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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Switzerland Tops 2008 Environmental Performance Index

Yesterday was released the 2008 Environmental Performance Index (EPI), which tracks national environmental results on a quantitative basis, measuring proximity to an established set of policy targets using the best data available.

The 2008 Environmental Performance Index (EPI) represents the result of extensive consultations with subject-area specialists, statisticians, and policymakers around the world, and was released by the Yale Center for Environmental Law & Policy from the Yale University and by the Center for International Earth Science Information Network from the Columbia University.

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According to the ranking, Switzerland is the world's greenest country, followed by 3 Nordic countries (Sweden, Norway, Finland) and Costa Rica. Mali, Mauritania, Sierra Leone, Angola, and Niger occupy the bottom five positions.

Top-ranked countries have all invested in water and air pollution control and other elements of environmental infrastructure and have adopted policy measures to mitigate the pollution harms caused by economic activities.

Environmental Performance Index – Rankings & Scores / 2008 EPI - Summary for Policymakers

US placed 39th in the rankings

The United States placed 39th in the rankings, significantly behind other industrialized nations like the United Kingdom (14th) and Japan (21st). The United States ranked 11th in the Americas, and 22 members of the European Union outrank the United States.

The U.S. score reflects top-tier performance in several indicators, including provision of safe drinking water, sanitation, and forest management. But poor scores on greenhouse gas emissions and the impacts of air pollution on ecosystems dragged down the overall U.S. rank.

“The United States’ performance indicates that the next administration must not ignore the ecosystem impacts of environmental as well as agricultural, energy and water management policies,”(...)
“The EPI’s climate change metrics ranking the United States alongside India and China near the bottom of the world’s table are a national disgrace.”
Gus Speth, Dean of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies

Wealth is a major determinant of environmental success

Analysis of the drivers underlying the 2008 rankings suggests that wealth is a major determinant of environmental success. At every level of development, however, some countries achieve results that far exceed their peers, demonstrating that policy choices also affect performance.

For example, Costa Rica (5th), known for its substantial environmental efforts, significantly outperforms its neighbour Nicaragua (77th). Nicaragua’s history of poor governance and political corruption, violent conflicts, and budgets skewed towards the military instead of environmental infrastructure no doubt adds to the disparity.

Low-ranked countries typically have not made investments in environmental public health and have weak policy regimes.

“At a time when so much scientific evidence is telling us that the Earth's ecosystems are in crisis, it is inexcusable that our collective investment in environmental monitoring is so low. For some critical issues such as water it is actually decreasing. When a hospital patient's health worsens, doctors increase their monitoring, and we need to do the same for the planet,”
Marc Levy, Deputy Director of Columbia’s Center for International Earth Science Information Network and one of the EPI project leaders.

Importance of incorporating rigorous foundations into decision-making

“Policymakers in the environmental field have also begun to recognize the importance of incorporating analytically rigorous foundations into their decision-making. However, while policymakers are calling for increased intellectual rigor in environmental planning, large data gaps and a lack of time-series data still hamper efforts to track many environmental issues, spot emerging problems, assess policy options, and gauge effectiveness. The EPI seeks to being to fill these gaps and, more broadly, to draw attention to the value of accurate data and sound analysis as the basis for environmental policymaking.”

2008 EPI ranks 149 countries on 25 indicators tracked across 6 established policy categories

Environmental Performance Index Framework / 2008 EPI - Summary for Policymakers

The EPI focuses on two overarching environmental objectives:

• reducing environmental stresses to human health;
• promoting ecosystem vitality and sound natural resource management;.

These broad goals also reflect the policy priorities of environmental authorities the world and the international community’s intent in adopting Goal 7 (*) of the Millennium Development Goals.

The two overarching objectives are gauged using 25 performance indicators tracked in 6 well established policy categories, which are then combined to create a final score - Environmental Health, Air Pollution, Water Resources, Biodiversity and Habitat, Productive Natural Resources, and Climate Change.

source: Information for the Media

Goal 7 of the Millennium Development Goals - Ensure environmental sustainability:
Integrate the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programmes; reverse loss of environmental resources.
- Reduce biodiversity loss, achieving, by 2010, a significant reduction in the rate of loss.
- Halve, by 2015, the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation,
- By 2020, to have achieved a significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum-dwellers.


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