Written by Tatiana Lebreton Updated on 21 November 2023 ✔ The top three greenest countries are Denmark, the UK, and Finland✔ Denmark aims to reduce emissions by 70% by 2030✔ The UK is aiming to reduce emissions by 68% by 2030Ever wondered what the greenest countries in the world are?A lot of factors can influence how you rank countries by ‘greeness,’ such as their current and future emissions, their environmental policies, the quality of their air and water, and the health of their ecosystems.With this in mind, we’ve settled on using the ranking provided by Yale University’s Environmental Performance Index. We’ll take a look at how each country has earned its spot on our top 11 greenest countries list. What's on this page? 01 What are the greenest countries in the world? 02 Summary What are the greenest countries in the world?1. Denmark2. UK3. Finland4. Malta5. Sweden6. Luxembourg7. Slovenia8. Austria9. Switzerland10. Iceland11. NetherlandsThis ranking is based on results from the most recent Environmental Performance Index (EPI), compiled by Yale’s Centre for Environmental Law and Policy.The EPI awards scores to countries based on 40 key indicators, which include environmental policy, projected greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, air and water quality, and biodiversity.The average global environmental score is 43, 1 is the lowest possible score, and 100 is the ideal. All the top 11 countries have a score higher than 60. Let’s look at how they managed that.1. DenmarkDenmark takes the top spot for the greenest country, with an environmental performance score of 77.9.This is largely because it earned the top spot in a key category, Climate Change Mitigation, with a score of 92.4.This category accounts for 38% of a country’s total score, and is calculated based on criteria such as the growth rate of CO2 emissions, GHG emissions per capita, and projected GHG emissions in 2050.Denmark has ambitious goals when it comes to shrinking its carbon footprint. The country aims to reduce GHG emissions by 50-54% by 2025 compared to 1990s levels, and 70% by 2030.Denmark already managed to cut its emissions by 23% between 2005 and 2018, and the intensity of its carbon emissions is 43 % below the European Union (EU) average.2. UKSurprisingly, the UK is in second place, with a total score of 77.7As is the case with Denmark, this is mainly because the UK scores highly in the Climate Change Mitigation category, taking second spot with a score of 91.5.It’s easy to think that the UK would be lower down the list of green countries, especially when the government’s own Climate Change Committee stated in October 2023 that its “confidence in the UK meeting [its] 2030 target remains low”.Despite all this, CO2 emissions in the UK did decrease by 2.4% between 2021 and 2022, although the government noted in its March 2023 report that this was due in part to warmer weather and the energy crisis leading to fewer people turning on their gas heating systems.Nevertheless, this decrease has surely contributed to the UK’s EPI score.The UK also has ambitious targets for the future, aiming to reduce carbon emissions by 68% by 2030 compared to 1990 levels, and 77% by 2035.3. FinlandFinland is ranked third, with a total score of 76.5.Two categories largely contribute to this ranking. Firstly, it came third in the Climate Change Mitigation category.Emissions in Finland are decreasing year on year, falling by 22% between 2005 and 2019. This shouldn’t be surprising, since Finland is decarbonising domestic heating and is among the top countries for heat pump installations, with 24,159 heat pumps per 100,000 people.Finland also ranks second in the Environmental Health' category. This measures how well a country protects the health of its population through the lens of air and water quality, and waste management.According to statistics from the World Health Organisation (WHO), Finland has some of the cleanest air in the world, with the concentration of fine particulate matter at 6 micrograms per cubic metre on average. This is well below the WHO requirement of 10 micrograms per cubic metre.For context, in UK cities, the concentration of fine particulate matter regularly goes above 40 micrograms per cubic metre. 4. MaltaThe small island nation of Malta takes the fourth spot, with a total score of 75.2.It most likely earned this spot because it’s ranked fifth in the Climate Change Mitigation and Ecosystem Vitality categories. The latter category measures how well a country protects and improves its ecosystems.The fact that Malta ranks this high is slightly surprising, since it’s by no means a leader of environmentalism in the EU – Malta has struggled with curbing littering and protecting natural habitats, for example.However, it has made some progress in recent years. For example, one of Malta’s islands, Gozo, is aiming to be climate neutral by 2030. It’s already made some steps to achieving this goal, including turning an old landfill into a rewilded park by planting indigenous shrubs.5. SwedenSweden is ranked fifth, with a score of 72.7.Similarly to Finland, this Nordic country earned its spot thanks to ranking sixth in the Climate Change Mitigation category and third for Environmental Health.Sweden's GHG emissions have been on the decline, going from 7.87 tonnes per capita in 2016 to 6.22 tonnes in 2021. This was helped by the fact that over 60% of Sweden’s energy comes from renewable sources.Sweden also has relatively good air quality, with a concentration of fine particulate matter that’s regularly below