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The Environmental Performance Index (EPI) summarizes the state of sustainability in countries around the world. The EPI ranks 180 countries on environmental health, climate change performance, and ecosystem vitality. These indicators allow people to gauge how close countries are to achieving their established ecological targets. The EPI is like a scorecard. It shows who is leading in environmental performance. It also provides practical guidance to countries aspiring to move towards a more sustainable future.
Yale and Columbia University publish the Environmental Performance Index. It first started in 2002 jointly between the World Economic Forum and Columbia University. Environmental Performance Index indicators provide a way for countries to track environmental trends, understand outcomes, spot problems, and identify the best environmental policy practices. The analysis and results provided by the EPI can also help governments refine their policy agendas, maximize returns on environmental investments, and facilitate communication with stakeholders about ecological decisions. The EPI is a powerful tool in supporting a country’s efforts to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals targets. It also aids in moving society towards a sustainable future.
Every nation faces environmental challenges. The Environmental Performance Index indicates which country is best addressing those challenges. The EPI helps in understanding the determinants of environmental progress. It also helps governments in refining environmental policies.
We can draw a number of striking conclusions from the Environmental Performance Index rankings and indicators. First, good policy results are associated with wealth. This means that economically stable nations can invest in environmental policies and programs. Their ability to invest significantly in the environment gives them a high rank on the Environmental Performance Index. Second, pursuing economic prosperity manifests itself in industrialization and urbanization. Urbanization often results in pollution and strain on ecosystems. We can see this in the developing world, where air and water emissions remain significant.
But at the same time, EPI data shows that countries don’t have to sacrifice sustainability for economic growth and vice versa. There are countries in the Environmental Performance Index that have risen above their peers. Lawmakers of these countries demonstrate the importance of focused attention on the environment. Making the environment the center of policies can help mobilize citizens to protect natural resources and human well-being despite the strains that come with economic growth. Therefore, commitment to environmental law, a vibrant press, and the enforcement of environmental regulations have strong relationships with higher EPI scores.
Third, top EPI performers pay attention to all areas of sustainability. Denmark ranked first in the Environmental Performance Index 2022. Denmark has firmly committed to climate change mitigation and delivered results in that aspect. Therefore, we can generalize that high EPI scorers exhibit policies and programs that protect human health, preserve natural resources, and decrease greenhouse gas emissions. The EPI data also shows that countries with visible efforts toward decarbonizing their electricity sectors have made the most remarkable progress in combating climate change. Their efforts have also resulted in benefits for ecosystems and human health. However, the EPI notes that every country still has issues they need to improve upon. No one can claim they are on a fully sustainable trajectory.
Columbia and Yale university released the Environmental Performance Index 2022 on 31st May. The index has Denmark holding the topmost rank as the most sustainable country this year. It recorded a strong performance across sectors like climate change and sustainable agriculture. Other countries that came in at the top of the index include Finland and the United Kingdom. Their high ranks were a result of their strong climate change performances driven by strict greenhouse gas reduction policies.
The United States is falling behind its wealthy peers. Out of 180 countries, it ranked 43 in the index. The comparatively low rank reflects the rollback of environmental policies during the Trump administration. The Trump administration repealed and weakened nearly 100 environmental regulations, decreased fuel efficiency standards, and withdrew from the Paris Climate Agreement.
Environmental Performance Index 2022 puts the United States behind most wealthy western nations, including France (12), Germany (13), Australia (17), and Italy (23). The EPI said that the US will remain one of the four most prominent greenhouse gas emitters in 2050, along with India, China, and Russia.
The EPI reported that only a few countries like the UK and Denmark are on track to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. These countries have incredibly ambitious climate policies. For example, Denmark has targeted 2030 to reduce emissions by 70% of 1990 levels. The government has also expanded greenhouse gas taxes.
India ranked the lowest among all countries in the Environmental Performance Index 2022. The country achieved the lowest rank, 180. This means India is among those countries in the world with the worst environmental health. EPI said that India’s position reflects the country prioritizing economic growth over environmental protection and sustainability. Countries struggling with civil unrest, like Myanmar and Haiti, typically fall lower in the rankings alongside countries that prioritize economic development over sustainability, like Bangladesh, Vietnam, Pakistan, and India. India has come to the bottom of the rankings for the first time. Its low rank reflects the country’s inferior air quality and rapidly rising greenhouse gas emissions. Poor air quality and increasing greenhouse gas emissions also affected China’s ranking. China ranked 160 out of 180 on the scoreboard.
Rapid urbanization and industrialization in these countries continue to emit dangerous amounts of greenhouse gases. They present a challenge to policymakers and lawmakers struggling to implement sustainability plans for cities. India ranked 168 in the Environmental Performance Index 2020 and 177 in the Environmental Performance Index 2018. But, the EPI said that we could not compare results from the previous years. The assessment parameters change regularly.
The low scores of India and other countries show that these countries need to ramp up efforts surrounding climate change and air and water quality. They need better and stricter sustainability measures in place. Other low scorers like Afghanistan and Nepal need strong governance to implement sustainability measures.