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Though not without its fair share of criticism, the 2022 World Cup is well underway in Qatar. It’s undeniably one of the world’s biggest sporting events, with nearly half the world’s population watching the passion and heartbreak play out on the pitch in 2018.

At Arcadia, we’re cheering along with the rest of the world. But as a climate-tech company that cares deeply about sustainability, we couldn’t help but wonder where all these soccer-crazed countries stack up on their efforts to slash carbon emissions and drive climate action. Hence the Sustainability Cup was born. Who will boldly clinch the top spot and who will retreat to the locker room with their heads hanging low? Let’s find out.

The rankings: How did we evaluate the competition?

We used data from the Sustainable Development Report (formerly the SDG Index & Dashboards), a global assessment of countries’ progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. The report complements the official Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) indicators and the voluntary national reviews. We looked at how each country is performing from the perspective of climate action and access to affordable clean energy.

More specifically:

  • CO₂ emissions from fossil fuel combustion and cement production tCO2/capita: Emissions from the combustion and oxidation of fossil fuels and from cement production. The indicator excludes emissions from fuels used for international aviation and maritime transport. The long-term objective for this indicator is a value of 0.
  • Population with access to electricity %: The percentage of the population who has access to electricity. The long-term objective for this indicator is a value of 100.
  • Population with access to clean fuels and technology for cooking %: The percentage of the population primarily using clean cooking fuels and technologies for cooking. Under WHO guidelines, kerosene is excluded from clean cooking fuels. The long-term objective for this indicator is a value of 100.
  • Share of renewable energy in total primary energy supply %: The share of renewable energy in the total primary energy supply. Renewables include the primary energy equivalent of hydro (excluding pumped storage), geothermal, solar, wind, tide and wave sources. Energy derived from solid biofuels, biogasoline, biodiesels, other liquid biofuels, biogases and the renewable fraction of municipal waste are also included. The long-term objective for this indicator is a value of 51.

Though this report is fairly comprehensive, we do want to acknowledge that it leaves out some key information. Historical emissions, which developed countries are far more guilty of than developing countries, are not taken into consideration. Several of the countries that seem to be doing less well overall, are also not contributing to the emissions problem. The country’s resources and financial ability to enact sustainability measures are also not considered within this report. All of this is important to understand as we dive deeper into how these countries are faring in their sustainability efforts.

The top contenders: Who scores the highest?

See how each country scored on climate goals!
Download the results

And the winner is… Denmark!

Speeding across the flats of Denmark on one of its energy-efficient trains, you’d have a hard time counting all the windmills you pass. Denmark leads the way in many aspects of sustainability, from transportation to water management, but clean energy is where the country really shines. Today more than half the country is powered by solar and wind energy, with a goal of being fully fossil fuel independent by 2030. Even more impressive is the fact that Denmark has managed to decouple economic growth from energy use: Over the past 40 years, its economy has grown nearly 80%, while energy consumption has remained constant. Denmark takes the gold with its keen focus on energy efficiency in buildings, which is especially critical in a cold country that requires heating for the majority of the year.

In the spirit of helping the world win, Denmark is also proactive in sharing its knowledge and solutions globally, especially when it comes to its wind power technology.

Runner up: Germany

With one of the most productive economies in the world, Germany is yet another example that proves a low-carbon economy can thrive amid economic growth.

The true impact: To win, we need to be focused on climate action together

While we love celebrating the world’s climate leaders, the truth is that it’s not a competition; we all need to work together to tackle climate change. Reduction in carbon emissions is the first step. While this would ideally happen on a national or international level, there is no reason businesses and individuals can’t get started on their own and impact their local communities. Access to renewable energy is another key area where many countries need to improve and because every country’s resources are different, the world will need to work together to reach this goal on a global level. When it comes to sustainability efforts, a win for Brazil is a win for Ghana, and a win for Qatar is a win for South Korea.

As we watch the 2022 World Cup, we’re reminded that if the whole world can unite over the beautiful game, we can certainly unite over our collective mission to clean up our beautiful planet. Arcadia continues to support this by democratizing access to utility data around the globe and connecting residences and businesses in the US to clean energy with Community Solar. To learn more about Arcadia and our mission to help energy clean up its act visit arcadia.com.

Kristen Guilfoil

Kristen is the B2B Content Lead on Arcadia’s marketing team.

Atlanta, GA