As wildfires and other natural disasters such as Hurricane Ian become more common and severe, an increasing number of people have been calling for greater climate action in the United States. Despite the existing policies we already have in place, the average carbon footprint of American citizens is 16 tons per year, nearly 4 times the global average. We can find ways to reduce this number by looking at what one of the world’s greenest countries is doing to help the climate.
Sweden, one of the greenest countries in the world, has long been a leading example of sustainability and environmental protection. This is in part due to the fact that Sweden got an earlier start than most on preserving the environment. They were the first in the world to pass an environmental protection act in 1967 and later held the world’s first climate-focused UN conference in 1972. In addition to this early start, they have set ambitious goals for their emissions, pledging to be 100% renewable by 2045. Currently, over 75% of their electricity needs are met by renewable energy sources such as hydropower, bioenergy, and wind turbines.
All of this energy goes to good use, too. Sweden consumes more power per capita than most other countries but has about one-fourth of the emissions that America has. The final factor that contributes to reducing Sweden’s emissions is the high carbon tax that was introduced in 1991 and has steadily increased as time goes on. Currently, the Swedish carbon tax stands at $129.89 US per ton of carbon emissions every year. For reference, the average American would have to pay about $2078.24 a year for the carbon tax alone, making a tax this high not exactly practical in the U.S. right now (although it probably will be a step we take later on). Before implementing a similar tax, we will first need to address the other problems plaguing our nation. Something worth noting is that a carbon tax in the U.S. would have a greater adverse impact on poorer families since a larger percentage of low-income households’ earnings are spent on energy costs than those of higher-income households. Overall, we should follow the example set by Sweden and other countries like it and focus more on reducing our carbon footprint by setting more goals, sticking to our climate action plans, and creating new policies to support renewable energy sources.