Who Comes Out On Top?

The world’s most sustainable countries.
5 Min.

Text: Felix Bürkle, 23.10.2020

Humans like to measure themselves against others and ideally emerge as the winner. Our cultural evolution is heavily shaped by this fact. For instance, archaeologists have found evidence suggesting that board games were played as a pastime as early as 2500 BC. Sporting tournaments also took place during this era. But the only way we can win what is arguably the biggest fight in our history – against climate change – is by working together.

Politicians are taking their gloves off.

Up until a few years ago, the fight against climate change tended to be associated with radical protesters. Social acceptance is much greater today, which means that politicians are now finally being forced to take action too.

The Paris Agreement, which was endorsed by 196 countries in December 2015, saw the world unite. Instead of “climate change” we began talking about “climate crisis.” Combating it was made a top priority – a milestone.

But wherever there is a goal, there is also competition. Who will get there first? Or who is the closest at any rate?

One goal, but many ways of getting there.

Shortly after the Paris Agreement was signed, the non-profit organization “The Climate Reality Project,” which was founded by the renowned environmentalist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Al Gore, published a list of 11 countries that were taking the lead in the climate crisis battle and putting sustainable energy sources at the heart of the fight. The aim of doing this was not to create a ranking or organize countries into better or worse categories, but rather to demonstrate the various options on the table.

It comes as no surprise that big, rich countries such as China, the U.S. and Germany feature on such a list. What is surprising, however, are the names of otherwise lesser-observed countries that had achieved such astonishing progress even before the Paris Agreement came into being.

The Climate Reality Project 2016 crowned the following countries as its Top 10 climate pioneers.

  • Sweden
  • Costa Rica
  • Nicaragua
  • Scotland
  • Germany
  • Uruguay
  • Denmark
  • China
  • Morocco
  • U.S.

But what would this list look like if the countries were measured using various renewable energy parameters? SONNENALLEE has taken a closer look at a number of questions – and some of the answers are astonishing.

Who has the highest share of renewable energies in their power generation?

Electricity can be imported. So there are a great many countries that boast about the percentage of their consumed electricity that comes from sustainable sources. Financially affluent and geographically blessed countries are at an advantage here. But if we actually look purely at self-produced electricity, other countries start to emerge as trailblazers of sustainability.

  1. Iceland
  2. Norway
  3. Brazil
  4. Sweden
  5. New Zealand
  6. Austria
  7. Switzerland
  8. Ecuador
  9. Denmark
  10. Canada

Who has the biggest production capacity for renewable energies?

Renewable energies are synonymous not just with sustainability, but also with autonomy. If countries do not wish to be reliant on importing fossil fuels, they would be well-advised to increase their own production capacities for renewable energies. That’s what the following ranking would suggest at any rate. The leaders here are not just the biggest and densely populated countries, but also first and foremost the highly economically influential countries.

  1. China
  2. U.S.
  3. Brazil
  4. India
  5. Germany
  6. Japan
  7. Canada
  8. Italy
  9. Spain
  10. France

Who produces the greatest amount of green electricity?

The volume of electricity generated from renewable energies is closely linked to renewable energy production capacity. But there are changes to some of the ranking positions here, which can presumably be explained by factors such as plant efficiency or infrastructure.

  1. China
  2. U.S.
  3. Brazil
  4. Canada
  5. India
  6. Germany
  7. Russia
  8. Japan
  9. Norway
  10. France

So who is the overall winner?

There is no general answer to the question of which country is the most sustainable. The figures for the different rankings show certain trends, but should not give the impression that only the countries listed are being sustainable. We should refer back here to the list created by The Climate Reality Project, because it also brought to the fore aspects such as strong political engagement, which helped countries that were not able to compete with the figures of the major economic powers achieve a decent ranking too.
Ultimately, the climate crisis is a fight that no country has to win outright, but that the whole of humanity needs to tackle together. It is good that there are pioneers, governments that are leading the way and protestors that are applying the necessary pressure. The awareness is there and the structures are set up. Now we just have to keep going!