In July, the Sustainable Development Solutions United States Network released its 2019 US Cities Sustainable Development Report as part of a global initiative by the United Nations to achieve sustainability benchmarks by 2030. In 2015, 193 U.N. member countries adopted a series of goals for sustainable development to be used as a blueprint for long term planning.
The report examines the progress made by 105 of the largest cities in the U.S. in terms of reaching these goals, and the main takeaway was that none of them are on track to meet the 2030 deadline. Overall the European Union is performing better than the U.S.
Most notably, out of the 105 cities, the San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara metro area ranked the second highest in terms of overall sustainability performance with a score of 67.9 out of 100, just behind San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, which came in at 69.7. The worst performing area was Baton Rouge, Louisiana with a score of 30.3. Eleven cities earned 40 or below. A total of 101 cities scored 0 in at least one category of sustainability.
“The results show that there will be significant work to do across the board if the Sustainable Development Goals are to be achieved by 2030, as cities on average scored only 48.9 percent,” stated the report’s authors.
Despite Silicon Valley’s relatively strong performance, the results of many of the indices were dismal. In the categories of climate action and, clean water and sanitation, the area received poor marks. Santa Clara is currently updating its Climate Action Plan, so it will be interesting to see if this impacts performance in future reports.
The metro scored well in terms of lower poverty rates, however it appears that the benchmark is based on federal poverty data and doesn’t take into consideration the region’s high cost of living. Other high scores were for the categories of health, economic growth, and innovation and infrastructure. In terms of gender equality, San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara scored poor-to-moderate. Sunnyvale-Santa Clara had one of the worst scores in terms of the gender wage gap of all U.S. cities.
Overall San Francisco and Silicon Valley scored similarly for most categories though the former did better in terms of gender equality, clean water and sanitation, and climate action. Silicon Valley performed better in the category of responsible consumption and production.
The report concluded that much needs to be done if the goals are to be achieved by 2030. This conclusion is highlighted by findings that in 18 cities, 10 percent of children live below the poverty line. In 64 cities across the nation, there’s a rate of incarceration that’s higher than any country in the world, excluding the U.S.
In terms of national trends, the cities examined averaged 47.9 in poverty levels, 27.5 in terms of food security and 41.8 in school poverty. The average score for the gender wage gap was 34.3, broadband access came in at 34.5 and levels of racial segregation at 55.5. On average, cities scored 70 in terms of overcrowded housing.