The Most Eco-Friendly Country in Europe

By Shaan Khan

With countries at war, people leaving their homelands for newfound opportunity in life, then coming to places where inflation, oil prices and the cost of living is on the rise—it’s like the world is stuck in a rut of repeating past mistakes that sets a decay on societies health—including the planet we live on through global warming.

Many countries have been advised of the benefits of prioritising environmentalism and sustainability. Eco-friendly countries will be less dependent on non-renewable resources, so they won’t need to trade with war-mongering countries and support their ways. Neither would competition be as fierce today where countries and people kill for resources to survive.

It’s not like countries have a choice. Climate change is set to devastate most of the globe by the end of the century, including Europe. So with all this knowledge available, which European country is being the most proactive in tackling climate change and setting themselves as a role model for the rest of the world?

Denmark

According to the Environmental Performance Index, Denmark received the highest EPI score, where a combined factor of environmental impacts has made Denmark the most eco-friendly country in Europe and the world.

The Eco-friendly initiative is at the forefront of Danish culture and policies. The parliament and its people have voted for the most aggressive climate plan compared to anywhere else in the world—working to reduce emissions to 70% of its 1990 carbon levels but in the span of only ten years.

The country is in a race for change, but how is this achieved? By adhering to these three major pillars of environmental protection: bikes, wind and trash.

Wind Power

The offshore wind farm by the country’s capital is a sight to behold and a staple point of Copenhagen. Renewable energy from wind alone powers 46.8 percent of electricity in the country. Wind power is significant considering all renewable energies combined make up 67% of Denmark’s electricity supply.

Denmark has made bold claims by pledging to end oil and gas exploration by 2050 and reinvesting those funds to retrain workers for jobs in eco-friendly fields. While Denmark is already in the lead of renewable energy reliance, they want to take a step further with arguably the most ambitious renewable energy project in the world that will cost $34 billion.

The $34 billion project is to produce an offshore green energy island that’s 120,000sq metres; it can power 3 million homes in phase one and grow to power 9 million households. Currently, there are only 2.75 million residential buildings in Denmark. 

Two hundred wind turbines will be around the island with no environmental damage through energy production. The island will produce hydrogen as fuel for transportation, and the fuel will be sent as liquid in pipes to the mainland. The island is set to be up and running by 2033.

Cycle Culture & Infrastructure

Denmark has the most extensive cycling infrastructure that has been a massive inspiration for the rest of the world and recognised as a keystone to Danish culture—even the Danish royal family are commonly seen riding their bikes.

The network of cycle routes has made cycling a way of life for all walks of life. Whether you’re commuting for work or riding for leisure—the network makes it effortless to get around and feel safe doing so.

The problem many other nations face is the lack of dedicated cycle routes, which forces cyclists to ride on car roads that leads to many incidents.

Bikes are seen to be more advantageous in cities such as Copenhagen because the freedom of mobility prevents cyclists from getting stuck in traffic as cars do. There’s also a plethora of other benefits, such as cost-effectiveness and fitness. Such sentiment seems to resonate in Denmark, with over half of the population riding their bikes to work.

Trash Management

Waste was once economically viable for Denmark thanks to their incineration plants that would burn waste to produce energy used for fuel and electricity. However, with Danish culture becoming increasingly more eco-friendly, people were recycling more which led to a point where there wasn’t enough waste to even power the incineration plants.

Denmark made a savvy move by surprisingly importing waste from high-waste countries and using it to feed their incineration plants. The problem with the waste burning method was the increase in CO2 emissions created pollution and global warming that goes against Denmark’s goal of being a leader in green energy.

Despite the profitability of Denmark’s incineration plants in the global market, the government are reducing their incineration plants by 30% within the next decade. They will also introduce an elaborate recycling system that targets ten various streams of waste such as glass, paper, plastics, etc.

Recycling doesn’t come new to Denmark, given that the country was the first to introduce a recycling law back in 1978, where 50% of all paper and beverage packaging must be recycled.

Throughout modern history, the collaborative effort of the Danish government, local authorities and citizens have actively agreed upon innovative and sweeping laws to counteract climate change and still plan to be leading the charge with their systems and ideas of change.

The country has a wideset of goals they wish to reach by 2050 and has given them an all-encompassing term known as the vision 2050 plan. Joining vision 2050 is the Danish food industry that plans to become net-zero emissions in 2050, where the industry cannot emit more greenhouse gases than they absorb.

While these goals Denmark set sound promising, we now wait for the outline of innovative technologies, engineering and systems that will be the tools to achieve vision 2050. But judging Denmark based on the past and present, the future does seem promising for becoming more eco-friendly and remaining a great role model for the rest of the world.

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