As a concept, sustainability is not hard to get one’s head around. In essence, it refers to the potential of people and societies to live and develop without depleting natural resources and worsening serious ecological impact on the planet.
Back in 1987, the United Nations defined the concept along similar lines: “a development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.
In the 21st century, climate change is the issue of the day, meaning sustainability is becoming more and more crucial to every corner of culture and society — from energy and food to fashion and tech.
Yet, not every country has successfully committed to maintaining an equilibrium between development and the use of finite resources. However, here are three that are setting a strong example of how we can address global warming with greener, more long-term strategies.
St. Kitts and Nevis
In the heart of the Caribbean sits the island of St Kitts and Nevis, a country that has in the past faced several environmental threats, such as water shortages and damage to coral reefs and other natural habitats. The dependence on marine life but also tourism has created a unique conflict when it comes to preserving the island’s rich biodiversity for generations to come and cracking down on climate change.
To answer this, the nation’s Sustainable Growth Fund has signaled how developing countries with a delicate ecology but reliant on tourism can pursue an environmentally-conscious development. The unique program dedicates all foreign direct investment to schemes that “support sustainable growth initiatives in the country”, as CS Global Partners explains. These reach across alternative energy, education, hurricane-proof infrastructure and other core parts of the socio-economic fabric.
Meanwhile, other initiatives include the Heart of St Kitts Sustainability Charter and Foundation in 2016, and more recently, the Sustainable Nevis group. These social projects include campaigns to raise water conservation awareness and a ban on single-use plastics, as well as public education on climate and proper waste management and recycling.
The strides that St Kitts and Nevis has made in eco-conscious investments have won them praise and even a number of accolades. These include the Energy Globe National Award which honors the best solutions for climate change, and the WTTC Tourism for Tomorrow Destination Stewardship Award for being leaders in sustainable tourism.
Something is growing in the state of Denmark. According to the Environmental Performance Index (EPI) framework, the Nordic country is not just a leading light for sustainability in Northern Europe, but is one of the greenest in the world, with an EPI score of 82.5.
The reasons behind Denmark’s strong performance are its successful greenhouse gas emissions policies and climate-conscious efforts, as well as positive outcomes in biodiversity and air quality.
This has all led to an eco-friendly culture that encourages and incentivizes citizens to be as green as possible. Over a third of Denmark’s total energy supply comes from a sea of offshore wind farms that is a result of collaboration between the private and public sectors. A sustainable ethos, therefore, cuts across not just government policy but also the business culture.
You could say Denmark has been ahead of the curve for a while now. Since the 1970s, Denmark’s capital city Copenhagen has sought to establish a more sustainable transport culture based on bicycle use — watch out Amsterdam! — to phase out the presence of cars burning fossil fuels — something even more urgent today. The government has also hiked taxes on petrol and automobiles to find revenue for this initiative, discouraging fossil fuel use in the process.
No one should doubt Singaporean’s commitment to making their country a lean, green and sustainable machine. Yet it wasn’t always this way. The CIRSD reminds us of the fact that, after its formal establishment in 1965, Singapore “was a small developing island city-state with no natural resources, and faced an uncertain future after its unexpected separation from Malaysia”.
Yet in the past fifty years, the country’s leaders have sought economic development in combination with a clean living environment, green spaces and sustainable infrastructure. Today, the city-state ranks as the most sustainable city on the Asian continent. Singapore has been the purveyor of installing solar panels, rooftop planting, energy-efficient heating and cooling systems and water conservation projects.
Though it’s been a rocky road, the country’s total emissions have been more than halved since 2009. By targeting the amount of carbon released by buildings — which generally produce 40% of the worldwide total — Singapore’s developers and planners have demonstrated how resourcefulness and commitment can vastly improve sustainable living in a modern city.
In the words of Euronews, this is a fantastic example of “how to seamlessly blend urban living with nature”. As part of the recent Singapore 2030 program, the nation-state’s tax on carbon will also be further increased to accelerate the progress they’ve made in the last decade.