2018 Environmental Performance Index: Air quality top public health threat
Switzerland tops the report while India falls to the bottom tier, illustrating the challenge of sustainable
development DAVOS, Switzerland, January 23, 2018 – The 2018 Environmental Performance Index (EPI)
finds that air quality is the leading environmental threat to public health. Now in its twentieth year, the biennial report is produced by researchers at Yale and Columbia Universities in collaboration with the World Economic Forum. The tenth EPI report ranks 180 countries on 24 performance indicators across 10 issue categories covering environmental health and ecosystem vitality. Switzerland leads the world in sustainability, followed by France, Denmark, Malta, and Sweden.
Switzerland’s top ranking reflects strong performance across most issues, especially air quality and climate protection. In general, high scorers exhibit long-standing commitments to protecting public health, preserving natural resources, and decoupling greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from economic activity.
India and Bangladesh come in near the bottom of the rankings, with Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Nepal rounding out the bottom five. Low scores on the EPI are indicative of the need for national sustainability efforts on a number of fronts, especially cleaning up air quality, protecting biodiversity, and reducing GHG emissions, said the researchers. Some of the lowest-ranking nations face broader challenges, such as civil unrest, but the low scores for others can be attributed to weak governance, they note.
EPI Rankings The United States places 27th in the 2018 EPI, with strong scores on some issues, such as sanitation and air quality, but weak performance on others, including deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions. This ranking puts the United States near the back of the industrialized nations, behind France (2nd), the United Kingdom (6th), Germany (13th), Italy (16th), Japan (20th), and Canada (25th). Of the emerging economies, China and India rank 120th and 177th respectively, reflecting the strain population pressures and rapid economic growth impose on the environment, note the researchers. Brazil ranks 69th, they add, suggesting that a concerted focus on sustainability as a policy priority will pay dividends – and that the level and pace of development is just one of many factors affecting environmental performance. Sustainability outcomes among emerging
economies remains highly variable.
Seychelles ranks as the most-improved country over the past decade, due largely to its commitment to combating greenhouse gas emissions. São Tomé and Príncipe, Kuwait, and Timor-Leste also increased their ranking due to several factors, including the establishment of areas protecting biodiversity and habitat. Burundi, Central African Republic, Madagascar, the Bahamas, and Latvia slipped significantly in environmental performance, largely due to sub-par performance on climate change. All trend analyses are based on backcasting this year’s EPI methods on historical data.
2018 EPI Trends
The 2018 EPI offers not only a snapshot of where countries stand today but also reflects important trends in environmental performance at both the national and global levels. The global community is generally improving on a number of issues, such as health outcomes related to drinking water and sanitation and protection of marine ecosystems, while on other issues significant challenges remain.
Fisheries continue to deteriorate in most countries, with significant problems in El Salvador, Papua New Guinea, and Portugal. Substantial populations still suffer from poor air quality, most notably in India, China, and Pakistan. And on some issues, a small number of countries are failing to address critical problems. Indonesia, Malaysia, and Cambodia, for example, have experienced significant deforestation over the past five years, reflecting broad policy failures, said the researchers.