• With more than half the world’s population, cities will play a pivotal role in determining whether the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) realize their transformational potential. A lack of data from cities may nonetheless weaken the policies and monitoring systems needed to realize that promise.
• This issue brief examines whether “environmental” data exists for SDG 11 in 18 cities in Japan and 10 cities in the Philippines and proposes empirically-grounded recommendations to help close data gaps. Similar to other studies, the brief finds a lack of good environmental data for SDG 11 in Japan and the Philippines; it also finds that the data gaps are more pronounced in the Philippines than Japan.
• In the Philippines, the most significant challenges involve air quality, public transport, and green space data as well as systematizing and standardizing the collection of time-series data. To help close identified gaps, the brief recommends working with existing platforms to enhance intercity learning and strengthening support from national statistical agencies for standardized reporting of key data over multiple years.
• In Japan, the greatest challenges involve collecting data in smaller cities, especially for air pollution and adequate housing indicators. Our findings suggest Japan’s national statistical agencies should offer targeted support from the national statistical agencies for smaller cities and estimating figures from existing statistics for air quality and housing data.
• While these findings come from a review of Japanese and Philippines cities, they may also apply to other cities in the developed and developing countries. In all cases, cities may want to prioritize context-appropriate proxies rather than expending scarce resources on data with limited relevance.