Low carbon countries: Nordics dominate Green Future Index

MIT’s Green Future Index 2023 ranks countries’ progress on developing a sustainable, low-carbon future

The Green Future Index is an annual list compiled by MIT Technology Review Insights that ranks 76 nations and territories on their progress and commitment to building a low-carbon future.

In the 2023 iteration, the top 10 countries comprises well-established countries in this space, like France, Spain and the UK, as well as a host of Nordic nations, with the likes of Uruguay, Indonesia and Argentina highlighted for making strides forward toward their energy goals. 

What is The Green Future Index?

Now in its third year, the report shows which economies are leading change, which are most improved and those still have work to do to get on track to a more sustainable and energy-conscious future.

The index compares the performance of different national economies based on five different categories: carbon emissions, energy transition, green society, clean innovation and climate policy. The scores are then aggregated to determine each nation’s ranking.

What does the Green Future Index 2023 show?

As highlighted by the World Economic Forum (WEF), there has been relatively little change in the nations topping the index compared to the 2022 standings. Those that lead, Nordic countries, continue to do so, although it notes that momentum to improve has slowed among the trailblazers.

The top 10 is almost entirely populated with European nations, with South Korea, placed eighth, the only one from outside the continent taking a place there.

The middle of the index however, as WEF’s analysis of the report also showcases, sees a number of countries putting sustainable policy into action and seeing their index scores improve substantially.

This is because many which make up this group are characterised by strong export economies. For example, Uruguay has climbed to 26th from 38th compared to last year’s index thanks to its progression in efforts to clean-up its economy.

Another overarching theme that came from this year’s index is how a country’s economic wealth contributes significantly to its ability to make positive low-carbon changes. Economics, however, is not the sole determiner.

For example, Argentina and Indonesia saw the biggest gains of any country, with Argentina climbing 20 places to 48th position, largely by improving its green society score. This is thanks to the country’s growing nuclear power capacity, helping reduce its demand for fossil fuels.

And Indonesia, which gained 21 places to rank 49th overall, climbed by reducing its carbon emissions. A US$56 million finance package from one of the index’s leading names, Norway, helped promote emissions reductions and preserve Indonesia’s tropical rainforests.

The Nordics: Dominating nations on the forefront of a sustainable, low-carbon future

Sharing the compilation to LinkedIn, CEO of pan-Nordic green data centre company atNorth Eyjólfur Magnús Kristinsson shared his support of Nordic nations leading the way in the world’s low carbon pursuit, highlighting his company’s own commitments. 

atNorth is a leading colocation data centre company and AI service provider with sustainability at its core. It ensures delivery of environmentally responsible, power-efficient and cost-optimised data centre hosting facilities. Its data centres run on renewable energy resources and support circular economy principles, with its sites leveraging innovative design, power efficiency and intelligent operations to provide long-term infrastructure and flexible colocation deployments.

“atNorth is at the forefront of building a pan-Nordic decarbonising IT platform,” he declared. “Wondering why we chose the Nordics for this groundbreaking initiative? 

“The World Economic Forum shows the five Nordic countries dominating the top five seats in the Green Future Index 2023. Let's continue to pave the way for a greener, more sustainable future together.” 

The Nordics has been highlighted by atNorth as a leading sustainable geography for the likes of data centres and other digital infrastructure, with new facilities being built from the ground up with sustainability, energy consumption and carbon output in mind, harnessing the resources of the natural landscape. For example, atNorth data centres in the Nordics — it has facilities in Iceland, Sweden and Finland, with operations in Denmark set to go live in Q4 of 2024 — can make the most of the naturally cold climate, which can offset the need for server cooling systems.

Nordic nations topped the list of four of MIT’s five pillars which make up the Green Future Index — with overall top dog Iceland also taking pole position when it comes to carbon emissions and energy transition, Finland taking first place for clean innovation — a pillar which measures the likes of relative penetration of green patents, investment in cross-border clean energy and investment in food technology — and Denmark, which dramatically raised its carbon emissions taxes, for climate policy.

The final pillar, green society, saw Ireland trump the likes of last year’s victor South Korea and Germany to come first, for its efforts made by government, industry, and society to promote green practices. In 2020, the country announced binding sectoral targets to cut carbon emissions from agriculture by 25% by 2030. This comes after it missed its carbon emissions reduction targets in 2019 and 2020.

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