind report by the design and consultancy firm Arcadis.

The Sustainable Cities Index looks at how cities are handling the expansion requirements of their infrastructure and vital systems. The ranking, conducted by the Centre for Economics and Business Research, was based on the economic, social and environmental factors.

Despite being ranked highest in the region, the cities of Dubai and Abu Dhabi were only mid-table when it came to global rankings, with the cities of Frankfurt, London and Copenhagen taking the top three spots. The UAE cities were placed 33rd and 34th respectively, while the top 10 cities were dominated by Europe, with seven countries ranked. 

The Qatari capital of Doha, and the Saudi Arabian cities of Riyadh and Jeddah were ranked as amongst the worst performing on the index, coming in at the bottom 10.

Although the 2015 report found that no perfect sustainable city exists, it acknowledged that city leaders are tasked with managing a complex balancing act between the three pillars of sustainability – people, planet and profit.

“City Leaders need to find ways to balance the demands of generating strong financial returns, being an attractive place for people to live and work in, whilst also limiting damage to our environment,” said Hisham Malaika, Jeddah City executive at Arcadis.

A number of the world’s economic powerhouses are becoming less affordable for citizens and residents due to the rising cost of property. Cities like New York, London, Paris, Tokyo and Hong Kong have seen their rankings penalised because of the cost of property. The report also showed a significant trade off globally between strong education and poor work-life balance, this was demonstrated most strongly in Hong Kong’s case.

“The trade-off between Planet and Profit is most starkly seen in the Middle East where Dubai and Doha score much lower on environmental factors than economic ones,” said Terry Tommason, Doha City Executive of Big Urban Clients at Arcadis.

“Cities in the Middle East have seen the highest real term population growth over the past five years, with Doha, Dubai and Abu Dhabi experiencing a rise of over 30 percent, putting a strain on city infrastructure.”


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