With the contradiction between energy supply and demand around the world, urbanization formed with high-investment, high-consumption, and high-emission has significantly impaired the ecological environment of China. The evaluation of environmental impact is a must for decision-makings related to sustainable urbanization. This paper assessed the dynamic environmental performance of 285 cities in China from 2005 to 2013 based on the Malmquist-Luenberger index, an expanded data envelopment analysis (DEA) model. To ensure comparability among cities, a two-step clustering method was used to classify all cities into three types. From the results, we found (1) 166 and 185 cities’ environmental conditions remained the improvement during the research period under the meta-frontier and group frontier respectively. (2) Low and Medium energy intensity cities performed better than high energy intensity cities. (3) The environmental performance under the group frontier was overestimated compared with the meta-frontier. (4) The trends of environmental improvement and economic growth are significantly inconsistent. Overall, all ways to decrease undesirable outputs and increase desirable outputs, such as technological innovation, industrial structure optimization and regional cooperation, should be encouraged to achieve urban, regional and country sustainability.
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