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Report On Business Canada ranks high in sustainable development, study finds

Wind turbines are seen in this file photo. A new study found Canada ranked in the top third of countries when it comes to sustainable development.

AurAlien Pottier/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Canada ranks 11th out of 34 countries in a new study of sustainable development in the world's richer nations.

But while the country leads in such areas as quality of urban life and education, it is at the bottom of the pack for greenhouse gas emissions and domestic material consumption.

The 100-page report by private, non-profit foundation Bertelsmann Stiftung, published Tuesday ahead of the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit in two weeks, indicates that Canada does very well in its education policies and leads the OECD countries in making its cities and human settlements "inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable."

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Particulate matter air pollution levels are below the World Health Organization safety threshold.

And Canada ranks fourth in terms of annual withdrawals of total renewable freshwater resources and third for the protection of threatened wildlife.

But the country drops down to 31st spot for CO2 emissions from energy production and 32nd for greenhouse gas emissions (only Australia and Estonia fare worse).

The United States is in 29th position on the scale, which measures how well the world's wealthier countries are doing in terms of attaining 17 future sustainable goals by 2030.

Only the top five countries – Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland and Switzerland – are deemed by the study to be "fit" enough today to meet those goals.

The five worst countries on the list of 34 are the U.S., Greece, Chile, Hungary, Turkey and Mexico.

Canada's overall score out of 10 is 6.93, compared with 5.95 for the U.S. At the top is Sweden with a grade of 7.86.

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Canada is in the bottom five in several categories, including obesity, gender pay gap, energy intensity, domestic material consumption and greenhouse gas emissions per GDP.

The survey points out that inequality is on the rise in the richer countries, with the average income in the richest 10 per cent of the population now about nine times that of the poorest 10 per cent.

And about half of all OECD countries still draw less than 11 per cent of their energy from renewable resources.

"In terms of sustainable development, all countries are now developing countries," the report said.

"Today's high-income countries in their current shape can no longer serve as role models for the developing world."

"We in the rich nations, with our growing social inequality and wasteful use of resources, can no longer present ourselves as the world's teachers," Bertelsmann chairman Aart De Geus said.

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Pope Francis is to open the UN Sustainable Development Summit in New York on Sept. 25.

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