Expert Voices: Stefan Denig, Infrastructure & Cities Sector, Siemens

Four of the ten City Climate Leadership Award categories are open to both C40 Cities and the 120 cities in the Siemens and Economist Intelligence Unit “Green City Index.” In this post, Siemen’s Stefan Denig offers his insights and perspectives on Siemen’s Index project.

While C40 Cities tackle climate change through local action, collaboration and knowledge-sharing, we at Siemens find there is also value in rating the world’s major cities by their relative degree of environmental impact.

Since 2009, Siemens has worked to conceptualise and develop a series of city rankings called the Green City Index. It started off focusing on Europe’s 30 major cities and has since grown to cover cities across Asia, Africa and the Americas.

It has been an exhaustive, multi-year initiative, produced in collaboration with the Economist Intelligence Unit. The initiative has allowed us to develop a robust methodology for rating cities on a like-for-like basis across eight key pillars, ranging from transport and energy to waste and policy, in order to gain insight into how our cities are performing today (more here).

The initiative has sometimes encountered criticism, such as:

  • Such studies often not transparent about their methodology, or seem to lack one altogether (we publish ours in full). 
  • They only cover cities that opt in (we don’t ask cities if they want to participate). 
  • They don’t compare on a like-for-like basis (we only do that). 
  • They’re subjective (we base ours as much on quantifiable data as is possible). 
  • And, perhaps most importantly, that they’re simply not helpful or useful.

It’s this final point that concerns me most. Because I strongly believe that while no city ranking can be flawless in what it seeks to measure, it can still measure something interesting. And even just taking this first step is important, because, as C40 Chair, Mayor Bloomberg so often says, what gets measured gets managed. 

I’ve seen this first hand. One otherwise very well-ranked city realised it was a relative laggard on recycling rates on seeing its lower overall ranking against its peers; the city has since worked hard to improve its ratings.

Perhaps even more important is the fact that metrics inspire public debate on city issues, which in turn drives better results. As our first European Green City Index highlighted, there is a strong correlation between better performing cities and those with a higher degree of citizen engagement. Perfect or not, if these rankings help inspire greater public engagement on urban environmental issues, then we’ll continue to build and improve them.

A note to readers: Instead of ranking, C40 and Siemens have approached their joint City Climate Leadership Awards as a mode to champion global best practice, as C40 does not rank their member cities. To learn more about the C40 & Siemens Awards Ceremony and Conference coming on September 4 click here.