May 1, 2019

How sustainable is your city?

A baseline and digital dashboard developed by Ramboll helps Denmark measure – and reach – the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. The first results indicate there is still some way to go.

By Martin Christiansen

17 goals, 169 subtargets and 232 indicators. There is no shortage of units for measuring progress on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. But how do they translate into actions – let alone national actions that can be measured in terms of progress towards reaching these goals?

To answer this question, Ramboll and several partners have conducted a Danish baseline study for global goal #11 – sustainable cities and communities, where relevant targets and indicators have been translated into a Danish context. And now Danish municipalities can also access a digital dashboard where they can track and compare their own progress on SDG11.

The baseline study was presented in early 2019 with the presence of among others HRH Crown Princess Mary, and a subsequent launch of Ramboll’s digital dashboard means that each of the 98 Danish municipalities can now see how they are doing on the global goal 11 which focuses on Sustainable Cities and Communities.

Room for improvement

Although Denmark is doing well on many of the targets, there is still a way to go. For instance, only 4% of ongoing construction projects can be labelled sustainable, and CO2 emissions are not decreasing. At the same time, Denmark produces large amounts of waste, and our consumption is among the highest in the world. Another practical example is that the price of public transport is increasing more than the price of other goods and services, so reaching target 11.2 “Create safe, affordable, accessible and sustainable transport systems for all” before 2030 is not as close as it should be.

However, in many areas Denmark is on track, e.g. concerning access to education, gender equality, efficient energy systems, green transition, sustainable urban planning and climate adaptations, etc. The share of waste that is recycled is also going up, by 5% between 2014 and 2016, meaning it should be possible to reach the target of 50% of household waste being recycled, already in 2021 or 2022.

Social targets

’Leave noone behind’ is the overall UN ambition. In the report you will find indicators of e.g. number of homeless and number of people in vulnerable residential areas so that the development in social sustainability can be tracked in a Danish context. One interesting indicator is for instance that women across all age groups feel less safe than men in the public sphere. This could indicate that urban planning needs to think this factor in, if all citizens shall be secured equal access to green public spaces (target 11.7).

The Dashboard – and next steps

With data and knowledge from the baseline study, Ramboll has created an easy-to-use digital dashboard that can provide municipalities with new knowledge and answers to:

  • Where they can improve their work
  • How they measure against other municipalities
  • How they measure against the national average
  • Which way the development is headed in the municipality

The dashboard shows data for the target’s indicators in your municipality, compared to the whole country.

The intention is now to create similar baselines for the other 16 SDGs. It is necessary to have all the baselines in order to drive a sustainable development in Denmark towards 2030 and beyond.

The Danish Architecture Center and Ramboll have conducted the project in collaboration with Local Government Denmark and Statistics Denmark, on the initiative of the 2030 Panel and to support the 2030 Network. The project is supported by the Ramboll Foundation and Realdania.

The project was conducted during 2018 and early 2019.