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Strong environmental policy, population support and ambitious goals: examples coming from the world's greenest countries

quinta-feira, junho 23, 2022

Global progress towards reducing greenhouse gases (GHG) remains insufficient to meet the net zero emissions target by mid-century, set out in the Glasgow Climate Pact 2021. This is what the Environmental Performance Index (EPI) points out, an Environmental Performance Index produced by researchers at Yale and Columbia Universities, both in the United States. Using the emissions trajectory of the past 10 years as a basis for designing 2050 emissions, scientists predict that the vast majority of countries will not achieve the goal set at the end of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) – and a number of nations, including Brazil, should fall far below the target.

The Environmental Performance Index 2022 consists of a sustainability performance table that evaluates the practical application of guidelines for the formulation of greener policies consistent with the socio-environmental challenges facing the world. Using 40 performance indicators, EPI ranks 180 countries in their national efforts to protect environmental health, increase the vitality of ecosystems, and mitigate climate change.

These indicators measure how close countries are to meeting internationally established sustainability goals. While the overall index scores provide a way to highlight environmental protection leaders and identify those who are falling behind, EPI also provides a valuable tool for identifying not only political weaknesses, but also examples of proven effectiveness that countries can adopt to improve their performance.

"Carefully constructed and methodologically rigorous environmental indicators allow us to track trends, identify emerging pollution problems, assess the success of policy interventions, and ensure that our investments in environmental protection deliver the highest possible returns," says Martin Wolf, director of the Environmental Performance Index project.

Wolf points out that metrics can improve environmental decision-making and guide the world toward a more sustainable future. "But only if policymakers adopt fact-based analysis and act on the insights that emerge from the data," he said.


Refined over two decades, the Environmental Performance Index allows politicians around the world to get to know some of the key environmental performance drivers used successfully today. Data analysis shows, for example, how factors such as proper use of financial resources, good governance, human development and regulatory quality are important to elevate a country's sustainability.

High-scoring EPI nations exhibit long-distance and continuous investments in policies that protect environmental health, preserve biodiversity and habitat, conserve natural resources, and dissociate greenhouse gas emissions from economic growth.

Highlights

Denmark leads the 2022 rankings – an achievement based on strong performance on almost all issues tracked by the index, with leadership in efforts to promote a future of clean energy and sustainable agriculture. The UK and Finland came in 2nd and 3rd place, both achieving high scores for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in recent years. Already giants such as Brazil and the United States left to be desired: a result largely attributed to the disapproval of their recent governments with the environment, according to the Index. With successive bad results in the climate, India bitter the last position in the ranking.

Check out below how the countries that stood out for their good results are doing environmental homework – and what we can learn from it.

1st Denmark

Denmark emerges as the most sustainable country in the world in the EPI 2022 ranking. Retaining the first place obtained in 2020, Denmark's score reflects a strong performance in climate and sustainable agriculture.

According to the report's projections, Denmark is expected to achieve greenhouse gas neutrality by 2050, as is the UK. The countries performing well on the net zero GHG metric in 2050 enacted some of the world's most ambitious climate policies: Denmark, for example, has set a national target of reducing 2030 emissions by 70% compared to the 1990 level, and adopted a comprehensive policy agenda to meet that commitment –  including taxes for recently expanded GHGs.

"We are a small country. But we want to make a big difference. That is why we want to set a good example. We hope that in doing so we will be able to inspire others to do more to preserve our planet," Dan Jørgensen, Denmark's Minister of Climate, Energy and Public Services, said in a statement about the country's achievements in epi.

"And when we set ambitious goals for ourselves, we also encourage innovation and the development of solutions and technologies that can help in green transformation in other countries. We've come a long way. But we still have a lot of work to do. Although Denmark is doing comparatively very fast-paced, we are not satisfied. We need to do it even faster. And we will," he said. 

2nd United Kingdom

Other high-scoring nations include the UK and Finland, which earn the top rankings for their strong performance in climate change, driven by policies that have substantially reduced GEEs in recent years. In general, high-scoring countries, such as the UK, exhibit long-standing policies and programmes to protect public health, preserve natural resources and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the analysis shows.

The figures highlight that the UK, home of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) held in Glasgow, Scotland, in 2021, makes joint efforts to decarbonise its electricity sector, making greater gains in tackling climate change.

With the energy crisis established by Russia's war with Ukraine, the country has been mobilizing greater efforts for the energy transition, investing more in renewable energy from the winds, and also in the nuclear source and the celebrated hydrogen, attacks that do not go unnoticed in the eyes of the country's environmentalists.

3rd Finland

The analysis of epi 2022 rankings makes it clear that the factors that explain environmental success include good governance, country wealth, quality of life and well-designed regulations. The researchers found strong correlations between PPE scores and government effectiveness, the strength of democracy, regulatory quality, happiness and GDP per capita – all factors in which Finland stands out. Sustainable development, the index points out, requires financial resources that enable investments in environmental protection.

The great divergence in scores among rich countries shows, however, that political choices are also important. Leaders who carefully manage pollution threats and the use of natural resources, cases in which Finland is cited as an example, can lead their countries to a more sustainable future – unlike nations whose rulers relegate the environmental issue to a secondary role.

4th Malta

Maltese are the most concerned citizens in Europe when it comes to defining the issue of climate change as a "very serious" problem, adding up to 92% of the population. In addition, they appear to be developing a stronger environmental awareness over time, with concern about climate change increasing by 13 percentage points since 2017, according to a Eurobarometer climate change survey published in 2021.

Malta is a country that admittedly could lose more than its neighbors if the devastating effects of the climate crisis intensify further: the threat of higher temperatures, increased desertification, lack of water resources and coastal flooding are already pressing problems for the country. More than eight out of 10 Maltese heard by the survey say they try to reduce waste and separate it regularly for recycling, adding up to 85% – against the European Union (EU) average of 75%.

The proportion of Maltese who have installed equipment at home to reduce energy consumption has increased by nine percentage points since 2017, and is significantly higher than the EU average – 24% versus 16%. There was also a 13 percentage point increase in the proportion of respondents who regularly use environmentally friendly alternatives to polluting cars.

5th Sweden 

Few countries in the world use more energy per capita than Sweden. However, their greenhouse gas emissions are low, thanks to the renewable energies that generate much of the energy consumed. Considered an example for the world, the homeland of climate activist Greta Thunberg aims to be CO2 neutral by 2045.

Sweden's climate law came into force in 2018. Every four years, the government must present a climate policy action plan outlining how the country can achieve the climate goals adopted by the Riksdag, the Swedish Parliament. The current government presented its action plan in December 2019. The plan consists of 132 items and defines that the climate issue will permeate all policy areas from then on.

Sweden reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by more than 30% from 1990 to 2020. Under the action plan, CO2 emissions in 2030 will be reduced by 70% compared to 2010, and the country will be CO2 neutral by 2045. The government reached its target of 49% renewable energy consumption in 2012 by 2020. Now, for the energy sector, the goal is to have 100% renewable energy generation by 2040.

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