Countries in this top group have dedicated substantial policy resources to environmental issues, giving them excellent records in comparison with other OECD states.
Sweden, Switzerland and Norway are particularly strong in terms of CO2 emissions, with Sweden overshooting its EU goals for reduction. Norway has been criticized for buying other nation’s quotas rather than pursuing additional reforms, however.
Germany has shifted environmental regulation to new forms of polices such as eco-taxes, while Sweden offers broad incentives for sustainable economic activity. Proposals to increase nuclear power use have triggered controversy in Sweden, Finland, and Germany.
With the exception of Sweden and Finland, waste management is a weakness in this group compared to OECD leaders, though Germany has made substantial strides since the SGI 2009.
Environmental policy has been given a high rhetorical policy across this group, but sectoral successes have been mixed with often-significant policy failures or retrenchments.
France and Portugal have strong emissions records, with Portugal making strong strides in renewable energy sources. The UK lags in its mix of renewable energies, while Austria has significantly missed its emissions targets.
Initial strides in environmental policy in the Czech Republic and Hungary have been slowed by political infighting and economic constraints. Japanese promises to reduce CO2 emissions were weakened in legislation, and France abandoned an attempt to implement a carbon tax. Both countries depend heavily on nuclear power.
Chile is modernizing its environmental regulations, but these are oriented more toward the demands of international markets than toward ecological concerns. Luxembourg’s CO2 emissions are very high, with a national carbon tax earmarked to pay Kyoto treaty penalties.
In this lower group, substantial policy weaknesses have left holes in environmental protection efforts, often resulting in key projects moving in troubling directions.
With the exception of Slovakia and Poland, CO2 emissions are not overly high by OECD standards. Recession has helped to reduce emissions in Belgium, Ireland and Spain.
Ireland implemented a carbon tax and electric-car incentives, but extreme weather has highlighted weaknesses in policy. Waste water treatment is a serious problem in Italy, while water scarcity is a problem in Spain and Mexico.
Environmental policy has not been a high priority in Poland, Italy or Iceland. Slovakia and Turkey are pursuing coal-fired power plants despite emissions reduction promises, while a Belgian law phasing out nuclear energy generation was struck down.
In this latter group, political deadlocks or inattention has left potentially unsustainable environmental practices in place.
CO2 emissions remain comparatively high across the group, with the exception of Greece. Efforts to pass carbon reduction or cap-and-trade policies were defeated or delayed in Australia, Canada and the USA. The energy mix is poor in each of these states.
South Korea’s government has paid lip service to “green growth,” with strong investments in environmental technology, but lowered the gas tax in 2008 and frequently allows business concerns to trump ecological issues.
Greece’s fast economic growth has led to increasing levels of poorly regulated consumption and waste. Serious forest fires are related to land-policy conflicts, and the economic crisis has undermined growing regulatory ambition.