Sustainable Countries? The Good and The Bad.

October 20, 2021

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Have you ever wondered which are the most sustainable countries in the world? The online space is full of different research and opinions on this topic but this story will focus on something more specific – Yale’s Environmental Performance Index (EPI).

What is EPI?

The index was introduced for the very first time at the beginning of the 21st century by professors from Yale and Columbia Universities. EPI’s team revises its ranking and research every two years. 

The latest results are from 2020. The index ranks 180 countries based on 32 indicators in 11 categories related to environmental health and ecosystem vitality:

In a nutshell, the index shows how close countries are to established environmental policy targets. Let’s see what the 2020 results tell us!

The Good

The ten most sustainable countries are all in Europe. In Top 20, we have mostly European countries but also Japan, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. 

Probably not a big surprise for anyone but Denmark, Luxembourg and Switzerland are the three most sustainable countries in the world. Denmark undoubtedly leads the world in its commitment to a carbon-free future, renewable energy and sustainable agriculture. Luxembourg ranks second in the ecosystem vitality categories as well as high in the air pollution reduction category. Switzerland, on the other side, scores higher in the environmental health categories, especially in clarity of sanitation and drinking water.

Other Big Economies

But let’s look at some of the big economies and how they are performing. Currently, the three largest economies in the world are the United States (GDP 2021e: USD 22.7 trillion), China (USD 16.7 trillion) and Japan (USD 5.4 trillion). The United States ranks 24th, which refutes claims made by previous American leaders that the country has the cleanest air and water in the world. The country, however, ranks high in air pollution mitigation and agricultural diversity.

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China ranks 120th and though it suffers from poor air quality it has made significant progress during the years, especially compared to a decade ago. It must be noted that the country made some significant investments in solar energy and is no longer so dependent on coal mining.

Japan, on the other hand, is the best performing Asian country according to the ranking. It scores high on indicators like Climate Change, Air Quality, and Sanitation & Drinking Water. However, one serious issue there is related to poor fisheries management. 

How Could EPI Help Us?

This research is quite insightful but it also provides guidance for countries aspiring to move towards a more sustainable future. Such information needs to reach more people. Knowing the problem and where you stand as part of it is the first step towards building a better tomorrow! 

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