Why Is Denmark Top of the EPI?
Feb 02 2022
Denmark has been named as the most sustainable country in the world, according to the latest iteration of the Environmental Performance Index (EPI). Compiled by scholars from the universities of Columbia and Yale in the USA, the index assesses and ranks 180 countries on 32 metrics across a range of 11 different categories.
The chief goal of the EPI is not to compare the nations themselves, but rather the measures they implement and the effect that these have. As a result, underperforming governments can learn from the good work undertaken by others and bring up the global average. With that in mind, what exactly have this Scandinavian nation of under six million people done to merit their place at the top of the EPI?
Denmark has achieved the impressive feat of slashing its emissions by half in the last 25 years. Indeed, it its carbon footprint peaked as far back as 1996; given that many nations are still witnessing year-on-year increases in their CO2 emissions, that’s quite the example for them to follow. It is aiming for a 70% reduction in emissions by 2030 and complete carbon neutrality by 2050. Meanwhile, the city of Copenhagen is bidding to reach that milestone in as little as three years, which would make it the first net-zero capital in the world.
Copenhagen leading by example
How has Denmark made such fantastic progress? Through championing renewable energy. In particular, the Copenhagen authorities have poured resources into biomass technology and wind power, while it has also introduced integrated heating and cooling systems across its districts and expanded its bike lane network significantly. Crucially, these lanes are now so widespread and so convenient for Danish residents to use that bikes outnumber cars on the capital’s roads.
All in the wind
As mentioned above, wind has played an instrumental role in Denmark’s environmental success. In 2019, the country gained 47% of its total electricity consumption from wind power, while it is also currently pursuing plans to triple its offshore wind capacity by 2030. To do so, it is constructing two “energy islands” off its coastline, which will be capable of producing 2GW apiece at the outset and their output could reach as much as 12GW in the future. That would equip the country with the capacity to export its clean energy abroad for economic and environmental gain.
Water, waste and sanitation
Meanwhile, Denmark also excels in many of the other EPI categories, including its water network. Its energy-efficient wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) serve as a model for many other countries, with the UK already having indicated it plans to emulate Denmark's success to achieve carbon neutrality in its own sector by 2030. Elsewhere, Danish sanitation facilities are second to none and almost 100% of the country’s waste is recycled, composted or incinerated, adding up to one very impressive EPI score.
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