Ranking European Cities: Methodological Challenges & Opportunities in Measuring City Greenness

Nowadays, numerous rankings exist that order cities by measuring their greenness. Institutions like the European Union use those rankings to stimulate cities in improving their urban environment. However, existing rankings differ significantly from each other as to how they measure city greenness. Therefore, different rankings produce different results which severely limits their use for evidence-based policy making.


Position within Wageningen University: PhD researcher & lecturer research methodology. As a PhD researcher I will conduct an extensive research project for 5 years in order to obtain a doctoral degree. The objective of my research project is to develop a methodological sound instrument with which the sustainability/greenness of European cities can be measured. Based on this instrument, cities can be ranked/compared and city environmental policy can be developed.

As a lecturer I also teach (international) students of Wageningen University about Research Methodology. Courses include 'Introduction in Research Methodology for the Social Sciences' and 'Qualitative & Quantitative Research Techniques in the Social Sciences'.


Scientific research on green city rankings is scarce. Therefore, in this research project an interdisciplinary perspective of research methodology and environmental policy will be used to evaluate the methodological soundness of existing European green city rankings, to develop a new measurement instrument with which the greenness of European cities can be measured and to investigate the impact of green city rankings on environmental policy-making.

The project consists of four phases. First, existing European green city rankings will be examined by studying documents, analyzing datasets and interviewing representatives. Second, a new green city ranking will be developed using the Delphi technique. Third, the instrument will be tested for it’s validity, reliability and discriminative power by applying it on a selection of European cities. Finally, insight in the impact of green city rankings will be gained by interviewing city policy makers and analyzing policy documents.


  • methodology
  • rankings
  • city greenness
  • city sustainability
  • urban environment
  • environmental policy

Project team

  • J. Meijering, MSc
  • Dr. Hilde Tobi
  • Dr. Kristine Kern
  • Prof. Dr. Adri van den Brink