News Analysis

Norway First in Zero Carbon Initiatives, Again

Norway ranks first in the world in sustainability for the second year in a row, beating out 33 other industrialized nations, according to a recently released study from the U.K. The 2009 Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) Global Zero Carbon Capacity Index ranks countries in terms of energy consumption and carbon-reducing policies. Overall, Norway comes out on top, followed by Brazil and the U.K.; the U.S. climbed five spots, from 30th to 25th, although its score remained negative on the RICS index. The RICS index considers energy efficiency in the residential, tertiary (commercial and public services), and transport sectors; investment in renewable energy; and policies to reduce the carbon footprint of buildings.

Norway maintains the top spot overall mostly because it uses the highest percentage of renewable energy in the world at 47%—compared to 5% in the U.S. Transportation energy use also leaves the U.S. in the bottom five, while Norway is ranked in the top ten. In terms of tertiary energy consumption, Norway landed in the middle while the U.S. is reported 6th from the bottom. But Norway joins the U.S. in the bottom five for residential energy consumption.

This year’s results suggest that standard of living (the ratio of GDP per capita to residential energy use per capita), rather than GDP alone, is to blame for increased residential energy use—the U.S. is the only country in the bottom five with an above-average GDP. A high standard of living is likely to blame for Norway’s poor placement in this category. The report also indicates an inverse correlation between population density and transportation energy use.

Published August 30, 2010