January 23, 2016
(Davos, Switzerland) – Kim Samuel, Director, Samuel Group of Companies and Professor of Practice, McGill University today issued the following statement at the 2016 Environmental Performance Index Launch, World Economic Forum:
I’ve been involved with the EPI since its inception, almost two decades ago.
At the time, I was privileged to be part of the World Economic Forum’s Global Leaders for Tomorrow, where I chaired the Environment Task Force.
Of course, it was already clear by then that climate change was a serious threat to life as we know it; and that environmental problems, pollution, and resource degradation were putting many countries at risk.
But back in 2000, the emphasis on measurement and data-driven decision-making was still in its infancy, especially in the environmental policy arena.
So, together with our partners at the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy and the Center for International Earth Science Information Network at Columbia University, we established this pioneering index—initially looking at environmental sustainability, and evolving to a focus on how governments have managed the particular challenges they face.
Today we are celebrating the 10th iteration of the EPI. The project has expanded and continues to advance novel methods and promote new data, pushing the analytical boundaries to bring the best and most current scientific information to environmental policymakers.
The 2016 EPI is the most comprehensive EPI to date. It gives a snapshot of the world’s nations and their performance toward meeting key environmental targets for water, human health, air, and agriculture.
It covers 99 percent of the world’s population and 97 percent of global land area.
And it turns a spotlight on two broad areas of policy concern: protection of human health and protection of ecosystems.
It ranks countries’ performance in 9 high-priority environmental categories, by examining key indicators such as household air quality… the change in forest cover… wastewater treatment… and critical habitat protection.
The result is a global and country-level report card that shows policymakers the state of their environment—helping them see where they’re doing well, and where more concerted action is required.
Today, we are pleased to reveal the Top performers.
Finland has taken the top spot, followed by Iceland, Sweden, Denmark, and Slovenia. These top five performers share smart policies that target improvements to their natural and built environments, along with strong commitments to renewable energy.
Finland’s top ranking reflects its commitment to achieve a carbon-neutral society that will not exceed nature’s carrying capacity by 2050.
The 2016 EPI’s poor performers include Somalia in last place (180th), followed, in ascending order, by Eritrea, Madagascar, Niger, and Afghanistan.
These South Asian nations share troubled legacies of conflict and profound governance problems. These countries show that environmental performance is a governance issue: a well-functioning government is critical to effective environmental management.
And what we find is that the EPI’s value lies not only in sparking constructive competition, but also in offering a diagnostic tool to help environmental policymakers drive improvement.
Measurement matters—to inject objectivity into debates… and to help allocate scarce resources efficiently.
New data also equips all to become engaged effectively. Sustainable solutions require ensuring that every voice is heard – from marginalized groups such as Indigenous peoples to local and regional governments.
And when we’re talking about the very survival of the planet, the stakes could not be higher.
Last September’s adoption of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Climate Change Agreement makes the need for accurate environmental data even clearer.
The EPI can help track national and global progress toward the SDGs, and a cleaner, greener, healthier, and more sustainable future for us all.
Likewise, as countries work to implement the emissions reduction commitments that came out of the climate conference in Paris, the EPI can inform data-driven decision-making… and inspire collaboration around best practices.
Our hope is that by holding up a mirror on where we are, the EPI will inspire policymakers and leaders in every sector to reach for what could be.
For as my fellow Canadian, the late Marshall McLuhan memorably said, “There are no passengers on Spaceship Earth. We are all crew.”
And the only way to protect our planet is if we work together.
Help spread the word about the 2016 EPI Launch: