Working from a new scale dubbed the ‘Happy Planet Index’, which compares a nation’s CO2 output against the self-reported well-being of its citizens, the Foundation has produced a list of 30 European countries which puts the UK in the bottom third.
Top of the list was Iceland, whose citizens not only reported high life expectancy and life satisfaction, but also enjoyed one of the lowest carbon footprints, thanks in large part to abundant geothermal and hydro-electric energy resources.
The report reveals that Europe has become ‘less efficient’ at translating fossil fuel use into increased well-being, and challenges accepted wisdom that increasing energy use mirrors a similar increase in well-being.
‘Countries that have most closely followed the Anglo-Saxon, strongly market-led economic model show up as the least efficient,’ said Andrew Simms, Policy Director at the New Economics Foundation. ‘These findings questions what the economy is there for. What is the point if we burn vast quantities of fossil fuels to make, buy and consume ever more stuff, without noticeably benefiting out well-being?’
The report’s authors called for binding annual targets on CO2 emission reductions, policies to reduce social inequality and government with an emphasis on well-being.
This article first appeared in the Ecologist July 2007