The Greenest Countries in the World

February 21, 2024

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Wind turbines on a green hill

The environment is one of the most discussed topics of conversation at the moment. Many of the world’s governments are putting great emphasis on encouraging their citizens to recycle more, eat less meat and fish, drive electric vehicles, and use less plastic in an effort to slow climate change, increase sustainability, and improve the overall health of our planet.

To understand which countries are doing well and which are not — and to recognize the areas where there’s room for improvement — we can look to the Environmental Performance Index (EPI). The EPI provides a quantitative basis for comparing the sustainability of 180 countries by giving each one a score based on their environmental performance. Forty performance indicators across 11 categories are used to determine the countries’ scores, ranking them on climate change performance, environmental health, and ecosystem vitality.

In this article, we’ll reveal the world’s most sustainable countries based on their EPI scores.

1. Denmark

Wind turbines in Danish countryside
Wind turbines in Danish countryside

With an EPI score of 77.9, Denmark is the greenest country in the world.

It may come as no surprise to see Denmark in the top spot, as it is known for its greenhouse gas emission policies and the efforts it takes to prevent climate change.

The Scandinavian country ranks highly in most EPI categories, particularly ‘Acidification’, and ‘Heavy Metals’, scoring top marks of 100 in each of them. Denmark also comes first in the ‘Climate Change’ category, scoring 100 in the ‘CO2 growth rate’, ‘F-gas growth rate’, ‘Black Carbon growth rate’, and ‘Projected GHG Emissions’ sub-categories.

The country also has no notion of resting on its sustainability achievements. Denmark plans to construct one of the world’s first energy islands, aimed at creating a green energy supply from offshore wind.

2. United Kingdom

Suffolk countryside
Drone image of Suffolk countryside

The world’s second-greenest country is the UK, with an EPI score of 77.7.

With its ‘net zero’ target — a commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 100 percent from 1990 levels by 2050 — the UK is determined to make sustainability a reality.

The EPI recognizes this, giving the country a score of 91.5 in the ‘Climate Change’ category. Within that category, it scores 100 for both ‘Black Carbon growth rate’ and ‘Projected GHG Emissions’.

3. Finland

Lapland wilderness
Lapland wilderness

Finland is ranked third, scoring 76.5.

The country has come a long way since the 1980s, when it was known for its environmentally harmful activities, such as emitting high levels of nitrogen. Today, Finland is working hard to provide its citizens with renewable energy sources, like wind power, instead of greenhouse gases.

4. Malta

Green coastline of Malta
Green coastline of Malta

Fourth on the list is Malta, with an overall score of 75.2. 

The country’s high ranking is all the more commendable considering the challenges it faces, including lack of space, lack of local resources, and water scarcity. 

The categories Malta scores highly in are ‘Ecosystem Services’, ‘Acidification’, ‘Sanitation Drinking Water’, and ‘Climate Change’.  It received EPI scores of 100 for Ecosystem Services’ and ‘Acidification’, 99.8 for ‘Sanitation Drinking Water’, and 82.3 for ‘Climate Change’.

5. Sweden

Lake Grinda in Sweden
Lake Grinda, Sweden

Sweden has an EPI score of 72.7, putting it fifth on the world’s greenest countries list.

The second Scandinavian country to feature on this list, Sweden is known for its sustainability, with strong renewable energy programs and low carbon dioxide emissions. It has also partnered with neighboring countries in an effort to protect the Baltic Sea and its ecosystem. 

Sweden plans to be fossil fuel-free by 2045, and with an EPI score of 94 for ‘Air Quality’ it may well accomplish this target.

6. Luxembourg

Upper Sûre Lake, Luxembourg
Upper Sûre Lake, Luxembourg

Scoring 72.3 on the EPI, Luxembourg is the world’s sixth-greenest country. 

Luxembourg is one of the wealthiest countries in Europe. Having this status would usually mean participating in environmentally harmful activities like producing fossil fuels. However, Luxembourg is growing its economy without corresponding increases in environmental pressures (eco-economic decoupling).

The country only scores 100 in one category — ‘Acidification’ — however, it scores well in others, including ‘Sanitation Drinking Water’ (98.7), ‘Air Quality’ (81), and ‘Heavy Metals’ (95.1).

7. Slovenia

Bled Lake, Slovenia
Bled Lake

An EPI score of 67.3 makes Slovenia the seventh-greenest country in the world. 

This is largely due to its second-place ranking in the ‘Ecosystem Vitality’ policy objective. Slovenia scored 84.5 in the ‘Biodiversity’ category with scores of 89 and 84.1 in the ‘Species Protection Index’ and ‘Species Habitat Index’ sub-categories, respectively.

8. Austria

Lake Worthersee, Austria
Lake Worthersee, Austria

Austria takes the eighth spot on the list of the greenest countries in the world, with an EPI score of 66.5. 

Again, this is mainly thanks to the ‘Ecosystem Vitality’ policy objective, in which it ranks first.

Austria has made big strides forward in recent years in regard to its green policies, and the country aims to reach zero net emissions by the year 2040.

9. Switzerland

Village of Andermatt, Switzerland
Village of Andermatt, Switzerland

The ninth-greenest country in the world is Switzerland, which scores 65.9 on the EPI.

Switzerland is known for its clean natural environment, thanks to laws that prevent the country’s farmland from being used for infrastructural expansion. Switzerland also promotes a green economy by producing resources using renewable energy.

10. Iceland

Selandjafoss, a waterfall in Iceland
Selandjafoss, Iceland

The final country to appear on the ten greenest countries in the world list is Iceland, with an EPI score of 62.8.

The government of this Nordic country invests in its sustainability by focusing on geothermal landscapes for the production of heat and electricity, and it plans to be carbon neutral by 2040 and fossil-free by 2050. It is also a major player in the fight against ocean pollution.

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