The 2018 Environmental Performance Index (EPI) evaluated and compared 180 countries according to their performance in protecting human health from environmental harm and safeguarding ecosystems according to internationally established targets. The project is led by Yale University and Columbia University in collaboration with the World Economic Forum.
Within two policy objectives - Environmental Health and Ecosystem Vitality- the 2018 EPI report is based on the evaluation of 24 individual environmental performance indicators within 10 issue categories (Air Quality, Water & Sanitation, Heavy Metals, Biodiversity & Habitat, Forests, Fisheries, Climate & Energy, Air Pollution, Water Resources, and Agriculture). It is conspicuous that the 2018 performance indicators are largely similar to those of 2016, but have changed in some details. Environmental Health is now weighted at 40% and Ecosystem Vitality at 60% while in 2016 they were 50% to 50%. Also, "Environmental Health" was supplemented by a new category of heavy metals.
A variety of techniques, including observations from monitoring stations, surveys and questionnaires, industry reports, government statistics, etc. were used as data source for EPI 2018. The researches point out that every EPI version introduces different methodology updates to increase the sophistication and usefulness of the index.
In general, European countries again lead the EPI’s top performers, occupying 17 of the top 20 positions. The leader of 2008, 2012 and 2014, but dropped to the 16th place in 2016, regained its first position and, according to EPI 2018, became the country with the highest environmental performance by scoring 87.42. It performed strongly across most issues, especially climate protection and air quality. France, which was ranked 10th in 2016, improved greatly in marine areas protection and achieved 2nd place with 83.95 points. Excelling in high scores for Air Quality, Denmark (81.60), Malta (80.90) and Sweden (80.51) round out the top 5. The United Kingdom (79.89), Luxemburg (79.12) Austria (78.97), and Ireland (78.77) are ranging among the top 10 countries in the 2018 EPI. The leader of the year 2016, Finland, dropped to 10th place with scores of 78.64%. Iceland (78.57) which ranked 2nd in 2016, moved to 11th place.
The worst performers are Nepal (31.44), India (30.57), the Democratic Republic of Congo (30.41), Bangladesh (29.56), and Burundi (27.43). The low scores of these countries are indicative of the weak performance on cleaning up air quality, protecting biodiversity, and reducing GHG emissions, according to the researchers.
A weak performance in reducing GHG emissions as well as deforestation saw the USA drop to 27th position, putting the country near the back of the industrialized nations, behind Germany (13th), Italy (16th), Japan (20th), Australia (21st) and Canada (25th).
In general, the Performance Index (EPI) 2018 finds that air quality is the leading environmental threat to public health, especially in rapidly urbanizing and industrializing nations such as India (177th place) and China (120th place). As in the previous 2016 report, EPI 2018 points out that fisheries continue to deteriorate in most countries, with significant problems in El Salvador, Papua New Guinea, and Portugal. At the same time Peru (64th position) was identified as one of the few countries that has improved in the sustainable management of fisheries.
The 2018 EPI also reflects important trends in environmental performance at a global level. The overall score for the world is 46.16. This is slightly better than the baseline score of 41.68. As well as at the country level, the overall global score is mostly pulled down by the policy objective of Environmental Health, which has a score of 31.50. Ecosystem Vitality, on the other hand, is more robust at 55.93, yet still shows much room for improvement.