22 Apr

Map of the Week: Ranking the Greenest Countries in the World

By Christina Lin

Happy Earth Day! As the focus on global sustainability continues to grow, more countries are reflecting on the state of the planet and its environment. Research shows that when a sustainable approach is applied to policy and business, it usually ends up well for economies and people alike. Indexes like Yale’s Environmental Performance Index (EPI) can be critical to measuring national sustainability efforts. The map below interprets the EPI ranking of 180 countries across 32 environment health indicators, narrowing down to the top 40 greenest countries (all of which are categorized as high income according to the World Bank in 2019, showing the strong correlation between GDP per capita and EPI score).

The EPI is categorized by 32 indicators, each broken into subsections. Nations are scored on each subsection on a scale up to 100. As a result, multiple countries can rank first in any given category. Each section is weighted differently, and is reflected as a percentage within the index. For example, Ecosystem Vitality accounts for 60% of the EPI, Climate Change makes up 24% of a country’s score, and CO2 emission reduction is weighted at 13.2%. Evaluating national sustainability on a scale that is unrelated to other nations allows for a clearer comparative national progress, beyond a basic ranking.

Despite the trend of globalization, national environmental policies have proved to be widely different and are usually highly correlated with national wealth. Scandinavian countries, which tend to have a high GDP per capita, show strong and consistent results across EPI parameters. Denmark takes first overall and leads the world in slowing growth in CO2 emissions. Sweden leads in landfill and recycling treatment, while wastewater treatment is led by a handful of countries within and beyond Scandinavia including Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Singapore, and Sweden. Luxembourg takes overall second place, with an EPI difference of 0.2 to Denmark’s 82.5. In North America, Canada claims top spot in the biodiversity and habitat category and 20th overall, while the U.S. ranks sixth in agricultural diversity globally and 24th overall. In Asia, Singapore leads the world in fishery health and sustainability, ranking 39th overall.

Ultimately, it appears the world’s greenest countries tend to focus on all areas of sustainability, while laggard countries show more uneven performance across categories. For those leading in combating climate change, Denmark takes first place, followed by the U.K., Romania, France, and Switzerland. Finland leads in improving air quality, followed by Australia, Sweden, Iceland, and Norway. The EPI shows that investments have impact. High-level sustainability efforts (political commitment, media coverage, regulations) can deliver results, even at the grassroots level.

To read more, visit: https://www.visualcapitalist.com/greenest-countries-in-the-world/