HK cracks top 10 on sustainable cities index

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Hong Kong is the 9th most sustainable city in the world, and the second most sustainable in Asia, according to consultancy firm Arcadis.

Last month, Arcadis released the Sustainable Cities Index that measures the social, environmental and economic health of 100 cities in the world. European cities performed the best with London, Stockholm and Edinburgh taking the top spots.

Among the 20 most sustainable cities, only three Asian cities made it to the list: Singapore, Hong Kong and Seoul, ranking 4th, 9th and 13th, respectively.

The measuring stick

Arcadis ranked the cities on three pillars of sustainability, people, planet and profit, to generate an overall ranking.

Unsurprisingly, Hong Kong scores high in the Profit sub-index, which evaluates a city’s economic health by assessing its business environment and economic performance. It is placed the third after Singapore and London – all well regarded international financial hubs.

The consultancy notes transportation, ease of doing business and connectivity of these three cities as assets.

However, Hong Kong comes in only 21st in the People sub-index, which reflects social mobility and quality and opportunity of life, for its well-established and accessible public transport services.

It performs the worst in the Planet sub-index, which looks at management of energy use, pollution and emissions. Out of 100 cities, Hong Kong ranks 50th partly because of resilience risks associated with its exposure to natural catastrophe.

Stronger in economy

Hong Kong has always been a top performer in the Profit sub-index, says Mr Francis Au, head of Hong Kong and Macau at Arcadis. He adds that technology and collaboration are keys for Hong Kong to sustain its leading position in this regard.

“The city should continue to cultivate smart technologies and innovations. It should also seize the opportunities to further collaborate with the nearby Greater Bay Area cities, especially in the tech sector,” Mr Au says.

“Key infrastructure such as the West Kowloon Railway Station and Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge, both opened this month, could bring closer economic integration between Hong Kong and the Pearl River Delta,” Mr Au explains.

In terms of policy, the city’s chief Mrs Carrie Lam earmarked HK$28 billion of funding to support digital economy development in her policy address.

Better lives and environment needed

Despite being a strong economy, Hong Kong is performing less well in improving living standards and addressing environmental challenges, according to the index.

“In Hong Kong, citizens are met with challenges in meeting basic needs, including affording housing, good quality of water and air. It is critical that Hong Kong addresses these needs as it continues to evolve,” Mr Au says.

The city’s soaring housing prices have made Hong Kong the world’s least affordable city for years. An average Hong Kong household would need to save about 19 years of income to afford an average-priced flat. This ratio was four times that of Singapore, and some 50 percent higher than that of Sydney, the second-least affordable city.

Other than limited land, which is often blamed for a shortage of housing, Hong Kong also has an ageing population that requires affordable housing and a diverse range of services.

An economy needs talent to be successful according to the Arcadis report. “To make it an attractive place for talent regionally and globally, Hong Kong needs to deal with various sustainability issues such as environment, wealth-gap, and affordability challenges,” it notes.

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