Yale Report Scores 178 Countries on High-Priority Environmental Issues

Yale Report Scores 178 Countries on
High-Priority Environmental Issues

A research team from Yale and Columbia universities will release the 2014 Environmental Performance Index (EPI) — a global assessment of environmental performance — at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on Saturday, Jan. 25.

At that time, the full report and redesigned website will be available at http://epi.yale.edu.

The EPI is a ranking of countries’ performance on high-priority environmental issues in two broad policy areas: protection of human health from environmental harm and protection of ecosystems. The 2014 EPI, the tenth iteration of the project, introduces some exciting innovations, especially as they help inform the ongoing discussions surrounding the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs):

• The 2014 EPI scores and ranks 178 countries. Countries new to the EPI come, in large part, from Small Island Developing States and sub-Saharan Africa. Scoring and ranking a broader and more diverse set of countries is particularly important as the global community prepares the post-2015 international development agenda.

• Guided by discussions with water experts working on the SDGs, the 2014 EPI introduces a new indicator on wastewater treatment. This indicator offers a first look at how countries are performing on this major driver of ecosystem water quality.

• The 2014 EPI features a new approach to climate change indicators. Past indicators have been primarily based on emissions without taking into consideration economic development. Focusing solely on emissions creates an indicator of industrialization rather than policy performance on climate change. The new climate indicators consider different emissions pathways depending on the economic development of a given country.

• The 2014 EPI includes two novel satellite-derived indicators for air quality and forests, offering a more accurate picture of environmental policy performance than what emerged from previous modeling efforts and national reports.

As the EPI team has compiled and analyzed the 2014 EPI data, several key stories have emerged:

• Dramatic progress is possible when measurement and management practices align. Since 1990 more than 2 billion people have gained access to improved drinking water and proper sanitation, exceeding Millennium Development Goal targets.

• When measurement is poor or not aligned with proper management, natural and human systems suffer. This is perhaps most apparent in the dire state of fish stocks around the world: Marine fisheries are badly monitored, many fleets deliberately misreport catch data or fail to report, and international policy targets are ad hoc and incomplete.

• Cities offer opportunities when it comes to environmental sustainability. Some elements of sustainability, such as wastewater treatment, benefit from denser urban populations.

The EPI is produced by the Yale Center for Environmental Law & Policy (YCELP) and Columbia University’s Center for International Earth Science Information Network, in collaboration with The World Economic Forum and the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre.

YCELP — a joint undertaking between the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and the Yale Law School — seeks to incorporate fresh thinking, ethical awareness, and analytically rigorous decision-making tools into environmental law and policy.