Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Nordic Countries are the Most (and Least) Sustainable: Spotlight on Sweden and Denmark

There has been a surge in government action to address environmental degradation and Nordic countries (Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Iceland) are leading the way. In Europe France and Germany are dominant green nations, but they still rank behind their northern neighbors. Two separate authoritative rankings consider Sweden and Denmark as being among the most sustainable countries in the world.

According to a RobecoSAM study, Sweden was ranked as the most sustainable country in 2015. The study assessed green metrics like the country's response to environmental threats, and government metrics like support for "liberty and equality," investments in its education system. The RobecoSAM study analysis ranked countries based on a total of 17 indicators including ESG factors.

Sweden was followed by its neighbors Switzerland and Norway.  The UK ranked fourth followed by New Zealand, Ireland, Germany, Denmark, Australia, and Austria.

Every two years researchers from Yale and Columbia universities as well as the World Economic Forum (WEF) have compiled an Environmental Performance Index (EPI) ranking 180 countries in terms of how they protect ecosystems and human health.

The 2016 report indicates that there have been measurable improvements in climate, energy, health, water, sanitation and habitat protection.

According to the EPI Finland earned top honors as the best country followed by Iceland, Sweden, Denmark, Slovenia, Spain, Portugal, Estonia, Malta and France.

Sweden

Sweden has been a renewable energy leader in Europe in recent years and in 2015, the nation set the ambitious goal of eliminating fossil fuel usage. Sweden is ramping up its investment in solar, wind, energy storage, smart grids, and clean transport.

According to the EU statistics agency Eurostat, Sweden led renewable energy production generation in Europe generating 52 percent in 2013. This is particularly impressive compared to the EU average of 15 percent.

As reviewed in a Mother Nature Network article there are a number of things that Sweden does well this includes state support for new parents, outdoor activities, vacation time, and gender equality.

As pointed out in the article sustainability is taken very seriously in Sweden. There is little household waste amounting to less than 1 percent. The other 99 percent is recycled and turned into new products, raw materials, or burned and used for gas or heat. As a rule, recycling stations are no more than 300 meters (328 yards) from any residential area. The nation also has excellent public transportation that is efficient, quick and relatively inexpensive even if it is almost entirely powered by fossil fuels.

Sweden is becoming less dependent on fossil fuels. As reported by Triple Pundit, Sweden’s Prime Minister Stefan Löfven declared at the U.N. General Assembly that his country would become “one of the first fossil-free welfare states in the world.”

The Swedish Government is working to realize its vision of a climate-neutral Sweden by 2050 and they have already reached the EU's 10 percent renewable energy target. The Swedish government is also a leader in green procurement.

Furthermore, according to the Swedish Bioenergy Association (Svebio) bioenergy is now bigger than fossil fuel in Sweden as a proportion of total energy use.

Denmark

Another Scandinavian country that is leading the way is Denmark. EU statistics agency Eurostat indicates that only 4.5 percent of Dutch energy consumption came from renewables in 2013, compared to an EU average of 15 percent and Sweden's 52 percent. This changed in 2015 as the nation broke its own wind power record.

As reported by The Guardian in 2015 Denmark increased its wind power by 3 percent generating a world leading 42 percent of its electricity from wind turbines.

In Western Denmark wind turbines provided 55 percent of the electricity and two Western Danish regions (Jutland and Funen) wind power outpaced demand 60 days of the year. Denmark was even able to meet all of its electricity demand from renewables on September 2. On one day in July Denmark not met its own domestic power demand and exported another 40 percent of its power abroad.

The government of Denmark is already half way towards its goal of producing half of its electricity from wind by 2050.

Least sustainable nations and countries with the most climate deniers

According to the RobecoSam study the “least sustainable” countries are China, Thailand, Nigeria, Egypt, Venezuela, Russia, Morocco, El Salvador, India and Indonesia.

Interestingly some of the countries with the most climate deniers are also some of the world's renewable energy leaders. A survey of 14 industrialized nations published in the journal Global Environmental Change, found that Norway is second only to Australia in terms of their skepticism towards anthropogenic climate change (Australia had 17 percent). Norway was followed by New Zealand (13 percent), the US (12 percent), and the UK tied for fifth with Sweden and Finland (10 percent).

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