In 2015 almost 200 countries from around the world signed the Paris Agreement, which secured their promise to help decrease greenhouse gas emissions, and in turn set individual energy targets. All of those who took part agreed to report on their efforts every five years and set further energy targets to ensure they are on the right track.
An invaluable tool used to assess the countries progress is the Environmental Performance Index (EPI) which has been developed by Yale University. The report uses nine key indicators to comprise rankings for the countries, with components related to “Environmental Health” and “Ecosystem Vitality”.
According to the EPI, Finland ranked first place with a score of 90.68, this is due to the their “societal commitment to achieve a carbon-neutral society that does not exceed nature’s carrying capacity by 2050.”
You may be surprised to see them at first place as energy consumption in Finland per capita is the highest in the EU, however they derive the majority of their energy from renewables. Not only this but their biggest source of low carbon energy is nuclear, with a usage of 34.7%. Although they are not the biggest nuclear users in Europe, in that matter Paris wins as they account 75% of their energy consumption to nuclear.
With a close second Iceland achieved a score of 90.51, this is due to their high usage of renewable energy. 81% of their total energy consumption can be related to renewable technologies with 19% coming from imported oil, primarily used for transportation. They also boast a 25% usage of geothermal energy which is more than any other country. Their high percentage of geothermal and hydroelectric energy allows their citizens to fuel all their electricity needs on renewables.
To their advantage, geothermal power has brought revenue from tourism too, as their famous Blue Lagoon uses geothermal energy attracting an average 300,000 people a year.
Third place is Sweden who has taken huge strides to meet EU energy targets. It was the first country to introduce a carbon tax in 1990, and is one of the countries which has already met and exceeded their EU climate goals set for 2020. They’ve successfully decreased greenhouse gases (GHG) by 20%, account at least 20% of their energy from renewables and they’ve achieved a 20% increase in energy efficiency. Furthermore, they’ve reduced their oil consumption by 70%, replacing the majority of it with biofuels.
Sweden’s continual efforts stem from their decision to switch from oil to district heating in the 1950’s. Their central heating plants burn waste material to conduct electricity and heat, which is distributed through underground pipes to businesses and homes. The countries energy efforts are evident as their citizens recycle almost half of their waste, with 52% of it used to generate heat.
361 Degrees believe these are strong leaders for the UK to follow and with the UK Government’s efforts this year to develop district heating we could see a shift in our place for renewable energy. This being said, the nation as well as the UK Government need to work together to change their attitude towards recycling and energy consumption. It is not enough that we rely on the Government to introduce new heating technologies, we must be recycling our waste better, walk and cycle instead of driving when we can, drive cars with smaller carbon emissions and switch to renewable heating when affordable.