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How does the politics of a country affect its sustainability?

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Quick Answer

Countries' levels of commitment to investing in sustainable programs is often associated with where they sit on the political spectrum. As of 2015, the countries with the most left-leaning political systems rated higher in sustainability than their right-leaning counterparts.

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The political left is associated with larger government and higher levels of spending, while the political right is generally more fiscally conservative. A country with a right-leaning political system is inclined towards the private sector, rather than high public spending. Spending on sustainable programs like renewable resources, clean energy and climate concerns is not highly profitable and tends to be a behavior more heavily associated with the political left.

The countries that rate highest in overall sustainability, Sweden, Switzerland and Norway, are regarded to be some of the furthest left-leaning governments politically, according to RobecoSAM. More moderate, centrist political systems like those in Japan and the United States land in the middle of the sustainability rankings, while the furthest nations to the right of the political spectrum like Russia and China score near the bottom of the rankings.

In the United States, partisan opposition on issues of environmental spending and general sustainability is common. The Pew Center finds that in 2015, only 20 percent of Republicans viewed climate change as a serious problem, compared to 68 percent of Democrats.

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