The infographic above visualizes the world’s readiness for a green future, pulling data from MIT Technology Review’s Green Future Index 2022. The index ranks 76 countries and territories on their progress and commitment toward a green future.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology launched MIT Technology Review in 1899, a bimonthly magazine of innovation and technology. The magazine covers a wide range of topics such as breakthrough technology, blockchain, computing, and climate change.
This article will briefly explain what the Green Future Index assesses. Then it will spotlight countries that improved the most from 2021 to 2022.
The Green Future Index | What & How It Measures
The Green Future Index was launched in 2021 when the green movements gained momentum globally in response to mounting natural disasters. The index measures the ability of 76 countries and territories to develop a sustainable, low-carbon future for their economies and societies.
More precisely, to what extent are they moving toward a green or more sustainable future? How successful are they in reducing carbon emissions? How committed are they to development of clean energy, innovation in green sectors, and preservation of their environment? And how effectively are their governments implementing climate polities?
To find out the answers, MIT Technology Review conducts in-depth primary and secondary researches. The processes include interviews with global experts on climate change, green energy, and decarbonization technologies. Additionally, researchers review several hundred articles, research reports and papers in scientific literature, as well as news and legal analysis journals. They also utilize data available publicly from various organizations, such as the International Energy Agency, the World Bank, and the Climate Action Tracker to name a few.
The Five Pillars in the Index
The Green Future Index assesses the 76 countries across the following five pillars:
- Carbon emissions
- Energy transition
- Green society
- Clean innovation
- Climate policy.
Countries are ranked in each of these pillars that have multiple smaller indicators.
The 2022 edition added several indicators to the inaugural edition of the Green Future Index. The additions include: nuclear energy, the penetration of electric vehicles (EVs), revision of climate-friendly patents evaluation, and carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) readiness.
For the more detailed methodology, please refer to the full report of the Green Future Index 2022.
Europe Takes Green Leadership
For the two consecutive years, Europe holds its position as the green leaders. Nine out of the top 10 countries are from Europe. The only exception in the top 10 was South Korea, leading Asia. Iceland and Denmark remained at the top two spots. The United Kingdom (4th), Germany (8th), Sweden (9th) and South Korea (10th) were the new faces in the top 10 for 2022.
Top 5 Improvements | Japan, Korea, US, Bulgaria, and China
The 5 countries with the biggest jump were Japan, South Korea, the US, Bulgaria, and China.
Particularly, Japan, South Korea, and the US have improved their innovation scores. Their green intellectual property conditions have contributed to the rise. In addition, they have notably increased their spending on clean and green projects.
Focusing on green innovation, the following part picks up some interesting findings from the report.
Japan | From 60 to 19 | Hydrogen Technology
The report mentions while renewable energy generation capacity has increased in the past years, its generation remains variable and unpredictable. This is because solar and wind sources are unpredictable, and geothermal sources are not universally available. Under these circumstances, more countries are turning to hydrogen energy production.
Japan is no exception—in fact, the country was the first country to adopt a national hydrogen framework in 2017. The Japanese government takes initiatives to support development of hydrogen technology in various fields ranging from Toyota’s hydrogen car to hydrogen energy partnership with Australia.
South Korea | From 31 to 10 | Green Patents
South Korea stands at the top in Asia in green readiness. According to the report, the country not only improved its waste management but also leads the world in green patents.
OECD 2015 statistics show China, Japan, and the US lead the world’s green innovation—37.7% of the world’s environmentally-related patented in China, 32.4% in Japan, and 25.1% in the US. South Korea takes out patents of 18.4% of the world’s green innovation, just after the US. However, relative to GDP, South Korea leads the world in green patents, the report said.
The United States | From 40 to 21 | CCS Readiness
Along with the two above, the US is also the largest green intellectual property contributor. It is another country to look at achieving leadership in hydrogen technology.
The country’s environmental policy saw a drastic change in the past years. The former Trump administration pulled off from the Paris Agreement in 2020. In the following year, the Biden administration rejoined it. The Biden administration progressively invests in renewable energy including hydrogen energy.
The US is also the largest contributor to CCS (Carbon Capture and Sequestration) technology. Global CCS Institute’s CCS Readiness Index proved the US to be the world’s leader in CCS innovation.
China | From 45 to 26 | EV Transition
Although the country’s greenhouse gas emissions increased last year, China plays a significant role in both renewable energy transition and EV transition.
According to the report, China more than doubled its offshore wind generation capacity in 2021. The country is now producing more than half of the world’s offshore wind electricity.
Additionally, the Chinese society is promptly turning to EVs in recent years. The EV sales unit mounted to 3.3 million in 2021 alone, more than 3/4 of which were manufactured by domestic automakers. Tesla, the world’s leading EV manufacturer, was quick to react—it opened Gigafactory 3 in Shanghai, boosting its sales in China.
The Bottom Line
MIT Technology Review’s Green Future Index is a new index launched in 2021 to measures a country’s readiness for green future. As the index is young, the 2022 edition made several revisions to its methodology. Comparing the past two editions, some countries significantly raised their rankings, while others dropped.
Europe holds its position as the green leaders for the two consecutive years. However, much growth was observed outside of Europe, particularly in Asia. As the ecosystem of green innovation evolves across Asia, the green “superpowers” might also experience disruption.