Tuesday 3rd April 2012

Enjoying clean air

The Environmental Performance Index (EPI) is a measurement system that was produced by collaboration between Yale and Columbia University. It is used to assess the performance of 163 national governments with regards to 25 indicators of environmental policies and the results are published on an annual basis during the World Economic Forum. Here are the 2012 greenest countries in the world for expats:

1) Iceland

While Iceland is indeed a green country that is rich with stunning countryside and mind-blowing views, it is the government’s environmental policies that gave this country the top spot on the list of the world’s greenest countries. One of the biggest areas within which this country scored highly was the countrywide use of geothermal energy. A massive 82% of the energy used in Iceland is derived from hydrogen and geothermal sources, with just 18% being from coal.

Iceland’s score: 93.5


2) Switzerland

Previously featuring in the top spot on the EPI, Switzerland was just beaten to the top spot by Iceland this year. However, the people living in Switzerland are just as dedicated to green living as ever and there are many interesting policies in place that are aimed at encouraging the people who live in Switzerland to be mindful of the effect that their actions have on the environment. For example, the government imposes fines for the disposal of trash and there are some cities and towns in Switzerland in which no cars whatsoever are permitted.

Switzerland’s score: 89.1


3) Costa Rica

Like Iceland, the government in Costa Rica is heavily focused on the use of renewable energy sources and there is a nationwide objective to become completely carbon neutral by the year 2021. Although the amount of deforestation that took place in Coast Rica in the past has tarnished their reputation as an environmentally-friendly country, the government are working hard to redress their previous actions and are currently engaged in a heavy program of reforestation, during which they plan on planting over five million trees over a five-year period.

Costa Rica’s score: 86.1


4) Sweden

As with many of the high-scoring countries in the index, it is Sweden’s lack of use of fossil fuel that has helped them to score so highly on the EPI index and the government there plan on completely phasing out the use of fossil fuel by the year 2020. In addition to this, they are increasingly making use of the lumber that is generated in their forests as a means of generating fuel and energy.

Sweden’s score: 86.0


5) Norway

Norway is a country that is all too familiar with the consequences of global warming and, being so close to the melting artic, it is most certainly within their interests to protect the environment and prevent further damage. One of the biggest ways in which they are doing this is through concerted efforts to become carbon neutral and the government and people are working together to become completely neutral by the year 2030. One of the main ways in which they are encouraging this is through increasing the prices of diesel fuels and encouraging cheaper eco fuels.

Norway’s score: 81.1


6) Mauritius

The Mauritius government has made concerted efforts to make the country as eco-friendly as possible. Despite the limited resources on the small island, people use a multitude of different approaches to reduce their carbon imprints and reuse as many items as possible through a comprehensive recycling program.

Score: 80.6


7) France

France feature high on the EFI list as the result of a number of factors, including their use of eco-fuels and renewable energy, rate of recycling, energy conservation programs and rewards for the use of solar energy. One of the biggest ways in which people in France are recycling materials is through the use of hay bales in the construction of buildings.

Score: 78.2


8) Austria

Just slightly behind France is Austria. The majority of the countries in the top ten index share something in common, their small size and Austria is no exception to this, it is only 84k square kilometers, of which 46% is forested land. The geographic context of the forests and mountains has ensured that Austrians have been forced to manage the land very carefully. The Federal Environment Agency plays a critical role when it comes to making sure that the forest and fisheries are sustainably managed.

Score: 78.1


9) Cuba

Although many people may not consider Cuba to be a sustainable country, a number of government polices that are aimed at consistently managing the country’s natural resources has contributed to a high EFI. In 1981 the Cuban government passed what is known as Law 33, which detailed the ways in which the country transform its environmental performance. Cuba was the only country in the world rated as having "sustainable development" in the World Wildlife Fund Living Planet Report 2006 because they met the two underlying criteria of the Human Development Index and the "Ecological Footprint".

Score: 78.1


10) Columbia

After many years of deforestation activity the Columbian government finally learned their lesson and began a series of activities that were aimed at stimulating eco-friendly activities. Many projects have successfully been implemented, which include the use of bamboo instead of steel for construction projects and raising the awareness of the need to act in an environmentally conscious fashion.

Score: 76.8

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