the WHO recommendation. In 2019 for example, fine particulate matter was at 6.1 micrograms per cubic metre.6. LuxembourgThe small, landlocked nation of Luxembourg was awarded sixth place, with a score of 72.3.It ranked fourth in the Ecosystem Vitality category, and 11th for Climate Change Mitigation.Luxembourg’s most well-known environmental achievement is the Luxembourg Green Exchange. The sustainable finance platform encourages investments into green causes and companies.In terms of protecting local ecosystems, around 55% of land in Luxembourg is defined as a protected area (an area designated for nature conservation). This is much higher than the EU target of 30% protected area coverage by 2030.7. SloveniaThe first Slavic country on the list, Slovenia claims seventh place with a score of 67.3.It earned its place by coming second in the Ecosystem Vitality category, which accounts for 42% of the total score.Much of Slovenia – 65.2%, in fact – is covered by forest, around 76% of which is legally protected. This means these areas are safe from deforestation.Slovenia has been a leader in protecting its natural environment since the 1970s, when it recognised the right to a clean and healthy environment in its constitution.The country’s not ranked higher because it still has some environmental wrinkles to iron out, namely air quality, which is poor in Slovenian cities.8. AustriaAustria takes eighth place for environmental performance, with a score of 66.5.Similarly to its neighbour Slovenia, it did well in the Ecosystem Vitality category – except Austria finished in first place.Around half of Austria’s natural sites hold protected status. This includes four UNESCO biosphere reserves, which are nature sites dedicated to research into sustainable development.The water quality of the country’s natural lakes and rivers is also the second best in Europe, behind Cyprus.Austria loses out on a higher spot because it’s lagging behind the EU when it comes to reducing emissions. A 2021 EU report noted it seemed “unlikely” Austria would achieve its goal of reducing emissions by 36% by 2030.9. SwitzerlandIn ninth place for environmental performance is Switzerland, with a total score of 65.9.This is mainly due to the fact that Switzerland ranked fifth in the Environmental Health category.One key factor for this ranking is waste management. Switzerland has a very stringent system for waste disposal.Around 52% of all waste in Switzerland is recycled – one of the highest rates in the world. All remaining waste is incinerated to produce electricity and heat, a process that fulfils around 2% of the country's energy needs.Additionally, there are strict regulations around the handling of hazardous waste and waste destined for landfill. Almost one-third of hazardous waste is recycled, and the rest undergoes special treatment to ensure it doesn’t contaminate the environment.That being said, Switzerland produces a lot of waste per capita. It’s the third-most wasteful country in the world. So while properly managing waste is important, it’s also vital to reduce it.10. IcelandTenth place goes to Iceland, which has a score of 62.8.This is mostly because Iceland is ranked first in the Environmental Health category, which accounts for 20% of the overall score.Iceland achieved this partly through its very clean air. It rarely exceeds the WHO’s recommended levels for particulate matter, with its average levels staying at 5 micrograms per cubic metre or less.There is a slight peak in air pollution during the winter months, however, as homes burn fuel and firewood to stay warm.Iceland is also fairly adept at waste management, with around 39% of waste recycled or reused.However, there are still a few challenges to overcome in this area – a lot of waste goes into landfill, and it’s difficult for the government to treat waste in remote communities.That’s why, in 2023, the Icelandic government introduced a new law that imposes stringent waste sorting regulations. Waste now needs to be sorted into seven categories, for both households and businesses, and there are fees on packaging for companies, for example.11. NetherlandsThe last country on this list is the Netherlands, in 11th place, with a total score of 62.60.The Netherlands doesn’t have a standout score in any particular category, but it hasn’t done terribly in any category either. It’s in 14th place for Environmental Health for example, and in 32nd place for Climate Change Mitigation.The government has vowed to reduce its emissions by 49% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels, and by 95% by 2050.However, just as is the case in the UK, advisors to the Dutch government have warned it might not be able to achieve its goals. SummaryThe EPI ranking is a good place to start when it comes to assessing how far along countries are on their journey to protecting the environment, but it shouldn’t be taken as gospel.The EPI itself admits there are data gaps, especially when it comes to scoring “agriculture, water resources, and threats to biodiversity.”This list is more of a measure of the environmental progress made by countries, rather than a measure of how ‘green’ they actually are.If you want more rankings, take a look at which countries are winning the net zero race, or which countries use the most green energy. Written by: Tatiana Lebreton Tatiana has written about multiple environmental topics, including heat pumps, energy-efficient household products, and solar panels. She is dedicated to demystifying green tech to make eco-friendly living more accessible.