10 Countries Seen as Caring the Most for the Environment
One survey question within U.S. News’ 2021 Best Countries rankings asked respondents to evaluate how much they believed certain countries cared about the environment. Respondents could factor in a number of areas, such as the strength of countries’ environmental protection laws or popular attitudes toward conservation, in their evaluations.
According to the World Bank, pollution of land, air and water can be linked to more than 9 million premature deaths — several times more than lethal diseases including AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis, as well as the combined global impact of wars and other forms of violence. Health costs associated with air pollution alone are estimated to amount to $5.7 trillion, close to 5% of the world’s gross domestic product. Countries with favorable attitudes toward environmental protection may see both reduced mortality rates and a boost to their fiscal bottom line.
The following are the 10 best countries in terms of concern for the environment, ranked by perception, according to U.S. News’ 2021 Best Countries survey. At No. 71, the United States finished among the bottom 10 of the 78 countries assessed.
The World Health Organization reported that in 2016, Austria had a mortality rate attributed to household and ambient air pollution of 1.55 per 100,000 individuals, placing the country among the best performing European nations. Since 2000, Austria has had the Environmental Impact Assessment Act in place to analyze the potential environmental consequences of construction projects and make environmental factors a key provision of project planning.
According to WHO estimates, Australia in 2016 had a household and ambient air pollution death rate of 1.15 per 100,000 — better than most European countries. Climate change skepticism remains pervasive in the country, however, with only about 82% of Australian respondents to U.S. News’ 2021 Best Countries survey agreeing with the statement, “The effects of climate change are real.” After years of climate change denial from the administration of former President Donald Trump, slightly more Americans — 85% — agreed with that statement.
8. The Netherlands
As of 2016, some 11.6 per 100,000 people in the Netherlands were estimated to die in relation to ambient and household air pollution, according to the WHO. Several neighbors, including France, Germany, Italy and Spain also had mortality rates for this metric in the double digits. The Environmental Management Act lays out parameters for several facets of the Dutch approach to environmental policy, such as centralized trash collection, emissions standards to greenhouse gases, and an environmental impact assessment for new infrastructure.
In 2016, the Canadian government implemented its Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change. The plan calls for key adjustments to Canadian environmental and economic policy, most notably a commitment to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The WHO estimated that fewer than 1 per 100,000 Canadians died as a result of ambient and household air pollution in 2016.
On Jan. 27, the Swiss Federal Council enacted its Long-term Climate Strategy for Switzerland. Among several provisions, the plan calls for Switzerland to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, achieve a 50% reduction in its emissions by 2030 and implement greater use of carbon capture technologies. Slightly more than 13 per 100,000 Swiss residents were estimated to have died in relation to ambient and household air pollution in 2016.
Denmark ranked sixth in an overall assessment of countries’ climate change policies, according to the 2021 report by the Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI). Danes were outranked by only the U.K. and Sweden in an analysis that evaluated countries’ greenhouse gas emissions, renewable energy, overall energy use and climate policy. In early 2020, the Danish parliament passed a law that would reduce the country’s greenhouse gas emissions 70% from its 1990 output by 2030.
The WHO estimates indicate that roughly 0.2 per 100,000 Finns died in relation to ambient and household air pollution in 2016 — one of the lowest rates on the planet. The country scored 11th place in the CCPI’s 2021 rankings, and has made a commitment to carbon neutrality by 2035. Estimates made in 2019 indicate that Finland had managed to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by almost 31 million tons that year, compared with a recent peak of 72.6 million tons in 2003.
Sweden was the best-performing country in CCPI’s 2021 rankings, earning high marks for its reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. While the Scandinavian country was estimated to have produced 92.3 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions in 1970, 2019 figures were roughly 42.7 million tons — a decline of nearly 54% in those years. Sweden ranked fourth in U.S. News’ 2021 rankings of best countries for Social Purpose. The WHO estimated that about 1 in 100,000 Swedes died as a result of household or ambient air pollution in 2016.
Like its Scandinavian peers, Norway can also claim to have some of the best air quality in Europe — roughly 1.4 per 100,000 Norwegians were estimated to have died as a result of ambient or household air pollution in 2016, per WHO estimates. The country’s carbon dioxide emissions peaked in 2010, at 46.2 million tons released that year, and have declined slightly to 42.4 million tons in 2019. Norway ranks sixth in U.S. News’ 2021 rankings for Social Purpose. Between 2008 and 2018, the country was a prominent donor to Brazil’s Amazon Fund, but has recently called on the Bolsonaro government to halt deforestation in the Amazon to continue receiving payments.
1. New Zealand
New Zealand‘s parliament introduced a bill in April that would require large-scale lenders and insurance companies to disclose potential environmental risks to their investors. The western Pacific country has legislation in place to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, but observers are wary of a 2% increase in emissions from 2018 to 2019. New Zealand ranks third in U.S. News’ 2021 rankings for Social Purpose. The country excelled at containing the coronavirus pandemic, with the Johns Hopkins University’s COVID-19 Dashboard reporting only 26 deaths there.
10 Countries Seen as Caring the Most for the Environment
1. New Zealand2. Norway
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The 2021 Best Countries rankings, formed in partnership with BAV Group, a unit of global marketing communications company VMLY&R, and The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, are based on a study that surveyed more than 17,000 global citizens from four regions to assess perceptions of 78 countries on 76 different metrics.
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The 10 Countries Seen to Care Most About the Environment originally appeared on usnews.com