Cronkite: AZ cities rank 43 and 57 in U.N.-backed study

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Cronkite News reported that a study by a U.N.-backed nonprofit called the Sustainable Development Solutions Network ranked the Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale metropolitan area 43rd and Tucson 57th of the 100 most-populous U.S. cities on the Sustainability Development Goals set by the United Nations. Criteria included poverty levels, water scarcity, climate action and economic growth.

Tucson and Phoenix each had just one green score, for responsible consumption and production. But Phoenix had four reds – for poverty levels, hunger levels, climate action and “strong institutions” – while Tucson also got reds for gender equality and decent work and economic growth.

Mihir Prakash, a consultant for the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, said the study is meant to work as an advocacy tool to help localize the U.N.’s environmental agenda.

Grady Gammage Jr., a senior research fellow at Arizona State University’s Morrison Institute for Public Policy, said the study was better than some he has seen, but not definitive.

“The thing about these studies is that they are just snapshots,” Gammage said. “The history is that cities have been able to deal with these problems over time.”

“I would say something about this study that is different is that it is mostly about social issues, looking at things like education and social policy when most of the systems I am critical of are looking at infrastructure,” Gammage said.

“In that way, I think this study is a fairer criticism, especially about education,” he said. “I think there are a number of things in here where Phoenix could definitely do better.”

The highest-ranking cities were San Jose, Seattle and Provo – cities that Gammage said “all seem to be affluent,” which he called “a bit troubling.” Gammage said it is important to note the socioeconomic disparity when viewing the ranking.

READ: Phoenix, Tucson get middling scores in UN look at cities’ sustainability