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Project

Environmental Performance Rankings by Yale University

Credits: ©2012 Yale University

The 2012 Environmental Performance Index (EPI) and Pilot Trend EPI (Trend EPI) rank 132 countries on 22 performance indicators in ten policy categories and two overarching objectives that reflect facets of Environmental Health and Ecosystem Vitality. These indicators provide a gauge of how close countries are to environmental policy goals. The EPI’s proximity-to-target methodology facilitates cross-country comparisons as well as analysis of how the global community is doing collectively on each particular policy issue. The pilot trend EPI reflects changes in environmental performance over the period 2000-2010.

The 2010 Environmental Performance Index (EPI) ranks 163 countries on 25 performance indicators tracked across ten policy categories covering both environmental public health and ecosystem vitality. These indicators provide a gauge at a national government scale of how close countries are to established environmental policy goals. On a scale of 100, the top four countries are Iceland (93.5), Switzerland (89.1), Costa Rica (86.4) and Sweden (86.0). The United States ranks 61st (63.5) and the UK is at 14th place (74.2). Last place at 163 is Sierra Leone. The EPI’s proximity-to-target methodology facilitates cross-country comparisons as well as analysis of how the global community is doing collectively on each particular policy issue.

 

EPI Score Map 2012

The 2012 Environmental Performance Index (EPI) and Pilot Trend EPI (Trend EPI) rank 132 countries on 22 performance indicators in ten policy categories and two overarching objectives that reflect facets of Environmental Health and Ecosystem Vitality. ©2012 Yale University

Executive Summary
Environmental sustainability has emerged as a critical policy focus across the world. Governments are increasingly being asked to explain their performance on a range of pollution control and natural resource management challenges with reference to quantitative metrics. A more data-driven and empirical approach to environmental protection promises to make it easier to spot problems, track trends, highlight policy successes and failures, identify best practices, and optimize the gains from investments in environmental protection.

The 2010 Environmental Performance Index (EPI) ranks 163 countries on 25 performance indicators tracked across ten policy categories covering both environmental public health and ecosystem vitality. These indicators provide a gauge at a national government scale of how close countries are to established environmental policy goals. This proximity-to-target methodology facilitates cross-country comparisons as well as analysis of how the global community is doing collectively on each particular policy issue.

The EPI provides a framework for greater analytic rigor in the environmental domain but also reveals severe data gaps, weaknesses in methodological consistency, and the lack of a systematic process for verifying the numbers reported by governments. Likewise, the EPI makes vivid the need for better data collection, analysis, review, and verification as an essential underpinning for the trust required to make future worldwide policy cooperation effective. It also provides a model of transparency with all of the underlying data available online.

One of the biggest weaknesses in the current framework is the lack of ability to track changes in performance over time. Thus, the 2010 EPI offered a pilot exercise – focused on a small handful of indicators for which time series data are available – designed to make clear the potential for highlighting which countries have gained the most ground and which are falling back, as well as the issues on which global performance is improving and those on which it is deteriorating. The 2010 EPI also identified some of the critical drivers of good environmental results including the level of development, rule of law and good governance, and a robust regulatory regime.

The overall EPI rankings provide an indicative sense of which countries are doing best against the array of environmental pressures that every nation faces. From a policy perspective, greater value derives from drilling down into the data to analyze performance by specific issue, policy category, peer group, and country. Such an analysis can assist in refining policy choices, understanding the determinants of environmental progress, and maximizing the return on governmental investments. More generally, the EPI provides a powerful tool for steering individual countries and the world toward environmental sustainability.

Policy Conclusions
Several policy conclusions emerge from the 2010 Environmental Performance Index and analysis of the underlying indicators:
• Environmental decisionmaking can be made more fact-based

and empirical. A data-driven approach to policymaking promises

to make decisionmaking more analytically rigorous and yield

systematically better results.

• While the 2010 EPI demonstrates the potential for better metrics

and more refined policy analysis, it also highlights the fact that

significant data gaps and methodological limitations hamper

movement in this direction.

• Policymakers should move to establish better data collection,

methodologically consistent reporting, mechanisms for

verification, and a commitment to environmental data

transparency.

• Wealth correlates highly with EPI scores. In particular, wealth

has a strong association with environmental health results. But at

every level of development, some countries fail to keep up with

their income-group peers while others achieve outstanding results.

Statistical analysis suggests that in many cases good governance

contributes to better environmental outcomes.

• Environmental challenges come in several forms, varying with

wealth and development. Some issues arise from the resource and

pollution impacts of industrialization – including greenhouse gas

emissions and rising levels of waste – and largely affect developed

countries. Other challenges, such as access to safe drinking water

and basic sanitation, derive from poverty and under-investment in

basic environmental amenities – and primarily affect developing

nations. Limited endowments in water and forest resources

constrain choices but need not necessarily impair performance.

• Policymakers need to set clear policy targets and shift toward

more analytically rigorous environmental protection efforts at the

global, regional, national, state/provincial, local, and corporate

scales.

• The EPI uses the best available global datasets on environmental

performance. However, the overall data quality and availability is

alarmingly poor. The lack of time-series data for most countries and

the absence of broadly-collected and methodologically-consistent

indicators for basic concerns, such as water quality, still hamper

efforts to shift environmental policy onto more empirical grounds.

Relevant books:
The Global Environment: Institutions, Law and Policy
World Regions in Global Context


Documents

  2010 Environmental Performance Index Report (3,056 kb)


Resources

2010 Environmental Performance Index (EPI)