What Can We Learn From the Greenest Countries?
Denmark is named the most sustainable country with a score of 77.90 on the 2022 EPI, leading in the climate policy sector. With a goal of becoming a frontrunner in global climate action, Denmark aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 70 percent by 2030 and become carbon-neutral by 2050.
Ever since the 1973 oil crisis impacted its dependency on imported oil, Denmark channeled its renewable energy sources toward bioenergy, wind, and solar. Bioenergy — energy stored in organic material or biomass — makes up more than two-thirds of Denmark’s renewable energy sources. Many power plants are switching from fossil fuels to biomass, which includes wood pellets and straw. Along with this, Denmark will construct the world’s first artificial energy island surrounded by offshore wind turbines that could supply green electricity to millions of households.
Sweden has recently made impressive environmental milestones, some of which include being ranked second in the 2021 Global Index and third in the 2022 UN Sustainable Development Report. One of Sweden’s long-term climate goals is to have net-zero emissions of greenhouse gases by 2045. Sweden is also known to have instated one of the highest carbon taxes at $137 per metric tonne of carbon dioxide as of 2021. Furthermore, around 850,000 people use public transport on a normal day in Stockholm; Sweden has achieved its goal of ensuring that all trains and buses run on renewable fuels since 2017, a target that was meant to be accomplished by 2025.
Sweden has focused on mitigating vast amounts of food waste given that it amounts to approximately 1.3 million tonnes per year. Through food banks across the country, Sweden redistributes free food to those in need, a two-fold solution that is sustainable and alleviates the issue of global hunger. Additionally, a company called Grönska Stadsodling developed Europe’s largest indoor vertical farm that can help conserve water and allow more space for agricultural usage.
Ranked ninth overall in the 2022 EPI, Switzerland tied for first in regards to the Sanitation and Drinking Water issue category. Eighty percent of the drinking water comes from groundwater sources; around half of it is from natural springs and wells. Switzerland occupies wastewater treatment plants that improve water quality by getting rid of micropollutants through different stages. The establishment of groundwater protection zones allows the water to remain as “clean and untouched as possible.”
By partaking in the Climate and Clean Air Coalition, Switzerland has contributed to fighting climate change and air pollution. For instance, the Swiss Federal Council developed an action plan against particulate matter in 2006, including methods that would reduce the high levels of diesel soot and black carbon emissions. Black carbon emissions, in particular, have decreased by 70 percent from 2000 to 2018 due, in part, to the use of particle filters in diesel engines.