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The Gap Year Blog

Which Countries Are Paving The Way Towards Sustainability?

17 Jan 2020 17:10 PM


Climate change is one of the largest issues the world is facing. Pollution, urbanization, deforestation, the growth of livestock farming is all putting increasing pressure on the planet and its natural resources. This strain, along with the resulting climate change, is affecting every country in the world.

The Environmental Performance Index (EPI) ranks the performance of every country by considering factors such as air and water quality, energy performance, and policies that safeguard the environment. The EPI gives each country a score out of 100 and in the article below we will examine the success of the top five countries based on their 2018 EPI ratings:

Switzerland (87.42)

Switzerland is leading the world in sustainability innovation and efforts. This is massively due to the feed-in tariff scheme the Swiss government implemented in 2009 to promote sustainable development and tackle climate and energy pollution. The people who use the tariff scheme benefit by receiving quarterly payment rewards.

60% of Switzerland's domestic energy production comes from hydropower which is generated from nearly 600 hydroelectric powerplants in the country. The remaining 40% of Switzerland's energy production comes from 5 nuclear power plants. This nuclear energy is only used for peaceful purposes, making it environmentally friendly and safe.  

Preserving land and green spaces means Switzerland scores particularly high for biodiversity on the EPI scorecard. This protection of green spaces and national parks is another element that has contributed to Switzerland’s exceptionally high EPI score. Along with this, the country also received almost perfect scores for water sanitation (99.99) and water resources (99.67) making it the top achiever in the world for environmental performance.

France (83.95)

The main reason for France's high EPI ranking is its impeccable environmental policies that are in place to reduce its environmental impact. France also has a rewards-based tariff scheme that encourages business' to use renewable energy resources. As explained by MyPower, it is highly important for businesses to generate their own solar energy as this will achieve significantly reduce the carbon footprint of an area. Currently, 30% of all energy produced in France is renewable. The French transport network takes pride in ensuring that a proportion of its power is produced by biofuels instead of petrol, gas, or diesel.

Denmark (81.60)

Denmark’s main goal is to strive towards becoming an ‘environmentally sustainable community’ - of which they are doing very well. Denmark is the world’s leading wind turbine energy producer. A massive 40% of all their energy production is achieved through wind power, with the hope of achieving 50% of by 2020.

The large cycling culture in Denmark has had a positive influence on its air quality. For a population of around 5.8 million, there are just 2.1 million cars on the roads. This means nearly half of the Danish population do not own a car, but rather it is found that 9/10 Danish people own a bike, which is the main mode of transportation for many. Denmark’s capital city, Copenhagen has over 250 miles worth of cycle routes across the city.

Malta (80.90)

Prior to 2017, Malta was heavily dependent on the oil industry, but with their change to natural gas and long-term work towards sustainability they have achieved a high EPI ranking. 70% of Maltese energy comes from natural gas and the remaining 30% is sourced from renewable resources. Previously, the only renewable energy resources Malta used were solar energy and biofuels but now wind and biomass resources are being utilised as well.

Malta’s Prime Minister, Joseph Muscat is a massive advocate for the sustainability of natural resources which can be seen in their 2030 agenda. This agenda includes many universal sustainability goals and the government also successfully encourages the use of electric vehicles in order to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

Sweden (80.51)

Sweden is a country with a high energy consumption, but it manages to regulate greenhouse gas emissions produced through the use of sustainable and renewable energy sources. Sweden produces most of its energy from heat, sunlight and wind turbines. Sweden is aiming to use 50% renewable and recycled energy sources by 2030, and an incredible 100% by 2040.

Sweden has also introduced a ‘Passive House’ system which uses body heat to reduce the ecological impact of a building. Body heat is turned into hot water which is then distributed through pipes to a building in order to keep it warm. For example, Stockholm Central Station has its own Passive House system which generates energy from the 250,000 people who pass through each day. This use of body heat is a sustainable and economical way to produce energy and allowed Sweden to score a high EPI ranking.

By Ruby Clarkson - Frontier Guest Writer 

Frontier runs terrestrial & marine conservationcommunityteaching and adventure projects in over 50 countries - join us and explore the world!