New List Released of Nations' Sustainability Success

New List of Nations' Sustainability Success

Which countries are leading the world in going green? It depends on how you measure it, which is difficult when different nations use different tactics to tackle the climate crisis. Those that made the list of the most eco-friendly countries, published by Newsweek, are presented according to a number of different metrics, rather than a traditional, universal ranking system.

Overall, the EU has had considerable success in regulating electronic waste. European countries are also leading in the category of renewables, with the emissions reductions resulting from Denmark’s wind farms and Sweden’s hydropower at the forefront. Denmark also scored well in air quality and biodiversity. Meanwhile, Norway has proven itself innovative in green shipping with notable emissions reductions in their imports and exports.

ITU: How Switzerland is winning the battle against e-waste, October 11, 2019.

Kongsberg Gruppen: Green Shipping, March 31, 2022.

Latin America has been called out for its edge in conservation, with Costa Rica ahead of the pack for preserving biodiversity and promoting renewables. "Somewhere between 90 to 98% percent of Costa Rica's energy is renewable and it's done a fantastic job in terms of forest conservation and forest regrowth. It is also a country where educational attainment is very high, it helped to pioneer the idea of ecotourism,” said Lisa Benton-Short, a professor of geography at George Washington University. For sustainable agriculture, Cuba takes the lead, while Mexico has successfully promoted community forestry practice. Surpassing the rest of the world in indigenous land management, Colombia and Bolivia have given their indigenous populations land rights.

In Asia, only Singapore made the list, excelling in water reuse with the successful recycling of 40% of its wastewater.

World Economic Forum: Carbon neutral future? Costa Rica is showing us the way, August 26, 2019.

sgPUB: NEWater: A Singapore Success Story, August 2, 2016.

Why This Matters

A recent report found that public companies’ lack of climate action, despite climate commitments from corporations and governments alike, puts the world on track to warm nearly 3 degrees Celsius. If corporations and other nations take a few cues from countries succeeding with their sustainability goals, it could help put them back on track.

For example, Oslo has an incredibly ambitious climate target: reducing its emissions by 95% by 2030 compared to 2009 levels. Its plan to meet this goal is the implementation of carbon budgeting. The approach has since inspired other cities,  like Mumbai, Paris, and Rio de Janeiro, to follow suit.

Our Eden: Your Bank is Funding Climate Change, November 13, 2021.

NBC: Are Major Companies Living Up To Their Net-Zero Pledges To Combat Climate Change?, February 10, 2022.

The Economist: See what three degrees of warming looks like, October 30, 2021.

WW0 COP26 Talks: Wade Crawford, California's Natural Resources Secretary, November 8, 2021.

What about the US?

The US failed to make the list of most sustainable countries. Its robust national park service, bans on leaded gasoline, and innovations in cap-and-trade have historically made the country a sustainability leader. But as the largest emitter of greenhouse gasses and its struggle to enact climate legislation, it now lags behind European countries like Denmark, Sweden, Germany, Norway, Luxembourg, Finland, and Austria.

"As social democracies, [European countries] have been far more progressive than the US. on many sustainability issues, including climate change, renewable energy use, affordable housing, universal health care, etc.,” said Benton-Short. “They tend to switch places every year, but rarely fall out of the top. It is interesting to note that the United States is in very few top 25 rankings. That says a lot.”

CNBC: Which US Cities Are Safest From Climate Change?, April 21, 2022.