About the City Ranking

The European City Ranking is part of the Soot-free for the Climate! Campaign as well as the Clean Air life+ project. Our goal is to demonstrate that many local solutions to improve air quality exist and to find out how cities use these solutions, if at all. This ranking mainly focuses on efforts made to reduce particulate matter (PM10) with a particular focus on black carbon, as well as nitrogen dioxide (NO2). With this ranking we hope to stimulate the exchange of knowledge and experiences between cities throughout Europe and to demonstrate that meeting air quality standards is perfectly feasible. In this ranking we have selected western European capitals, cities with high air pollution levels and cities which were expected to provide good examples. In total, 23 cities are being ranked.

The city ranking evaluates activities in the cities along dimensions which are considered important by the European Commission as well as the cities themselves. In total nine categories were selected with measures which have a high potential to reduce particulate matter (PM10) as well as nitrogen dioxide (NO2), two pollutants regulated under EU air quality legislation:

  • Three categories focusing on technical reduction measures i.e. retrofitting or equipping diesel engines with particulate filters (DPF) and Low Emission Zones (LEZ), public procurement and non-road mobile machinery.
  • One category focusing on economic instruments.
  • Three categories focusing on sustainable transport measures, i.e. traffic management, promotion of public transport and of cycling and walking.
  • One category looking into reduction success.
  • One category focusing on information and participation.

The categories are not weighted but each of them is considered equally important. We evaluated the measures for every city by giving five grades ++, +, 0, -, –. The cities then were categorised in a system analog to US college systems, according to their performance.

  • Grade A if 100-90% of the maximum points were reached (grade A+ if ≥ 97% and grade A- if ≤ 92%).
  • Grade B if 89-80% of the maximum points were reached.
  • Grade C if 79-70% of the maximum points were reached.
  • Grade D if 69-60% of the maximum points were reached.
  • Grade F (fail) if less than 59% of the maximum points were reached.

Usually, the municipalities were being sent a questionnaire, the answers of the municipalities were peer reviewed and complemented by local NGOs and partners from the EEB’s clean air network. In the case of non-replying cities or incomplete answers, information from internet, action plans and input from the local NGOs was used. The aim of the project is not to provide a scientific assessment of the reduction potential of the different measures. Instead, relevant measures were selected and evaluated, whether they were planned and carried out in a meaningful and ambitious way. We welcome feedback from cities and from other actors on the results of the project. This ranking shows that many municipalities take target-oriented and comprehensive measures to reduce air pollution from local transport. We believe these cities are on the right track and we hope they will serve as examples to further improve Europe’s air quality.

The city ranking has been carried out by Friends of the Earth Germany.

For further information about the city ranking, please consult the background paper.

The Campaign

The German environmental and consumer associations NABU, BUND, VCD and DUH started the Soot-free for the climate! campaign in March 2009 to address the climatic effect of black carbon. The campaign is raising the subject of the climatic effect of black carbon in political and social discussions. The largest advantage of this alliance is its local and regional presence.

The aim of this campaign is the reduction of diesel emissions of vehicles (cars, lorries, busses) and off-road-engines of diesel powered rail vehicles, ships and construction machines. We call for all diesel engines to be fitted with effective particle filters. This campaign is focused on the European Union, the German federal government, the German Laender and local authorities.

For further information about the “Sootfree for the Climate” Campaign, please visit the website.

The „Clean Air“ project, supported by the LIFE+ programme by the European Union, in particular funds the work on the best-practice guidelines that are presented on this website. Clean Air is a project by nine European environmental organisations that fight for clean air in European cities.

Despite the existing legislative framework and the citizens‘ right to clean air, continuing violations of air pollution limits remain a problem in many cities. Air pollution threatens health, environment and climate. It‘s time to take action!

For further information about the “Clean Air” project, please visit the website.


City Ranking

Dr. Werner Reh


EU air quality policy

Louise Duprez

European Environmental Bureau

Campaign Member associations

Deutsche Umwelthilfe e.V.

Naturschutzbund Deutschland e.V.

Verkehrsclub Deutschland e.V.

This Campaign is supported by

Climate Works

ClimateWorks Foundation