Benchmarking urban eco-efficiency and urbanites' perception
Urbanization as an inexorable global trend stresses the need to identify cities which are eco-efficient. These cities enable socioeconomic development with lower environmental burden, both being multidimensional concepts. Based on this approach, we benchmark 88 European cities using (i) an advanced version of regression residual ranking and (ii) Data Envelopment Analysis (DEA). Our results show that Stockholm, Munich and Oslo perform well irrespective of the benchmarking method. Furthermore, our results indicate that larger European cities are eco-efficient given the socioeconomic benefits they offer compared to smaller cities. In addition, we analyze correlations between a subjective public perception ranking and our objective eco-efficiency rankings for a subset of 45 cities. This exercise revealed three insights: (1) public perception about quality of life in a city is not merely confined to the socioeconomic well-being but rather to its combination with a lower environmental burden; (2) public perception correlates well with both formal ranking outcomes, corroborating the choice of variables; and (3) the advanced regression residual method appears to be more adequate to fit the urbanites' perception ranking (correlation coefficient about 0.6). This can be interpreted as an indication that urbanites' perception reflects the typical eco-efficiency performance and is less influenced by exceptionally performing cities (in the latter case, DEA should have better correlation coefficient). This study highlights that the socioeconomic growth in cities should not be environmentally detrimental as this might lead to significant discontent regarding the perceived quality of urban life.