Blog | 20 Jun 2024

The 10 cities with world-leading environments in 2024

Anthony Bernard-Sasges

Senior Economist, Cities and Regions

We recently launched our new Global Cities Index, which covers the 1,000 largest cities in the world and evaluates their performance in five categories: Economics, Human Capital, Quality of Life, Environment, and Governance. In Part 1 of our blog series, we covered the overall results of the Global Cities Index. Part 2 focused on the Economics category, Part 3 on the Human Capital category, and Part 4 on the Quality of Life category. In this final instalment, we turn to the top cities in the Environment category.

Environment and city prosperity are increasingly interconnected

With climate change at the forefront of international, national, and local policymaking, the relevance of the Environment category is undeniable. This category evaluates factors that a city can influence through environmental policies, as well as others that it can’t control, related to its predisposition to climate change risks. Both of these dimensions are critical when assessing long-term resilience, but they are not always congruent. In some cities, governments have implemented well-defined policies to reduce emissions, but the location of the city still leaves residents at risk of hurricanes, heatwaves, or flooding. Whilst other cities are sheltered from these hazards but have not championed sustainable policies. Our Environment category contains five indicators that evaluate both sides of this issue:

Indicators in the Environment category

Air quality: The mean PM2.5 concentration in the city.
Emissions intensity: The sum of CO2 emissions in the city divided by its GDP.
Natural disasters: The total number of natural disasters that have occurred in the city since 2000.
Temperature anomalies: The average yearly temperature anomaly for the city, calculated as the difference between the daily maximum temperature and its long-run average.
Rainfall anomalies: The average yearly rainfall anomaly for the city, calculated as the difference between the total monthly rainfall and its long-run average.

These indicators reflect the growing recognition of the interconnectedness between economic prosperity and the natural environment, highlighting the imperative for cities to adopt climate change-conscious policies and initiatives, and the hazards of not doing so.

The top 10 cities in the Environment category

The Environment category rewards cities that—either through policymaking or geographical fortune—benefit from outstanding natural environments. The cities in this top 10 are located around the world, although many of them are on islands (again highlighting the role that luck can play in this category). Suva, Fiji leads the rankings, in part because the city has among the best air quality in the world. As a small island city with a tourism-based economy, Suva faces several climate change-related risks, from rising sea levels to its reliance on climate-vulnerable industries. But in 2021, the Fiji parliament passed its Climate Change Act meant to both develop a more sustainable economy and improve resiliency to climate-related events, an important step if Suva is to maintain its environmental supremacy in the future.

In the second spot is Fortaleza. It and Natal (#4) are both located on Brazil’s northeastern coast and benefit from stable climates. Neither city experiences significant temperature nor rainfall anomalies, thanks to the region’s tropical climate. This has protected them from the more severe heatwaves, flooding, or droughts that are common in cities with larger climate anomalies.

Hover over the chart to see the Quality of Life scores of the top cities:

The island cities of San Juan (#3), Male (#6), Nassau (#7), and Port Louis (#8) all benefit from superior air quality, as sea winds help recycle the air over these cities. In San Juan, Male, and Nassau, the air quality is also aided by low emissions intensities since the economies of these cities don’t rely on carbon-intensive manufacturing or transportation industries. Port Louis, on the other hand, has a sizeable manufacturing sector and a major port, increasing its emissions intensity.

All three cities in New Zealand also appear in the top 10, with Wellington (#5) slightly outranking Christchurch (#9) and Auckland (#10). They all have good air quality and low emissions intensities, in part owing to the country’s sustainability commitments, including the Zero Carbon Act and Climate Change Commission. Additionally, they experience fewer natural disasters than most other cities, further boosting their scores in the Environment category.

Many cities in North America and Western Europe have good air quality and relatively low emissions intensities, but none appear in the top 10 of the Environment category, largely due to the climate risks they face. Cities across North America are prone to natural disasters, with hurricanes and flooding a major concern for some, whilst others face tornados or blizzards. In both North America and Western Europe, temperature anomalies in the form of heatwaves or cold fronts have also increased in frequency in recent years.

Some of the cities at the top of the Environment category are lucky; through no action of their own, they are located in regions sheltered from the most significant climate anomalies or natural disasters. But while the impacts of climate change may be unevenly felt, every city will face additional risks in the coming years. Those that implement policies to adapt to the effects of our changing climate and reduce carbon emissions will be best positioned to rise in the Environment rankings in the future.

Join the upcoming webinar to discover more key findings of our Global Cities Index:

About the Global Cities Index

The Oxford Economics Global Cities Index ranks the largest 1,000 cities in the world based on five categories: Economics, Human Capital, Quality of Life, Environment and Governance. Underpinned by Oxford Economics’ Global Cities Service, the index provides a consistent framework for assessing the strengths and weaknesses of urban economies across a total of 27 indicators. To our knowledge, this is the largest and most detailed cities index in the industry. To download the full report, please visit


Anthony Bernard-Sasges

Senior Economist, Cities and Regions

+44 (0) 20 3910 8018

Anthony Bernard-Sasges

Senior Economist, Cities and Regions

London, United Kingdom

Anthony Bernard-Sasges is a senior economist. He primarily produces research and forecasts for cities in Canada and the Middle East & North Africa. Anthony holds a master’s degree in Development Economics from the University of Oxford and a bachelor’s degree in International Political Economics from Georgetown University.

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