The 2016 Yale EPI Ranking

Yale’s Environmental Performance Index (EPI) ranks the environmental performance of countries across 19 indicators categorized under 9 environmental categories. The data used per country is on a national level. The methodology Yale uses is pretty straight forward – they identify the targets for each of their chosen indicators. These targets could have been set scientifically (e.g. by WHO), by international treaties/agreements, or are benchmarked against the analysis of ‘best performing countries’. The country scores are then determined by how close they are to the targets - 0 is farthest and 100 is closest. From the ranking, Finland, Iceland, Sweden, Denmark and Slovenia are the top five performers while Afghanistan, Niger, Madagascar, Eritrea and Somalia are the bottom five performers.

Although Yale continues to mention their key constraint is availability of data, the data they do have presents an interesting, but generally bleak global picture of environmental performance as a whole. I have outlined some of these below:

  • About 5 times more people die from poor air quality than unsafe water.
  • Between 3.4 million and 7 million premature deaths annually are linked to air pollution
  • 11% of under-five child mortalities are related to insufficient sanitation
  • Indoor and outdoor air pollution killed at least 5.5 million people in 2013, while another 141.5 million individuals lost a portion of healthy years from their lives.
  • In China, air pollution is now responsible for one out of every five deaths, killing 4,000 people every day.
  • 3.5 billion people – half of the world’s population, live in nations with unsafe air quality - 1.3 billion of these people live in the East Asia and Pacific regions.
  • Global Burden of Disease (GBD) project found household air pollution from solid fuel responsible for approximately 2.8 million premature deaths worldwide.
  • 2.4 billion people worldwide lack access to basic sanitation – although globally, there is a 50% decrease in the lack of access to clean drinking water.
  • The target for wastewater treatment is 100%, but 23% of countries have no wastewater treatment and more than 80% of the world’s discharged wastewater is untreated when released into the environment.
  • 80% of countries do not meet Nitrogen Use Efficiency targets in agriculture. It is estimated that the negative effects of nitrogen pollution (from fertilizer use) on biodiversity and climate change will cause the EU more than double the value the EU gets from its use of nitrogen in agriculture.
  • 2.52 million km2 tree cover was lost in 2014. Paraguay was the worst hit, loosing 24.6% of its tree cover from 2000 to 2014! Yale’s recent research revealed that there are over three trillion trees globally, but we experience annual losses of about 15 billion trees - with a whole 40% of deforestation is due to smallholder agriculture.
  • 345 of global fish stocks are over-exploited or collapsed, and it’s getting worse. it is even being described as a ‘calamitous loss’.
  • There is some good news with regards the establishment of conserved areas – 15.4% of terrestrial habitats and 8.4% of marine habitats were protected in 2014, less than only 2% away from reaching global biodiversity and habitat targets. But in contrast to this, biodiversity loss is still in decline!
  • A bit of good news for climate as well – one third of the countries scored are reducing their carbon intensity. But investments in renewable energy for developing countries has to rise from current $131.3 billion (in 2013 and 2014) to $730 billion per year by 2035.

Ultimately, Yale's further analysis of the data showed that there is a strong positive relationship between Environmental Health and GDP per capita. There’s no better business case than this to encourage policy makers to prioritize environmental issues. The key objective of the EPI is to present environmental data in ways that make sense, and help country leaders see where they should improve. The answer to this seems to be ‘everywhere’!

Read the full report here.