The Green Future Index is a ranking of 76 countries and territories on their progress and commitment toward building a low carbon future. It measures the degree to which their economies are pivoting to clean energy, industry, agriculture, and society through innovation, policy, and investment in renewables.
The research for The Green Future Index 2022 concluded in January 2022, prior to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. That conflict is likely to have far-reaching and ongoing implications for the sustainability efforts of countries all around the world. While MIT Technology Review Insights has attempted to relay the most accurate information possible, we can expect the economic, social, and political climate to continue to shift.
The Green Future Index 2022 is the second annual comparative ranking of 76 nations and territories (representing about 95% of global GDP) on their ability to develop a sustainable, low-carbon future for their economies and societies. As it was in its inaugural year, the index was developed through in-depth primary and secondary research processes. Secondary research included the review of several hundred articles, research reports and papers in scientific literature, and news and legal analysis journals. Primary research was conducted through more than 20 in-depth interviews with global experts on climate change, green energy, and decarbonization technologies.
This research process informed our evaluation and selection of 22 distinct sets of country-level data to comprise the indicators of the index. The data came from a wide range of publicly available sources, including the International Energy Agency (IEA), the International Renewable Energy Agency, the World Bank, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Association (FAO), the World Intellectual Property Organization, and the Climate Action Tracker (CAT).
Where it was necessary to fill in gaps, we expanded and refined existing datasets by conducting additional detailed research on selected countries and consulted with global experts. This was done in the climate policy and carbon finance initiatives indicators, and in new indicators added to this year’s index, specifically in defining carbon capture and sequestration “readiness” and in developing estimates for the penetration of electric vehicles (see the section “What is different in the 2022 Green Future Index?”).
The indicator datasets were turned into ranked scores in one of two ways. For quantitative metrics, such as growth rates or values, each data point for each country was scaled up or down using minimum-maximum normalization to develop a range of scores across all countries for that indicator. For data that was largely qualitative or non-standard, a ranking categorization system was developed, and each country was assigned a score. Once all 22 indicators were scored, they were organized into five separate pillars. The structure of this second edition of the Green Future Index remains largely the same as the 2021 edition, with a few indicators added to augment its coverage of sustainable activities (see the section “What is different in the 2022 Green Future Index?”)
Pillar 1: Carbon emissions – This pillar measures how effectively countries are curbing carbon dioxide emissions overall, as well as in key sectors. The indicators within this pillar are:
- Total carbon dioxide emissions in 2019, in millions of tons, relative to GDP
- Average annual change in carbon dioxide emissions between 2014 and 2019, both in total, and for each of the industry, transportation, and agriculture sectors
Pillar 2: Energy transition– This pillar assesses the contribution and growth rate of renewable energy sources, and now includes nuclear power. The indicators within this pillar are:
- The growth of renewable energy production in gigawatt-hours between 2014 and 2019
- The percentage that energy from renewable sources made up in final energy consumption in 2018
- The growth of nuclear energy production in gigawatt-hours between 2014 and 2019
- The percentage that energy from nuclear generation made up in final energy consumption in 2018
Pillar 3: Green society – This pillar measures the efforts made by government, industry, and society to promote green practices. The indicators measure:
- The number of LEED-certified green buildings in 2020, per million urban population
- The percentage of solid waste that is recycled as a percentage of total waste managed
- The net change in forestation between 2015 and 2020: an indicator that combines the change in acreage of forested land through naturally regenerated primary growth, and changes through planned afforestation projects
- The stock electric passenger vehicles per million urban population in 2020
Pillar 4: Clean innovation – This pillar measures the innovation environment for building alow-carbon future, such as the relative penetration of green patents, investment in cross-border clean energy, and investment in food technology. The indicators measure:
- Growth in green intellectual property, measured by the increase in patents registered for sustainable technologies or processes and solutions between 2013 and 2018, relative to GDP
- The amount of investment a country received and provided for clean energy efforts between 2014 and 2018, as a percentage of GDP
- The number of food technology (“foodtech”) startups per million of urban population
Pillar 5: Climate policy – This pillar measures the ambition and effectiveness of climate policy, including carbon financing initiatives, sustainable agriculture policy, and the use of pandemic recovery spending to achieve a green economic recovery. The indicators include:
- A qualitative evaluation of policy action to reach stated climate goals in compliance with the Paris Agreement and Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs)
- A qualitative evaluation of policy and regulatory frameworks to promote carbon capture and sequestration efforts (CCS)
- A qualitative assessment of measures taken by each country to create financial incentives for firms and investors to assign a cost to carbon emissions, through the levying of carbon taxes and the creation of a market for carbon bonds and emissions trading systems
- A qualitative assessment of sustainable agriculture policies, assessing for comprehensiveness and effectiveness of implementation
- An assessment of the degree to which covid-19 recovery stimulus packages will accelerate decarbonization, resulting in a “pandemic pivot” along two measures:
- Energy transition impact—scoring countries by the proportion of stimulus spending directed at new energy initiatives versus fossil fuel projects
- Green stimulus initiatives—Scoring countries by the percentage of total stimulus spending allocated to sustainable, low-carbon key public infrastructure projects (such as transport, water, public spaces, and information)
These pillars are constructed to comprehensively evaluate each country’s green future across two dimensions: the progress they have made on achieving carbon reduction goals and other climate-friendly societal activities, and the ambitions that the country must achieve to maintain a carbon-neutral economy. The first four “progress pillars” account for 60% of the weighting in the index. The fifth pillar—climate policy—measures the extent to which investment and policy activities are channeled into green infrastructure initiatives and legislation frameworks. These factors, we believe, collectively provide the primary impetus toward establishing and sustaining a country’s green future, and thus this pillar accounts for 40% of the Index weighting.
MIT Technology Review was founded at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1899. We are a leading voice on climate change issues with a dedicated topic area on our website for the global climate emergency, including innovations that may accelerate decarbonization and national climate policy initiatives.
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