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Original Research ARTICLE

Front. Sustain. Cities | doi: 10.3389/frsc.2020.556484

Measuring what matters, where it matters: A spatially explicit Urban Environment and Social Inclusion Index for the Sustainable Development Goals Provisionally accepted The final, formatted version of the article will be published soon. Notify me

  • 1Yale-NUS College, Singapore
  • 2University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, United States
  • 3Yale University, United States
  • 4Cornell University, United States
  • 5Data-Driven EnviroLab, Singapore
  • 6Stockholm Environment Institute, Sweden

The Urban Environment and Social Inclusion Index (UESI) creates a new spatial framework to measure progress towards Sustainable Development Goal 11 (SDG-11). SDG-11 aims for cities to be both sustainable and inclusive by 2030 and conceptualizes this goal in spatially-explicit ways. Few data sources or indices, however, measure its progress in both a comprehensive (global coverage) and detailed (intra-city) manner. To address this gap, we use publicly-available datasets including detailed census data, satellite remote sensing, and crowdsourced data that provide global coverage and regular temporal resolution to develop spatially-explicit indicators to measure neighborhood-level environmental performance in 164 global cities. The UESI framework includes 10 indicators that assess air pollution, urban tree cover, public transit access, and urban heat at the neighborhood scale, and water stress and carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels at the city-level. We also present a new method for quantifying distributional equity to measure how evenly or unevenly cities are distributing environmental benefits and burdens across neighborhoods. We find that the majority of the UESI cities disproportionately burden lower-income communities with higher shares of environmental burdens and lower shares of environmental benefits. This finding holds true even in cities that perform highly on environmental indicators. In light of the challenging, rapidly evolving urban contexts, the UESI framework serves as a way of addressing some of the central challenges -- data standardization, data gathering, and data localization -- around the SDGs.

Keywords: Sustainable development goals, new urban agenda, Equity, Cities, indices, Spatial Data, social inclusion

Received: 28 Apr 2020; Accepted: 12 Nov 2020.

Copyright: © 2020 Hsu, Chakraborty, Thomas, Manya, Weinfurter, Chin, Goyal and Feierman. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Prof. Angel Hsu, Yale-NUS College, Singapore, Singapore,