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Multidimensional Sustainability Benchmarking for Megacities – Stanislav Shmelev, Environment Europe Ltd & University of Edinburgh

By on September 29, 2016
Lecturer - profile

Stanislav Shmelev


Main affiliation
Environment Europe Ltd & University of Edinburgh


United Kingdom




Dr Stanislav Shmelev is Director of the Oxford-based think tank, Environment Europe Ltd. An ecological economist, PhD in Ecological Economics and Mathematical Methods (2003), he has over 15 years of experience in teaching, research, consultancy and international project management through
work with University of Oxford (UK), University of Edinburgh (UK), University of Geneva (Switzerland), University Paris Dauphine (France), National University of Colombia (Colombia), and international organizations: UNEP, UNDP, IUCN, OECD and businesses. The
main areas of specialization include: ecological economics, green economy, sustainable cities,
economics of the European Union, environmentally extended input-output modelling,
sustainability assessment, multi-criteria decision aid, ecological-economic modelling at
international, national and regional levels, sustainable urban and regional development, issues
of environmental policy in sustainable energy and waste management. Dr Shmelev is the author and editor of ‘Green Economy Reader’ (Springer, 2016) and ‘Sustainability Analysis: an Interdisciplinary Approach’ (Palgrave, 2012) and an author of ‘Ecological Economics: Sustainability in Practice’ (Springer, 2012). The Handelsblatt Newspaper named Dr Shmelev one in top four most promising young economists in the world at the Institute for New Economic Thinking ‘Changing the Guard’ conference in Hong Kong in 2013.

English Proficiency
Mother tongue

Previous experience of recording video lectures

Experience of lecturing to large audiences

Experience of lecturing to large audiences

Frequency of lectures
Very often

Recording opportunities
Habitat III attendance and availability
17-20 October


Main themes
Sustainable Cities
Social Inclusion

Multidimensional Sustainability Benchmarking for Megacities

The lecture will explore multidimensional sustainability assessment options for megacities, including: London, New York, Hong Kong, Los Angeles, Sao Paolo, Rio de Janeiro, Paris, Berlin, Singapore, Shanghai, Sydney and Tokyo to assess performance on economic, environmental and social performance indicators.

Issues which the lecture addresses
Urban sustainability assessment is required for the purposes of establishing strategic directions for ‘greening’ our cities to reduce the environmental impact of their performance, improve employment and economic viability and enhance the quality of life. This paper considers large world cities: London, New York, Hong Kong, Los Angeles, Sao Paolo, Rio de Janeiro, Paris, Berlin, Singapore, Shanghai, Sydney and Tokyo. To assess urban sustainability performance, the paper applied multi-criteria decision aid tools to compare the cities on the range of dimensions. The tools chosen for this assessment are ELECTRE III, NAIADE and APIS. The results have shown that Singapore dominates the sustainability rankings in most multi-criteria applications, showing particular strength in economic and environmental dimensions and a slightly less strong performance in the social dimension according to the APIS results. The paper explores innovative sustainability strategy and new governance structures in Singapore and discusses the reasons for such success.

Short analysis of the above issues
Urban sustainability is understood as a multi-dimensional capacity of a city to operate successfully in economic, social and environmental domains simultaneously. This topic receives a lot of attention in the EU, USA and increasingly China and Latin America since the Rio Summit of 1992, the Rio+20 Summit in 2012 and, especially, in the light of the forthcoming HABITAT III forum to be held 17-20 October 2016 in Quito, Ecuador. The new UN Habitat World Cities Report firmly links the New Urban Agenda with Sustainable Development Goals (UN Habitat, 2016). UNEP Green Economy Report highlighted urban sustainability as one of its important dimensions (UNEP 2011). Major city governments formed a C40 partnership to make important steps forward in climate change mitigation at the urban scale. A new ISO 37120 standard has been developed to address the sustainable development of communities (ISO, 2014). There is considerable literature on international sustainable urban policy developments (Hall, 2014), (Hall et al, 2010), (Hall and Pfeiffer, 2004), Girardet (2014). A new interdisciplinary perspective on a sustainable city, representing it as a system of interacting dimensions: urban planning, energy, transport, material flows, green space, etc. has been proposed in (Shmelev and Shmeleva, 2009). Such a multidimensional nature of an urban system determined the choice of a main analytical approach for sustainability assessment employed in the present article, namely the methodology of Multi-Criteria Decision Aid (Roy, 1996).

Propositions for addressing the issue
* This paper aims to consider twelve major megacities to identify the sustainability leaders as well as cities experiencing the strongest sustainability challenges.
*First, we analyse a large set of twenty indicators describing the twelve leading megacities in Europe, North and South America, Asia and Oceania. We perform the Principal Component Analysis and identify major relationships between social, economic and environmental factors. We then reduce the set of indicators and perform Multi-Criteria Analysis using different tools.
* Due to the multi-dimensional nature of sustainability, we propose to use Multi-Criteria Decision Aid tools to perform sustainability benchmarking for megacities;
* We test the performance of several analytical Multi-Criteria Decision Aid (MCDA) tools: ELimination Et Choix Traduisant la REalité (ELECTRE III), Novel Approach to Imprecise Assessment and Decision Environment (NAIADE) and Aggregated Preference Indices System (APIS);
* We perform sensitivity analysis and test various policy priorities, which leads to identification of Singapore featuring consistently high in most sustainability assessment settings as one of the most sustainable among the cities in the pool of 12 according to the set of selected indicators;
*We conclude with a description of sustainability strategies and policies adopted in the leading city of our pool, which could help us to understand its success.

Additional Reading Materials
Shmelev S.E. (ed) (2016) Green Economy Reader: Lectures in Ecological Economics and Sustainability, Springer, 463 pp.
Shmelev S.E. (2012) Ecological Economics: Sustainability in Practice, Springer, 248 pp.