Environment protection is a key priority for several countries worldwide. Most developed and emerging nations and blue-chip companies have invested sizeable amounts of money in public and private initiatives to make this planet cleaner, greener and healthier. In the year 2015, almost all countries signed the Paris Agreement “to combat climate change and to accelerate and intensify the actions and investments needed for a sustainable low carbon future”
Most environmentally friendly Countries
As per the researchers at Yale and Columbia Universities, the top 10 most environmentally friendly and sustainable Countries, co-incidentally, are all in Europe. This research, carried out biennially, ranks nations on air and water quality, waste management, CO2 emissions, and other public health factors.
Denmark is currently the most climate-friendly country in the world, with the most efficient policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prevent negative impact on the environment. Denmark is committed to adhere to clean green climate change initiatives. Thirty years of focused energy policy has placed Denmark at the forefront in the development and use of renewable energy, such as biofuels, wind, wave and solar power. Denmark prioritizes actions in order to improve management of water in order to secure water & food supply, and ecological security. The government rolled out a Climate Plan aiming to reduce GHG emissions by 40% in 2020 (compared to 1990-levels); a Climate Law that stresses on transparency in reaching the 40%-goal; and a Climate Council to provide expert inputs. Emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) have started to decline. Total emissions have decreased in the period 1990 to 2012, while the global concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere continuously sets new records.
The city of Luxembourg itself is covered with lush green forests. This country of about 7 lakh people ranks high for quality of life as it has a low population density, plenty of “lung” space and great water quality. Low pollution, a cognizant population that cycles wherever possible and hiking for adventure and health are some of the highs of eco-innovative and smart country. To solve impediments related to traffic congestion, the nation is exploring various ideas to come up with a sustainable eco-friendly public transport system.
Switzerland is known for its sparkling fresh alpine air and green velvet scenery amid the lakes and peaks of central Switzerland, Schwyz, and the Jungfrau region. Switzerland is the 3rd greenest country in the world in 2020, with an Environmental Protection index of 81.5. Additionally, the country has focused on the production of resources by using renewable energy and Switzerland has a recycling system we all can learn from, a move that promotes a green economy. However, Switzerland’s environment is under intense pressure (pollution, natural resource use, spatial restructuring) notably from industry, agriculture, transport and tourism. These pressures reflect very high densities of population and activity as well as a location in the heart of Europe.
#4 United Kingdom
UK is one of the most environmentally friendly countries in the world. Forests in Britain produce social and environmental benefits, in addition to marketable timber outputs. These non-market benefits include open access non priced recreation, landscape amenity, biodiversity, carbon sequestration, pollution absorption, water supply and quality, and protection of archaeological artefacts. In June 2019, the Climate Change Act was broadened to include a goal carbon-neutrality by 2050. UK emissions have fallen by 42% since 1990, while economic productivity has risen by two-thirds. This is above all due to the decline in coal-fuelled power and the expansion of renewable energies, in particular offshore wind. 5 years ago, 40% of British electricity came from coal power stations – now it is just under 5%.
France has historically been on the leading edge of eco-friendly projects and regulations. During the UN General Assembly, the international launch summit of the “Global Pact for the Environment” was held on 19 September, on France’s initiative. The aim of this pact is to initiate dialogue on a single text gathering the various elements that make up international environmental law. At national level, with the Climate Plan, France has taken highly proactive and ambitious measures that go beyond the commitments made in the Paris Agreement, in order to accelerate ecological transition.
Environmental protection has become an increasingly important item on the Austrian social and economic policy agenda. Austria is one of the leading countries in Europe in the field of environmental policy. This was not only recognized by the OECD in its report on the environmental situation in its member countries. In the fields of waste management, chemicals or air pollution related to boiler installations, the standards in force in Austria are very stringent by European comparison. The limits for airborne pollutants are also within the bandwidth of those applicable in Germany, Japan, the USA and Switzerland. Moreover, ecological criteria have increasingly been taken into account in agriculture.
Finland exemplifies how to protect the natural environment. Wide-ranging and detailed environmental data and high technical capability levels form the basis of Finland’s effective environmental protection policies. As one of the world’s wealthiest industrialised countries Finland is also able to afford vital environmental investments. Finland’s low population density and comparatively unspoilt natural environment also facilitate nature conservation.
The first country in the world to pass an environmental protection act in 1967, Sweden also hosted the first UN conference on the global environment in 1972. Ever since then, Sweden has managed to grow its economy substantially while reducing carbon emissions and limiting pollution. More than half of Sweden’s national energy supply comes from renewables and a thorough legislation aims at further reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The capital Oslo was named European Green Capital 2019. Beyond the city, there are fjords, mountains, islands and forests galore. The green change is not only helping the environment directly, but also stimulates new jobs, innovation and technology. The economy changes alongside the environmental developments, and gives life to new concepts and ways of seeing and handling resources, like the emergence of the sharing economy.
The government has boosted renewables by paying producers for energy and guaranteeing prices. Germany’s renewable-energy surge has contributed to a 27 percent reduction in its greenhouse gas emissions.
While some complain of sacrificing growth for protecting environment, the data suggests that world’s most environmentally friendly countries are making concerted efforts to reduce carbon footprint have made the greatest gains in combating climate change, with associated benefits for ecosystems and human health.