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The 2016 Environmental Performance Index (EPI) – Finland on top

Since 2006 Yale University and Columbia University in collaboration with the World Economic Forum have biennially produced The Environmental Performance Index (EPI), which ranks how countries perform on achieving environmental policy goals in two main areas: Environmental Health and Ecosystem Vitality.
The tenth 2016 EPI report covers 99 percent of the world’s population and 97 percent of global land area and is the most comprehensive EPI to date. It ranks 180 countries (compared to 178 in 2014) and their performance toward meeting key environmental targets within 9 issue categories (health impacts, air quality, water and sanitation, water resources, agriculture, forests, fisheries, biodiversity and habitat, and climate and energy), which constitute 20 comparable performance indicators (e.g. CO2 emissions, change in forest cover, drinking water, species protection, etc.). The 2016 performance indicators are identical to those in 2014.
Data for the EPI come from international organizations, research institutions and government agencies. Developers of the index remark that every new report requires changes to the methodology taking advantage of the latest achievements in environmental analysis. The 2016 EPI introduces quite a number of innovations. For example, for the first time, human health metrics capture health risks across all ages instead of only evaluating child mortality; the air quality category has improved with the addition of an NO2 indicator; the use of satellite data can now determine which countries are preventing tree cover loss. The researches point out that global data remain incomplete for a number of key environmental issues as Species Loss, Toxic chemical exposures, Nuclear safety, etc.
The 2016 EPI’s innovations have shaken up the rankings since 2014. Finland, which scored 90.88, is the number one country in sustainable development, putting a lot of effort into achieving a carbon-neutral society by 2050. Iceland, which ranked 14 in 2014, achieved 2nd place with 90.51 points. The researches highlight the country’s renewable energy sources, especially geothermal power stations, which produce a quarter of Iceland’s electricity. Due to its high quality drinking water and effective wastewater treatment, Sweden (90.43) was ranked in 3rd place compared to 9th position in 2014. By reducing emissions through increasing renewable energy production, Denmark (89.21) moved up from 13th place in 2014 to number four. With high scores in forest protection, Slovenia (88.98) achieved 5th position. Spain (88.91), Portugal (88.63), Estonia (88.59), Malta (88.48), and France (88.20) round out the top 10. The leader of the years 2012 and 2014, Switzerland, has moved to 16th place. This country, as well as Germany (30th position), Norway (17th position) and Canada (25th position) have shown improvements in most areas, but were out-performed by other countries who enhanced their environment to an even greater degree. Sub-Saharan African countries are the poorest performers, occupying 16 of the bottom 20 positions. The 2016 ranking outsiders are Afghanistan (37.5), Niger (37.48), Madagascar (37.1), Eritrea (36.73), and Somalia (27.66), again in last place. These countries are burdened with air pollution, unsafe drinking water, poor wastewater management und all share troubled legacies of conflict and profound governance problems which disable an effective environmental management.
In general, the EPI 2016 shows that the world is achieving success in some environmental issues while others have worsened drastically. On the one hand, the researches observe positive trends in renewable energy, health impacts, access to drinking water and sanitation. On the other hand, air quality, fisheries, and forests suffer major deterioration.