Glasgow, Scotland, received an F for its air quality policies. Shutterstock

There are plenty of surprises in this new clean air ranking, including that London and Paris are doing a better job of addressing air quality than Amsterdam is.

London is going up, Berlin is going down. Stockholm is staying steady and Lisbon is failing. A brand new set of European city clean air rankings have just been published—and they've managed to deliver a few surprises. The European Commission-sponsored study looked at policies promoting clean air (rather than air quality per se) in 23 E.U. cities. Part of the awkwardly named "Soot-Free for the Climate!" campaign, the rankings dredge up some familiar names—Zurich, Copenhagen, and Vienna are unsurprisingly ranked as the top three cities—but also partially shake up the E.U.'s green reputation.

(Soot-Free for the Climate)

For a start, sprawling, sooty London and Paris both managed to outperform compact, cycling-friendly Amsterdam. The latter city is stuck further down the list for its failure to implement a Low Emissions Zone for private vehicles. The worst performing city, meanwhile, was not in cash-strapped Southern Europe, but in the heart of the E.U.'s wealthier North, in a town that, by European capital standards, is barely a city at all. Luxembourg City scored lowest of all for its failure to meaningfully combat the dominance of cars. It's not that the 107,000-resident city has no public transit—it does and it has been promoting it—but more that its economy is overwhelmingly fueled by car commuters. With far more jobs than residents, workers drive in daily from the rest of the country and also from Belgium and France.

The study's highest rising and lowest falling cities can be found in the U.K. London improved the most, rising from an F to a C-. With better emission controls on buses and taxis, the city has also just extended its Low Emissions Zone to include construction machinery. The number of London walkers, cyclists, and public transit users is growing, while private car use continues to fall. Meanwhile the transit network and number of cycle paths is expanding—crucially for the latter, London is now developing its first properly protected lanes for cyclists.

Up in Scotland, things aren't going as well. Glasgow has dropped furthest of all in the rankings, from a D to an F. The city has postponed the introduction of a Low Emissions Zone, but that's not all. It also failed to legislate on particulate filters or to introduce congestion charging.

All those F's probably sting a lot, especially given that the E.U. is seen globally as being ahead of the game when it comes to walkability and public transit. But these scores could be partly attributable to the source. This is an E.U.-sponsored project, but the study's results were put together by the German non-profit Friends of the Earth. Rightly for an organization trying to push cities towards greener practices, they've set the bar extremely high—failure to score more than 60 percent on their scale means you fail. Still the rankings are a valuable record of the exact points where Europe's policymakers are succeeding and failing. You can read a full explanation of each city’s ranking here.

(Top image via Chris G. Walker / Shutterstock.com)

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. A photo of a Google employee on a bicycle.
    Equity

    How Far Will Google’s Billion-Dollar Bay Area Housing Plan Go?

    The single largest commitment by a private employer to address the Bay Area’s acute affordable housing crisis is unique in its focus on land redevelopment.

  2. A person tapes an eviction notice to the door of an apartment.
    Equity

    Why Landlords File for Eviction (Hint: It’s Usually Not to Evict)

    Most of the time, a new study finds, landlords file for eviction because it tilts the power dynamic in their favor—not because they want to eject their tenants.

  3. Equity

    Berlin Will Freeze Rents for Five Years

    Local lawmakers agreed to one of Europe’s most radical rental laws, but it sets the stage for a battle with Germany’s national government.

  4. A map showing the affordability of housing in the U.S.
    Equity

    Minimum Wage Still Can’t Pay For A Two-Bedroom Apartment Anywhere

    The 30th anniversary edition of the National Low Income Housing Coalition report, “Out of Reach,” shows that housing affordability is getting worse, not better.

  5. photo of Arizona governor Doug Ducey
    Perspective

    Why FOMO Is the Enemy of Good Urban Mobility Policy

    Fear of Missing Out does not make good transportation policy. Sometimes a new bus shelter is a better investment than flashy new technology.

×