It has been well-documented that the countries who produce the least emissions are the ones most at risk from the threat of climate change. The tiny populations and non-impactive industries of island nations in the Pacific, Caribbean and Indian Ocean mean they do not contribute significant amounts of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere – but rising sea levels certainly will jeopardise their very existence.
As such, it must fall to developed nations who have built their wealth and stability on fossil fuel extraction, combustion and exportation to curb their emissions. Thankfully, there are a number of countries which are doing exactly that. Most of them are based in Europe, with Nordic nations leading the charge to clean up their act. But how exactly are they achieving their goals?
Transition to renewables
Perhaps the most effective method of reducing the national carbon footprint of a nation is phasing out the share of oil, gas and coal in its energy portfolio. This has been especially noticeable among northern European nations like Finland, Denmark and Sweden, who have been harnessing the power of the wind, waves and sun – as well as geothermal energy in nearby Iceland – to power homes and businesses throughout the country.
In fact, overreliance on fossil fuels is the number one reason somewhere like China is still the biggest polluter in the world. Even though Beijing has poured more resources into renewables in the last 10 years than the rest of the world combined, and has pioneered sophisticated new technology such as smart water cities, it still produces the most carbon of any country by a comfortable distance.
Reduced energy usage
As well as phasing out oil, gas and coal in favour of renewable power sources, countries should also endeavour to encourage private citizens and businesses to curb their overall energy usage. Incorporating sustainability into the daily habits and practices of homes and businesses would necessitate only using the amount of energy that you need to, rather than squandering our consumption as many of us do now.
This trend has been especially noticeable in Europe, while somewhere such as the USA has brought down its carbon footprint through a more measured and varied mixture of factors. But if we all focus on limiting our energy consumption using IoT appliances, transitioning to a plant-based diet and adopting a more conscientious attitude in our lives, we could witness huge gains in carbon emissions.
While it is fine for individuals to lead an eco-friendlier lifestyle and companies to put sustainability at the heart of their operations, tangible change is never going to be as effective if it does not come from the top down. Therefore it is imperative that governments and policymakers continually assess their performance, revise their targets, and implement new policies aimed at achieving their goals.
The UK has been one of the more impressive performers in this regard. Not only does the nation have strong standards and methods for environmental monitoring in place, but it was the first major economy to announce a legally binding target for achieving carbon neutrality.
For those interested in learning more about how the carbon footprint of individuals, businesses and nations can be minimised, the upcoming CEM Conference in Krakow, Poland, is sure to offer much in the way of informative insight.