With images of vast forest lands and wild geese flying in the air, you would think that Canada is doing pretty well when it comes to environmental sustainability. Not so! It turns out that Canada is among the worst ranking first-world nations when it comes to being sustainable. The Conference Board of Canada just released a report that ranks 17 developed countries in terms of their environmental performance and Canada got a C, coming in at 15th place. The U.S. received a D at number 16 and Australia came in last, also with an overall grade of D. Surprisingly, France beat sustainability giants such as Norway, Sweden and Denmark, placing first.
What the last three nations share in common is their large land mass and that they rely heavily on natural resources for their economic output. But this doesn’t mean that they can’t improve. Len Coad, director of the Conference Board of Canada says, “Our large land mass, cold climate and resource-intensive economy makes us less likely to rank highly on some indicators of environmental sustainability, but many of our poor results are based on our inefficient use of resources.”
Canada performed abysmally in several categories including waste production, water conservation, greenhouse gas emissions and energy intensity, which measures the ratio between the amount of energy used and the GDP. According to the report, Canada produces more garbage per person than any other nation in the study and the vast majority of it ends up in landfills and incinerators. Canadians also use about twice as much water as other nations on the list and nine times more than Denmark, who got an A in the water category. The U.S. is the only country to use more water. The country ranks at 15th on per capita greenhouse gas emissions mostly due to its exports of oil and natural gas. And it comes in dead last in energy intensity mostly because of its large size and cold climate. On the bright side, Canada has managed to reduce its energy intensity by 39% since 1971. The U.S. has reduced its energy intensity by 54% since then too.
But it’s not all bad news for Canada. The country scored an A in some categories, including increasing its share of energy produced by renewable resources, water quality, use of forest resources and protection of threatened species. But what can Canada do to climb up in the rankings? According to the Conference Board, “to improve its overall performance, Canada must promote economic growth without further degrading the environment, partly by encouraging more sustainable consumption.”
First Image via Wikimedia Commons User Ropable