From: Matt Moore, Associated Press
Published January 28, 2005 12:00 AM

Nordic Countries Claim Four of Top Five Spots in Environmental Sustainability Survey

DAVOS, Switzerland — The Nordic countries ranked highest in environmental sustainability, a survey released Friday at the World Economic Forum reported.


Finland claimed the top spot among the list of 146 countries surveyed by a team of environmental experts at Yale and Columbia Universities in the United States. Rounding out the top five were Norway, Uruguay, Sweden and Iceland.


Those countries were cited for their ability to combine good management of their natural resources in concert with new development.


The United States was ranked No. 45. Despite ranking high in water quality and environmental protection, its production of greenhouse gases dragged down its overall standing. Britain was No. 66. Finishing at the bottom of the Environmental Sustainability Index were North Korea, Iraq, Taiwan, and the ex-Soviet republics of Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.


The survey, done for the WEF, ranked the countries on 21 criteria, including the use of natural resources, protection of the environment and countries' ability to improve their environmental acumen.


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"The ESI provides a valuable policy tool, allowing benchmarking of environmental performance country-by-country and issue-by-issue," said Daniel C. Esty, a Yale professor and creator of the index. "By highlighting the leaders and laggards, which governments are wary of doing, the ESI creates pressure for improved results."


The study's authors said the 146 countries are all being graded the same, but added those in the top can be used as examples by those finishing lower.


"No country is on a sustainable trajectory -- and the ESI demonstrates this," said Gus Speth, dean of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. "We've all got something to learn from those at the leading edge."


Jeffrey Sachs, director of Columbia University's The Earth Institute, said the study is also a way to zero in on how humanity, as well as countries and corporations, are vulnerable to environmental distress.


"This is not an easy task, since as the authors indicate, sustainability is multidimensional and not easily summarized in a single figure," he said.


Source: Associated Press


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