How Europe’s ‘eco-friendly’ nations are not always what they seem

Euro News

One of the drivers for climate change action – aside from the clear scientific evidence – is arguably reputational risk. Most countries do not want to be seen as a slacker or behind the curve when it comes to environmental initiative. But what if a country’s stereotypical image precedes them? What about the countries that are doing very little to combat climate change – yet are still perceived as eco-friendly? And vice versa?

Ireland is known for its green fields, rugged coastlines and breathtaking scenery. There is no way that a country with such a green image could be one of the worst polluters in the EU…right? In an *ahem* highly scientific Instagram poll, 71 per cent of our followers thought that Ireland had a better climate action performance than Ukraine. However, the reality is quite a different story. Ireland is actually ranked just 39th on the CCPI (Climate Change Performance Index) compared to Ukraine’s 20th.

Our next match was the UK against Finland. Finland’s vast forests and thousands of lakes conjure up images of an environmental paradise – coupled with seemingly faultless perception many people seem to have of Nordic countries. And perhaps it was this that led to over three quarters of our social media respondents to pick them as greener than the UK.

However, it is in fact the British who ranked higher than the Finns. The former came in at 5th compared to the latter at 11th. The UK’s high ranking has caused some controversy, though.

The CCPI does note that no country on the list is reaching their Paris agreement targets and even if every country performed at the same level as Sweden, who topped the rankings, it would not be enough to prevent the climate disaster.

But there has been fierce criticism of the UK’s climate actions in recent years. Mohamed Adow, director of the Power Shift Africa think tank has recently accused the Conservative government of greenwashing. Friends of the Earth climate campaigner Connor Schwartz said earlier this year, “targets for cutting emissions are important, but without the right policies they won’t be met. The UK government is already struggling to meet its existing, less ambitious climate goals.”

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