February 6, 2006

EPI ranks 133 nations

This year's World Economic Forum also saw the introduction of another new environmental scorecard, the Environmental Performance Index (EPI), produced by a team of experts at Yale University's Center for Environmental Law and Policy and Columbia University's Center for International Earth Science Information Network.

The EPI ranks New Zealand first in the world in environmental performance, followed by Sweden, Finland, the Czech Republic and the United Kingdom. Canada is in eighth place and the U.S., 28th on the list of 133 countries around the world. Grouped by continents, Canada occupies the top spot for the Americas (North and South), with the U.S. coming in fifth behind Costa Rica, Colombia and Chile.

The EPI tracks the 133 nations according to 16 indicators grouped within six policy categories:

Environmental Health (drinking water, indoor air pollution, sanitation, child mortality);

Air Quality (urban particulates, regional ozone);

Water Resources (water consumption, nitrogen loading);

Biodiversity and Habitat (wilderness protection, ecoregion protection);

Productive Natural Resources (timber harvest rate, agricultural subsidies, overfishing); and

Sustainable Energy (energy efficiency, renewable energy and carbon dioxide per unit of gross domestic product).

Evaluating the countries' performance in the context of these policy categories and indicators reveals that every nation leads in some areas while lagging in others. It also clearly demonstrates that while a country's wealth is a significant determinant of environmental outcomes, effective policies are almost as important. Good governance appears highly correlated with environmental success.

"Policy choices matter," stated Daniel Esty, director of the Yale Center, adding, "Good governance emerges as a critical driver of environmental performance."

For example the EPI results show some countries achieving environmental results that far surpass their peers. The Dominican Republic ranked 54th, far outperforming Haiti (ranked 114th) even though the countries share an island. Likewise, Sweden (No 2) produced better environmental results than Belgium (No 39).

The U.S. score of 28 reflects top-tier performance on environmental health issues, but also indicates under-performance on critical issues such as renewable energy, greenhouse gas emissions and water resources.

The top-ranked countries all commit significant resources and effort to environmental protection, while the lowest-ranked countries (the African nations of Chad, Ethiopia, Mali, Mauritania and Niger) are underdeveloped, with weak regulatory systems and little capacity to invest in environmental infrastructure, pollution control or systematic natural resource management.

The results of the EPI have yielded a number of policy conclusions. The Index demonstrates that environmental policy results can be tracked with the same outcome-oriented, performance-based rigor applied to poverty reduction, health promotion and other global development goals.

Target-based environmental performance benchmarks make cross-country comparisons possible on both an issue-by-issue and an aggregate basis. A comparative analysis, says the EPI report, provides information on policy options, a context for evaluating performance, and a basis for holding governments accountable for environmental results.

The 2006 EPI and a six-page summary for policymakers may be viewed on-line at www.yale.edu/epi.

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