Seven Eco-Friendly Countries (video)
The Green Economy Picks! Seven Countries: Seven ideas
Singapore: Combining Green Governance and Economic Expansion
With only 682 square kilometers of land, limited water, and no mineral resources of its own, Singapore seems like a development planner’s nightmare.
But, led by a government that prioritizes environmental laws and maintains strict control over urban development, Singapore transformed from a crowded city in Southeast Asia into a commercial hub in just under 50 years. Partnerships with private organizations such as the Waste Minimization and Recycling Association of Singapore further Singapore’s zero-waste goals.
Any development in Singapore must adhere to the country’s master plan, which incorporates a green plan for air quality, water management and energy efficiency. Recycling rates improved as new recycling programs reached out to the public. Singapore aims to achieve a 35 percent improvement in energy efficiency and raise recycling rates to 70 percent by 2030. The country aims to improve pedestrian and cyclist access within the city and increase public transportation to 70 percent.
While investing in new technologies to help the country overcome its resource deficits, Singapore aims to improve environmental performance and create economic growth. The business-focused country promotes commercial expansion in an environmentally friendly way that builds sustainable cities.
Brazil: Redesigning and Building Infrastructure
Brazil is in the process of updating its infrastructure, and will soon be globally competitive “in industries such as energy, logistics, security, IT and so many others,” says Mario Garnero, a leading entrepreneur in Brazil. But as the country rapidly scales up its infrastructure, there is growing concern to make sure that resources last and that development move forward at a sustainable pace.
According to Garnero, the country was early in building its ethanol fuel burning vehicles and now has a strong biofuel industry. “Today, nearly 80% of Brazil’s cars run on flex-fuel engines,” he said. “Biodiesel and aviation applications are also leading the way to the future.”
At the Global Bioenergy Partnership (GBEP) conference, Garnero hoped to not only showcase the country’s past achievements with cleantech, but to secure new investors and business partnerships. Just this year, Garnero said, dozens of deals came though at the conference, including a partnership between Brasilinvest and Azul Airlines and ATR for the financing of aircraft production.
Austria: Managing Scarce Resources
Austria’s heritage and environmental performance are inextricably linked to the European Alps. The geographic context of being a tiny, landlocked country, dependent on the forests and mountains for tourism, has prompted Austria to manage the land very carefully for many decades.
Austria is only 84k square kilometers and hosts a population of almost 8 million people. Of this area, 46% is forested land. By the early 1990s, increased traffic on Austria’s highways damaged close to 40 percent of the country’s forests. Austria now produces more than half of its electricity (62.89 percent) through renewable energy sources such as wind, hydropower, solar and biomass power plants.
Costa Rica: Refocusing on Eco-conservation
Costa Rica began its reinvention in 1948 after diverting military funds to economic and environmental initiatives. The environmental performance of Costa Rica is driven by both the Ministry of Environment, Energy, and Telecommunications and the government’s massive conservation efforts under their national parks program.
Using a combination of environmentalism and policy making, Costa Rica reestablished its devastated forestland, which now occupies over half of the country. Costa Rica not only boasts five percent of the world’s biodiversity, it devotes one quarter of its land toward park preservation. By focusing on environmental management, they’ve been able to improve their sustainability performance and run 80 percent of the country by hydro-electric power in its efforts to become carbon neutral by 2021.
Germany: Capitalizing on Renewable Energy
After powering down its nuclear plants in 2000, Germany refocused its energy production on renewable sources, such as wind, solar and biofuel. Today, Germany is Europe’s largest energy exporter and is well en route to becoming the world’s first industrial power to use 100 percent renewable energy, a goal it could reach by 2050. Germany capitalized on its natural wind resources along the northern coast by building offshore wind parks that generate up to 10,000 megawatts and feed electricity into the national grid.
Meanwhile, biomass in Germany is taking off, overtaking hydropower as a source of electricity for the first time. Biomass supplied 3.7 percent of electric consumption in 2008.
Feldheim, a small village located about 60 kilometers from Berlin, has its own energy grid and generates all of its power from wind, solar and biogas. Vauban, located in the country’s southwest region, has gone almost entirely car free. Residents ride the tram or ride their bikes across the town’s cobbled streets.
Columbia: Leaders in Fuel-Efficient Mass Transit
In the not too distant future, cities in developing countries will outstrip those in developing nations in terms of automobile traffic. Once cities developed using automobile-centered planning, changing the design is both cumbersome and expensive. But Bogota, Colombia beat the odds by redesigning its transit system in under five years.
The capital city of Bogotá represents a prime example of a city developed to reduce vehicle emissions and congestion. Colombia transformed the city within three years by designing a “bus rapid transit” system based on the performance and characteristics of modern rail-based systems. Projections indicate that the energy-efficient transit system could reduce 14.6 million metric tons of greenhouse gases during its first 30 years.
Colombia has come a long way in recent years to become one of the world’s models for fuel-efficient mass transportation. City officials from countries around the world visit Bogotá, Colombia, to learn how the city developed a transportation plan that directs citizens toward mass transit and bicycles rather than personal automobiles.
Denmark: Maximizing Available Resources
Home to the Middlegrunden Wind Park, the world’s first profitable offshore wind park, Denmark has the world’s highest ratio of wind power in its energy sources. The country became independent of fossil fuel imports in 1973 following the oil crisis, and now Denmark’s large state-owned energy company, Energinet.dk, banks on a joint electricity market with Sweden, Norway and Finland to share and store renewable energies.
Denmark exports surplus wind energy to Norway to be stored in hydropower plants until energy demand is high. Then, Noreway sends the power back to Denmark. The power share is handled in real time by Energinet.dk’s grid control center, which allows workers to steer electricity into or out of the grid.