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UK’s greenest city revealed – as well as the least eco-friendly


The sun setting over the skyline of Sheffield (Credits: Getty Images)

Sheffield is the UK’s greenest city – and Wolverhampton the least eco-friendly for residents, a new study reveals.

Ahead of the COP26 climate change summit, researchers ranked the UK’s 25 biggest cities by population for sustainability.

Green space, car and energy use, waste and recycling and air quality were key factors as the academics analysed 17 separate sets of environmental data in their comprehensive study.

Sheffield, known as the Steel City as it was once the steel-making capital of the world famous for its cutlery trade, takes top spot.

Three of the UK’s four nations are represented in the top three with Edinburgh coming second and Cardiff third.

Glasgow, host of COP26, comes 7th; Belfast 10th; London 11th; and the Black Country city of Wolverhampton last in the Green Cities Report by Southampton University experts commissioned by NatWest.

Sheffield city centre seen from the Broomhill area of the city (Getty)

One third of Sheffield is within the Peak District national park and 60 per cent of the entire area is green space with the city boasting 250 parks, woodlands and gardens.

The city is estimated to contain over 4.5 million trees – more per person than any other city in Europe.

Sheffield Council’s award-winning ‘Grey to Green’ scheme regenerated the city centre with attractive new cycling and walking routes.

It included a stretch of the former inner city ring road being transformed into an attractive pedestrian walkway lined with trees and wildflowers.

Renewable energy sites generate hundreds of gigawatts per hour of electricity in Sheffield, government figures show, as PM Boris Johnson pledges a green industrial revolution across the UK.

Plant biomass is by far the city’s biggest source of renewable energy, accounting for around 80 per cent, followed by solar power and municipal solid waste.

Residents of Sheffield also use low amounts of energy and drive a high number of Ultra Low Emission Zone-compliant cars relative to their counterparts in other cities.

Peace gardens and Town Hall in Sheffield (Getty Images)

The Scottish capital of Edinburgh also scores highly for its percentage of green space at 49 per cent, boasting 112 parks and 30,400 acres in all – 233 square metres per resident.

Edinburgh households generate relatively low levels of waste each year per resident (0.37 tonnes) – and 38 per cent is recycled.

The city has one of the lowest levels of car commuters and a relatively high percentage of Ulez-compliant vehicles.

London’s green credentials include 159,000 commuters cycling to work and hundreds of thousands of motorists ditching old polluting cars to comply with the capital’s Ulez.

The Ulez was this week expanded from its original area within the congestion charge zone in central London to include most of the capital – becoming 18 times bigger.

Wolverhampton, meanwhile, has just 2,500 acres of green space – 38 square metres per resident – along with high levels of car use and low levels of Ulez-compliant vehicles.

Lead researcher Professor William Powrie said: ‘Extreme weather events of the past year and the focus on sustainability ahead of COP26 have brought home the need for changes in the way we live if we are to mitigate the effects of the twin environmental catastrophes of climate change and loss of biodiversity.

‘We have run out of time and the changes need to be made now.

‘Our list will enable cities and people to reflect on their progress towards behaving sustainably.

‘Simple changes can make a big difference – walking, cycling or using public transport rather than going by car and using less and recycling more – but we all need to get involved.’

Wolverhampton came bottom of the list (Credits: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

NatWest commissioned the study to mark the launch of carbon footprint tracking on its banking app in association with climate data firm CoGo.

NatWest’s David Lindberg said: ‘It’s great to see cities like Sheffield and Edinburgh leading the way when it comes to creating a greener environment.’



The UK’s greenest cities ranked

Here are the UK’s greenest cities, ranked in order according to NatWest’s Green Cities report.

1 Sheffield

2 Edinburgh

3 Cardiff

4 Brighton & Hove

5 Bristol

6 Leeds

7 Glasgow

8 Nottingham

9 Newcastle upon Tyne

10 Belfast

11 London

12 Salford

13 Manchester

14 Derby

15 Wakefield

16 Liverpool

17 Plymouth

18 Bradford

19 Stoke-on-Trent

20 Birmingham

21 Hull

22 Leicester

23 Coventry

24 Sunderland

25 Wolverhampton


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