A new report, from Grosvenor scores 50 cities both for their “vulnerability” (for example, to climate change) and their “adaptive capacity” (their ability to react), producing an overall “resilience” ranking. The rankings are based on five categories of vulnerability (climate, environment, resources, infrastructure, and community) and five categories of adaptability (governance, institutions, technical capacity, planning systems, and funding structures).
The top three cities are Canadian (Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary). Canadian cities have a strong combination of low vulnerability and high adaptive capacity. There is a high level of resource availability, and Canadian cities are well governed and well planned. Six of the other top ten cities are in the US (led by Chicago and Pittsburgh in fourth and fifth places, respectively). US cities do not score particularly well in our vulnerability rankings. Inequality in US cities leads to social tension, utilities lack investment, and urban sprawl leads to the over consumption of land resource. US cities are currently weak on access to energy but that situation is changing fast due to shale gas exploitation. The strong US ranking is due to adaptive capacity, where resources, public accountability of elected officials and the technology of the US are dominating factors. This suggests that US cities will continue to see a pattern of effective public intervention, but often only after a major shock has occurred.
The middle group of cities, ranked 11 to 30, are fairly close to the top ten in their scores so should be considered resilient. Most European cities fall into this group. London is 18th in the ranking. It suffers increasingly from social tensions due to lack of affordable housing. However, it has relatively strong institutional capacity and the ability to track progress of goverment policies. In the sample, the weakest European cities are Moscow, Milan and Madrid; the strongest are Zurich, Amsterdam and Frankfurt. The latter are in highly developed societies, with a strong tradition of social equality and collective provision.
The weakest 20 cities are in emerging markets. Eight of these are in the ‘˜BRIC’ countries. So far, blistering economic growth has not fed through into the quality and long term resilience of these cities. The bottom 20 cities are considerably weaker than the top 30. Their vulnerability derives from inequality, poor infrastructure provision and environmental degradation, and, to a lesser extent, climate vulnerability. At the same time, these cities are weak in all of the dimensions of adaptive capacity. Our view is that the lack of democracy that exists in some of these cities, though effective in some respects, is a long term hindrance.