Environmental Performance Index Reveals Five Greenest Nations

Feb. 1, 2010
Iceland wins top spot; U.S. places 61st

Iceland leads the world in addressing pollution control and natural resource management challenges, according to the 2010 Environmental Performance Index (EPI) produced by a team of environmental experts at Yale University and Columbia University. This is the third edition of the EPI, which has been revisited biannually since 2006.

Released at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2010, the EPI ranks 163 countries on their performance across 25 metrics aggregated into 10 categories, including water resource management, environmental health, air quality, biodiversity and habitat, forestry, fisheries, agriculture and climate change.

Iceland’s performance derives from its high scores on environmental public health, controlling greenhouse gas emissions, and reforestation. Other top performers include Switzerland, Costa Rica, Sweden and Norway--all of which have made substantial investments in environmental infrastructure, pollution control and policies designed to move toward long-term sustainability.

Occupying the bottom five positions are Togo, Angola, Mauritania, the Central African Republic and Sierra Leone--impoverished countries that lack basic environmental amenities and policy capacity.

The United States placed 61st in the 2010 EPI, with strong results on some issues, such as provision of safe drinking water and forest sustainability, and weak performance on other issues including greenhouse gas emissions and several aspects of local air pollution.

This ranking puts the United States significantly behind other industrialized nations like the United Kingdom (14th), Germany (17th) and Japan (20th). More than 20 members of the European Union outrank the United States.

The 2010 EPI builds on data from before 2009.

Of the newly industrialized nations, China and India ranked 121st and 123rd, respectively--reflecting the strain rapid economic growth imposes on the environment. However, Brazil and Russia ranked 62nd and 69th, suggesting that the level of development is just one of many factors affecting placement in the rankings.

The 2010 EPI report provides a detailed analysis for each country, showing its performance on each of the 25 basic indicators, the 10 core policy categories and the two overarching objectives of environmental public health and ecosystem vitality. In addition, each nation is benchmarked against others that are similarly situated with groupings based on geographic regions, level of development, trading blocs and demographic characteristics. These peer group rankings make it easy to highlight leaders and laggards on an issue-by-issue basis and to identify “best practices.”

Source: Yale University