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The Top 5 Most Sustainable Countries in the World

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11th Jun 2019




As we all know (well hopefully) climate change is a huge environmental challenge which the world is currently facing. Whether it’s air pollution from urbanization, deforestation or the growth of livestock farming, environmental pressures are constantly increasing.

This article is based on the Environmental Performance Index (EPI) rankings for 2018. The rankings consider the environmental performance of a country through factors such as air and water quality, climate and energy. The EPI gives each country a score out of 100 – and these are the top 5...

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1. Switzerland

Switzerland are ranked #1 in the EPI (2018), scoring 87.42. A feed-in tariff scheme is operated by Switzerland’s government, implanted in 2009, in order to promote sustainable development and tackle climate and energy pollution. The feed-in tariff can be use by solar, wind, heat, hydroelectric as an energy source. The people who use the tariff benefit by receiving quarterly payments.

Hydropower is widely used in Switzerland and with nearly 600 hydroelectric powerplants it is able to power around 60% of domestic electricity production. Protection of green spaces and national parks have also contributed to Switzerland’s high EPI score. Protecting land and the abundance of greenery means they score particularly high for biodiversity aspects of the EPI.

The remaining 40% of energy production in Switzerland is produced from 5 nuclear power plants. However, this nuclear energy is only used for peaceful purposes, making it environmentally friendly and safe to use.  

Overall, through the promotion of renewable energy sources, Switzerland have successfully earned a high EPI score and low carbon footprint, making it the most sustainable country in the world.

2. France

Ranked #2 in the EPI (2018) is France, with a score of 83.95.  France scores highly due to their new environmental policies, to reduce their environmental concerns.

As a way of promoting sustainable development, France also have a feed-in tariff which encourages business owners to use renewable energy resources, particularly heat energy. Currently 30% of all energy produced in France is renewable, for example, the French transport network takes pride in ensuring that a proportion of its power is produced by biofuels, instead of petrol, gas and diesel.

Government support of clean technology through subsidies has been beneficial to France’s renewable energy industry, reflecting in their high EPI score. Finally, it must be noted that the future looks sustainable for France, due to their increasing number of environmental graduates.

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3. Denmark

Denmark are placed #3 in the EPI rankings (2018) with a score of 81.60.

Denmark’s main goal is to create an ‘environmentally sustainable community’. So far, a huge 40% of all energy production has been achieved through wind power, with hope of 50% of by 2020.

The large cycling culture in Denmark has had a positive influence on its air quality. For example, Denmark’s capital city, Copenhagen has over 250 miles worth of cycle tracks, lanes and bicycle routes across the city. For a population of around 5.8 million, there are just 2.1 million cars on the road, meaning that nearly half of the Danish population do not own a car. It was therefore found that 9/10 people own a bike, with many using it as their main mode of transport.

Overall, through the prominent cycling culture and use of renewable energy sources, Denmark has achieved a high EPI score and is the world’s leading wind turbine energy producer.

4. Malta

#4 in the EPI rankings (2018) is Malta, with a score of 80.90.

Having swapped fuel production from oil to natural gas in 2017, 70% of Maltese energy comes from natural gas and the remaining 30% from renewable sources. Before 2008 the only renewable energy resources used were solar energy and biofuels, however, wind and biomass resources are now used as well.

Malta’s Prime Minister, Joseph Muscat supports the sustainability of natural resources which can be shown in their 2030 agenda, which includes many universal goals. The government have also been encouraging the use of electric vehicles in order to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

Prior to 2017, Malta was heavily dependent on the oil industry, however their change to natural gas and work towards the 2030 agenda has placed them in the top 5 most sustainable countries in the world.

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5. Sweden

Securing the #5 rank is Sweden scoring 80.51 in the EPI rankings (2018).

Sweden produces most of its energy from heat, sunlight and wind turbines as a way to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Sweden aim to use 50% renewable and recycled energy sources by 2030 and 100% by 2040.

Sweden has introduced a ‘Passive House’ system, which uses body heat to reduce a buildings ecological footprint. The body heat is turned into hot water, which is then distributed through pipes to the nearest building in order to keep it warm. Stockholm Central Station has its own Passive House system, which creates energy from the 250,000 people who pass through each day. Creating energy from body heat is a sustainable and economical way to produce energy.

Overall, Sweden has a high energy consumption, but manages to regulate their greenhouse gas emissions well, through the use of sustainable and renewable energy sources.