According to a recent Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) report, Australia was among the best performers of the 34 countries surveyed for average life expectancy for someone in good health, clean air and the safety of its cities and towns, however it didn’t rank so well for domestic municipal waste output, greenhouse gas and carbon emissions and its efforts to fight climate change. According to the OECD report, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland and Switzerland are the best performing countries overall, with Greece, Chile, Hungary, Turkey and Mexico the worst performing overall.
The report entitled “Sustainable Development Goals: Are the Rich Countries Ready?” measured how prepared OECD countries are for the United Nations’ new sustainability development goals for 2030 and was released ahead of the United Nations Global Sustainable Summit later this month. Amongst the 17 goals are to end poverty of any form everywhere, achieve food security and improved nutrition, promote sustainable agriculture, achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls, and ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.
Each of the 34 countries was given by a Sustainable Goal (SDG) Index calculated on the basis of an assessment against 34 indicators (e.g. two per goal) which included poverty rate and gap, agriculture nutrient balances and obesity rate, healthy life expectancy and life satisfaction, energy intensity and share of renewable energy in total consumption, and production based energy related Carbon Dioxide emissions and Greenhouse gas emissions per GDP.
The report highlighted Australia’s strengths in terms of the following:
- Life expectancy (73 years for someone in good health)
- Safety, resilience and sustainability of cities and towns
- Domestic space (2.3 rooms per person)
- Particulate air pollution levels below World Health Organisation (WHO) levels
- Agricultural nutrient balance (pollution from Nitrogen and Phosphorus usage are minimised)
- Ocean health and use of fish stocks.
In terms of weaknesses, the report highlighted that Australia had the worst rate of domestic material consumption per capita (47 tonnes) and that it was ranked 30th out of 34 in terms of municipal waste per capita (647 tonnes). It was ranked similarly for actions to combat climate change and its impacts. With respect to greenhouse gas and carbon emissions from energy production per capita, it ranked 33rd out of 34 (17 tonnes). By contrast the top five countries each emitted less than 5 tonnes per capita.
Australia has picked up an impressive number of low rankings in international assessments
One has to recognise that Australia has picked up an impressive number of low rankings in international assessments in recent years and report after report has highlighted the downward slide in Australia’s performance across a number of key areas. In recognising this, one also has to acknowledge that this latest assessment of Australia’s performance isn’t likely to make any difference to what the Government presents to the Paris Climate meeting in December, however it is likely to add even more weight and significance to the reaction from other developed and developing countries to what is presented.
Australia characteristically prides itself on being a nation where “anyone can give it a go”. Fortunately, many individuals and companies have indeed risen to the challenge and as a result Australia is home to world leading technologies and services across many pursuits and fields of endeavour. In the emissions reduction and renewable energy spaces it appears that many of those technologies and services will continue to be predominantly implemented outside Australia rather than domestically in the absence of any incentive or mandate. Australians should ask themselves whether they are really happy with this continuing to be the case or not, particularly when jobs could be at risk.