By Mike Harris

The Thousand Oaks/Oxnard/Ventura metropolitan area ranks eighth among the 100 most populous such areas in the nation in terms of progress toward sustainable development, according to a new survey by a group that works with the United Nations.

The Sustainable Development Solutions Network has been operating since 2012 under the auspices of the U.N. Secretary-General. With offices in New York, Paris and New Delhi, the organization says it mobilizes global scientific and technological expertise to promote practical solutions for sustainable development.

It released its first U.S. cities sustainable development goals index, “Achieving a Sustainable Urban America,” Aug. 10. The index ranks the country’s 100 most populous metropolitan statistical areas for progress in achieving 16 such goals. The goals were agreed to by the U.S. and 192 other nations in 2015, according to the report.

“America is the world’s richest large economy, with the world’s leading technologies and institutions of higher learning,” the index’s executive summary states. “Yet, the U.S. is falling behind other countries on a range of indicators relating to quality of life, economic opportunity and environmental management.

“Nowhere is this problem more apparent than in American cities, which are home to 62.7 percent of the domestic population,” the summary, written by the group’s communications head, Michael Shank, says. “Sustainable development goals are an opportunity to address many of America’s challenges while building on America’s great reservoirs of dynamism and talent.”

The study’s lead author, Mihir Prakash, said “the index should help city governments design better policies to improve aspects of sustainability. So, this is basically a tool for that.”

The 16 goals are no poverty; zero hunger; good health and well-being; quality education; gender equality; clean water and sanitation; affordable and clean energy; decent work and economic growth; industry, innovation and infrastructure; reduced inequalities; sustainable cities and communities; responsible consumption and production; climate action; life on land; peace, justice and strong institutions; and partnerships for the goals.

The Thousand Oaks/Oxnard/Ventura metropolitan statistical area ranks eighth overall with a score of 53.98, which means that it’s 53.98 percent of the way to achieving the goals, according to the index.

The San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara area ranks first overall with a score of 61.04.
The Baton Rouge, Louisiana area ranks last overall — 100th — with a score of 30.47.
The Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim area ranks 30th overall with a score of 48.14.

In terms of progress toward- achieving specific sustainable goals, the Thousand Oaks/Oxnard/Ventura area ranks second in the nation for zero hunger, ninth for affordable and clean energy and nine for decent work and economic growth.

It also ranks ninth for reduced inequalities and eighth for responsible consumption and production.

The Thousand Oaks/Oxnard/Ventura metropolitan area is not in the top 10 metro areas for 11 of the goals including no poverty, good health and well-being; quality education; gender equality; clean water and sanitation; industry, innovation and infrastructure; sustainable cities and communities; climate action; life on land; peace, justice and strong institutions; and partnerships for the goals.

The mayors of Thousand Oaks, Oxnard and Ventura said they were pleased that the area was ranked so high overall.

“Sustainable development and environmental stewardship are top Thousand Oaks City Council and community priorities,” said the city’s mayor, Claudia Bill-de la Pena. “We are proud to have our efforts recognized, and our ranking by this metric speaks to the exceptional quality of life that our community enjoys.

“From our state-of-the-art wastewater treatment plant to our clean air and water, access to open space, and community partnerships that drive robust economic opportunities, we will continue to work with our businesses and residents to ensure a sustainable future,” she said.

Oxnard Mayor Tim Flynn said, “we are very pleased and excited to be a national leader in achieving sustainable development goals for our residents.”

Flynn said the city’s sustainability efforts include its Groundwater Recovery Enhancement and Treatment advanced water purification facility, a number of hybrid and compressed natural gas vehicles in its fleet, LEED-certified buildings and its designation as a Tree City USA.

“As mayor and a member of the City Council, it is great to have an independent group make this assessment and provide recognition for our efforts,” he said.

Flynn said he was especially proud that the Oxnard/Thousand Oaks/Ventura area was ranked second nationwide in progress toward achieving the zero hunger goal and ninth in working to achieve the decent work and economic growth goal.

“It shows we are making great progress in helping our residents prosper,” he said.

Ventura Mayor Eric Nasarenko said “it’s an honor to join Thousand Oaks and Oxnard as one of the top 10 metropolitan regions in the United States for sustainable practices. The recognition underscores Ventura’s and the region’s exceptional quality of life and our commitment to progressive environmental and economic opportunities.”

Ventura’s environmental sustainability efforts include “green streets,” which are permeable surfaces that enable rainwater to enter the soil rather than run to the ocean through storm drains, Nasarenko said.

“The city irrigates its golf courses using reclaimed water and feeds many of its trees and city parks with recycled water transported on storage trucks,” he said.

Ventura is expanding its use of dedicated bike lanes and pathways through its Bicycle Master Plan, and recently became the first Ventura County city to label itself “Bicycle Friendly,” he said.

“The city also remains committed to new economic ventures in the tech sector,” he said.