Climate change has become a hot topic among politicians and organizations globally.
This important conversation is about leveraging information and building effective partnerships to enhance resilience while slowing climate change. Whether we’re talking about poverty and pollution or sustainable urbanization, more countries are taking action to keep the planet cooler. Beyond rules and regulations, preserving our natural resources falls to the community level. Let’s take a look at three countries across the planet that are successfully combining local action with sustainability plans.
Hawaii’s Sustainability Plan outlines the future of Hawaii until 2050. The thorough plan includes actionable steps citizens can implement, including recycling programs, renewable energy usage, and paying higher taxes to protect the environment. While Hawaii still gets more than 85% of its electricity from fossil fuels, this warm state had the third-lowest per capita energy use in the nation in 2013. The challenge is to meet the needs of the present without compromising the needs of future generations.
Hawaii has already made improvements in the last few years. Its utility-scale electricity generation from solar energy more than doubled in 2014. Twenty nine percent of its renewable electricity comes from utility-scale resources and small-scale solar photovoltaic panels installed on rooftops across the islands. Plus, it is one of only seven states to have geothermal capacity. Hawaii is also the first state to set a goal of producing 100% of its renewable electricity from energy sources and the state plans to reach that goal by 2045.
Government-sponsored community programs were also able to build the sustainability movement. The local view of sustainability stems from the tradition, beauty, and history of their state’s island communities. Programs like “Caring for the Land in Hawaii” are succeeding in working in partnership with local population. The local groups appeal to old Hawaiian traditions to encourage people to reduce pollution by taking part in conservation and adopting sustainable ways of life.
Costa Rica is a world leader in environmental conservation and sustainability.
The nation has already achieved 95-99% renewable electricity. In 2015, the country ran entirely on renewables for 285 days between Jan 1 and Dec 17. As a country, they are able to grow while rebuilding and conserving forests, increasing their renewable energy usage, and protecting their wildlife. It’s no wonder Costa Rica has recently been voted the “greenest and happiest” nation in the world. There are over 100 protected areas to visit, and 25% of the country has protected forests and reserves. Their government, which has committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2021, has launched incentives for conservation and sustainable development projects.
The popular phrase “pura vida” accurately describes Costa Ricans, as they really do live a “pure life.” Maybe that is why Costa Rica has an exceptionally high life expectancy of 79!
Ethical actions in Costa Rica aren’t limited to the environment. The country became the first to devise a detailed plan to shut down their zoos and free all captive animals. Home to 4% of all known species, Costa Rica is one of the most biodiverse locations on Earth.
While tourism is its #1 industry, Costa Rica leads the eco-tourism industry with impeccable standards. So, there is a lot to see and learn while the environment remains intact.
Germany is a beautifully-preserved country that boasts an abundance of green spaces, wind farms, and solar power farms. In fact, Germany has set a goal for energy transformation, which aims to power the country on renewable sources by 2050. Solar farms are key to this goal.
Twenty-seven percent of Germany’s power is generated with renewables, and as of the end of 2014, solar provided close to a quarter of that. In the southern German state of Bavaria, population totaling 12.5 million, there are three photovoltaic panels per resident, which equates to more installed solar capacity than the U.S. To put it in perspective, the amount of renewable energy generated in Germany is double to that of the U.S.
Germany’s sustainability plans include energy tax reform, energy jobs, resource conservation, promoting renewable energy sources, application of new green technologies, and implementing sustainable transportation. Moreover, the country’s most prominent political parties feature “Energy Transformation” as a main component on their agendas.
While federal laws provide the incentive and enforcement mechanisms vital to the cause, they are primarily the product of an ongoing people’s campaign. As has so often been true of positive social reform, Germany’s politicians are the followers, not the leaders. An overwhelming majority of Germans support the idea of an economy fueled solely by renewable energy – 84% believe this goal should be achieved “as quickly as possible.” Many Germans ride their bikes to work and spend extra euros on organic goods and reusable packages. Even relatively low-income college students support high fees for long distance travel.
These countries all demonstrate that sustainability requires a global shift in how we think about our resources – and this change starts at home. Our choices as citizens and consumers are vital to kick-start sustainability on a large scale. Governments are only the support towards global sustainability. You can take action you and your kids will be proud of.
Featured photo by Arturo Sotillo/Flickr