The Best and Worst Destinations in the Policies & People Subcategory
The Policies & People subcategory of the Environment & Sustainability Ranking is based on two factors. The respondents were asked to rate how strongly they agree or disagree with the following two statements: “the government supports policies to protect the environment” and “the population is very interested in environmental issues”. European countries achieve the best results in the Policies & People subcategory, claiming seven out of ten spots in the global top 10. The top 3 positions go to Sweden (1st), Finland (2nd), and Denmark (3rd), while Egypt (58th), Kuwait (59th), and India (60th) end up on the lowest ranks.
Globally speaking, concern for the environment has risen in recent years due to increased awareness of environmental degradation: a recent report by Glocalities (2019) found that global environmental concern increased from 71% in 2014 to 77% in 2019, with more people now adopting a more sustainable lifestyle and more governments enforcing green policies.
The Nordic Countries: Global Leaders in Environmental Awareness
Nordic countries dominate the top 5 out of 60 countries in the Policies & People subcategory; only the fourth place is taken by New Zealand. Sweden comes in at first place, followed by Finland (2nd), Denmark (3rd), and Norway (5th). These countries have shown a strong and sustained commitment to working on green policies in the past few decades.
According to the Environment & Sustainability Ranking, four in five expats in Sweden (80%) agree that the government supports policies to protect the environment (vs. 55% globally) — which means the country ranks first worldwide for this factor — and 44% even agree completely (vs. 19% globally). Sweden also comes 1st out of 41 countries for its environmental policies in the Sustainable Governance Indicators (SGI) 2019 survey. What is more, almost six in seven respondents in the Environment & Sustainability Ranking (84%) emphasize that the local population is very interested in environmental issues (vs. 48% globally). A US American points out the “support for the environment and reducing the climate impact” as what they most appreciate about expat life in Sweden.
While Finland follows right after Sweden in the Policies & People subcategory (2nd), their share of expats agreeing that the government supports policies to protect the environment is actually larger than in Sweden (89% vs. 55% globally). Another 78% of expats agree that the population is very interested in environmental issues (vs. 48% globally). In fact, Finland is currently the third-largest user of renewable energy in Europe, and it aims to increase the use of renewable energy to 50% by 2050.
In Denmark (3rd), 84% of expats think the government supports environmental policies (vs. 55% globally), and 83% consider the local population to be very interested in environmental issues (vs. 48% globally). The major increase in bike ownership throughout the country could be one indicator for this trend. It has risen by 22% from 2006 to 2016, with nine in ten people who live in Denmark now owning a bike. Bikes are the preferred transportation method in many Danish cities, even outnumbering cars. It hardly comes as a surprise that Denmark is also rated the most environmentally friendly country in the 2020 Environmental Performance Index (EPI).
When it comes to Norway, expats are also very pleased: Norway takes first place worldwide for its government’s official support for protecting the environment, with 89% of expats rating this factor positively (vs. 55% globally). Four in five expats (80%) also think that Norwegians are concerned about the environment, which is 32 percentage points above the global average (48% globally).
More European Destinations Leading the Way: The German-Speaking Countries
Apart from the Nordic countries, the German-speaking destinations in Europe are the leaders with regard to green government policies and environmental awareness in general: Austria (6th), Switzerland (7th), and Germany (9th) all make it into the top 10 of the Policies & People subcategory. When it comes to green policies, these expat destinations are some of the best recyclers, and waste management is taken very seriously. The use of landfills is close to nonexistent in these countries, and trash is usually incinerated to produce energy for homes. For example, households in Switzerland are even fined when they do not dispose of their trash correctly.
What is more, the German-speaking countries also perform particularly well in other surveys concerning sustainability. Switzerland comes in at 3rd place out of 180 countries in the 2020 EPI, with Austria (6th) and Germany (10th) not far behand. Switzerland also comes in 2nd place out of 41 countries for its environmental policies in the SGI 2019 survey, followed by Germany (10th) and Austria (24th).
