The environment has been at the top of the global agenda for the last few years, and major organisations are finally beginning to promise serious change. From green central government policies and corporate initiatives, to growing media coverage and changing consumer habits, there is now an increasing commitment to improving the situation. 73% of global consumers have claimed that they would alter their consumption habits to reduce their environmental impact, while 71% of the world’s top 500 companies now conduct external audits on their environmental impact numbers.
Of course, we can only create a more eco-friendly world if every country works together. And though each nation has its own sustainable development goals, some, in particular, are setting the benchmark for others to follow.
According to the 2020 Environmental Performance Index (EPI), Denmark is the world’s most sustainable country. Jumping from third place the previous year, the Scandinavian nation reached the top spot for reducing its carbon emissions by more than half since 1996. They were also praised for their comprehensive adoption of wind power, which provided 47% of the country’s electricity in 2019.
Denmark excels in almost every metric of environmental health, such as air quality, advanced sanitation and biodiversity. Some of the initiatives they’ve introduced to these ends include the expansion of bike lanes, investment in biomass, and widespread waste management. Almost all of the country’s waste is recycled, composted, or incinerated to create energy. EPI researchers were also impressed by the country’s future plans — Denmark aims to increase its offshore wind capacity threefold by 2030 through the construction of two 2GW “energy islands”, achieve 70% emission reductions by 2030, and net zero by 2050.
Dominica made headlines around the world in 2018 after banning single-use plastic and styrofoam, like cups and food containers, by January 2019. While many other countries have launched their own policies against single-use plastic, the sheer scale of Dominica’s is laudable. This built on an earlier initiative restricting the imports of non-biodegradable containers and is part of the country’s broader aim to become the world’s first climate resilient nation.
The island nation has also implemented the ‘Go Green Dominica’ scheme, providing all households with sustainable, biodegradable jute and cotton bags to use instead of plastic ones. Other ways the island nation is improving sustainability include investing in a geothermal plant, expanding its ecotourism industry, and building more hurricane-resilient properties. This is being funded by the Economic Diversification Fund (EDF), a government programme supporting socio-economic initiatives in Dominica. The money for the EDF comes from the country’s Citizenship by Investment Programme, where investors contribute to Dominica’s economy in return for citizenship
Switzerland has one of the world’s highest recycling rates. Up to half of its waste is recycled, with the rest incinerated — a drive largely achieved through the country’s polluters pay principle, which heavily taxes bin bags to encourage recycling. A similar initiative has also helped the country cut its CO2 emissions. Fossil fuels are subject to a CO2 levy and the money from this goes towards a building programme to help fund energy-saving renovations and the use of renewable energy.
The country has consistently pushed the envelope when it comes to negative emissions technology, opening the world’s first commercial carbon-capture plant in 2017. Capable of annually removing 900 tonnes of CO2 from ambient air, it can also be used to make fertiliser, carbonated drinks and carbon-neutral fuels. All in all, Switzerland’s measures have resulted in a 50% decline in particulate matter concentrations over the last two decades.