Disparities between Local and National Scales of Sustainability in the European Union – Lauren Salvato

While other developed countries are slow to acknowledge the severity of climate change and pass legislation to reduce carbon emissions, the European Union (EU) began to take responsibility 11 years ago. The European Union acknowledges that renewable energy technology and research is crucial to “de-carbonize” the energy sector, thereby decreasing dependence on fossil fuel imports. They set mandatory targets to achieve 20% of energy from renewable sources by 2020 through wind, solar, hydro-electric, tidal, geothermal and biomass (European Commission, 2013).

In this study, I examined the local level sustainability I observed during a 45 day trip to Europe and compared it to national level sustainability. I was interested in exploring any correlation between the levels of sustainability and examining if additional factors helped determine ranking between EU Member States (MS).

Neither the literature nor my own observations provided evidence for a correlation between sustainability at local and national levels of EU MS. I explored other environmental and economic factors that could determine national scale sustainability from the European Commission’s Renewable Energy Progress Report. The information revealed that GDP is statistically significant in determining a country’s sustainability ranking but not its population size or area. Additional literature sources exposed other factors involved in a country’s sustainability besides GDP, making national-level sustainability more complex than previously hypothesized. The EU must adapt to the diversity of its MS to see continued success in meeting its renewable energy targets.

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