Other Top Performers
It might not be much of a surprise to see Taiwan in the top 10 of the Policies & People subcategory. It has ranked in the global top 5 of the Expat Insider survey for five consecutive years — currently in first place — and it is the only Asian destination in the top 20 of the Environmental & Sustainability ranking. In Taiwan, 81% of expats agree that the government supports environmental policies (vs. 55% globally), and 74% consider the local population to be very interested in environmental issues (vs. 48% globally).
Both Costa Rica’s and New Zealand’s governments have taken responsibility for environmental protection on a national level: Costa Rica has pledged to become carbon neutral by 2050, and New Zealand plans to use 90% electricity from renewable sources by 2025. This is also reflected in the Environment & Sustainability Ranking by InterNations: 82% of expats in Costa Rica and 85% in New Zealand, respectively, agree that the local government supports green policies (vs. 55% globally). A US American expat describes Costa Rica as a “peaceful country, committed to environmental conservation, clean energy, and positively impacting the planet”. What is more, expats think that there is a lot of environmental awareness among the local population: 67% in Costa Rica and 79% in New Zealand agree with this statement (vs. 48% globally).
Bad News for India
On the other end of the ranking scale, India ends up in last place in each subcategory and in the overall ranking (60th). India’s “best” rank is actually its 58th place out of 60 for the population’s interest in environmental issues: almost three in five expats (59%) think the local population lacks environmental awareness (vs. 30% globally). What is more, 62% believe the government does not support policies to protect the environment, 37 percentage points more than the global average (25% globally). When asked about their experience of expat life in India, a Colombian expat states: “There is no care for the environment.” This is also backed up by the 2020 EPI, where India ranks in 168th place out of 180 countries.
More Asian Countries in the Bottom 10
The bottom 10 countries in the Policies & People subcategory are mostly expat destinations in Asia and the Middle East, which claim eight out of the ten lowest-ranking positions worldwide — the exceptions being Brazil (53rd) and Malta (55th).
Kuwait comes second to last (59th) both in the general Environmental & Sustainability Ranking and in the Policies & People subcategory. The country takes last place with regard to the population’s interest in environment issues (60th): almost three in four expats (74%) think the local residents are not very interested in environmental issues (vs. 30% globally). A South African expat talks about a “culture of environmental disregard and littering” in Kuwait, and a US American expat believes that “environmental issues are often ignored” there.
Coming in at 57th place is Indonesia, lagging slightly behind Thailand (56th), Vietnam (54th), the Philippines (52nd), and Hong Kong (51st). Expats in these East Asian destinations generally think that there is a lack of government support for policies to protect the environment. A Swiss expat comments that in Hong Kong, “the government does not do anything for the environment, instead they still have landfills, and food waste is also a huge problem”. Almost three in five expats (58%) agree that there is a lack of environmental awareness among the residents of Hong Kong (vs. 30% globally).
No Support for Green Policies in Malta and Brazil
Despite the European countries generally performing very well, Malta is an exception, ending up among the bottom 10 of the Policies & People subcategory at 55th place. The Mediterranean island state ranks 49th out of 60 when it comes to general interest in environmental issues: 52% of expats believe that there is a lack of environmental awareness among the Maltese population, 22 percentage points above the global average (30% globally). Malta even ranks 58th for the government’s support for green polices, which brings the subcategory’s overall ranking further down. In fact, more than two-thirds of the respondents (67%) do not perceive any support of environmentally friendly policies from the government (vs. 25% globally). A British expat notes a “lack of environmental concern by the majority of people” as the downside of life in Malta, and another sums up: “It is a shame that they have not embraced environmental issues as much as they could. For example, wind farms and electric buses would be a good idea.”
Brazil barely manages to avoid the bottom 10 in the overall ranking (47th), and it even performs quite well for a couple of factors such as the natural environment (24th) and the air quality (32nd). But it comes 53rd out of 60 destinations in the Policies & People subcategory, with Brazil’s lowest-ranking factor being the government support for policies to protect the environment (59th): 61% of expats do not believe that the Brazilian government supports green policies, 36 percentage points more than the global average (25%).