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.
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).
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