2016 Environmental Performance Index Reflects Key Trends on Environmental Health and Ecosystems Management
On January 23rd, the 10th iteration of the Environmental Performance Index (EPI) was presented as part of the World Economic Forum. The EPI, a project led by the Yale Center for Environmental Law & Policy (YCELP) and Yale Data-Driven Environmental Solutions Group, and the Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN) at Columbia University, evaluates 180 countries on ecosystems and human health protection.
Specifically, the EPI draws trends and highlight data gaps in key issues such as air quality, water management, and climate change. The 2016 index reveals expanded access to water and sanitation and increased biodiversity protection, while countries have failed to reverse degrading air quality and decline in fisheries. According to the EPI, the number of people who lack access to clean water has been nearly cut in half since 2000, though it still affects 8% of the world’s population. Moreover, countries continue to close in on global targets for terrestrial and marine habitat protection.
Other variables evidence lack of progress. 23% of countries still lack wastewater treatment systems. Fish stocks are in decline and at risk of collapse. Air pollution continues at increase, and 3.5 billion people live in nations with unsafe levels of air pollution. This harmful trend is estimated to cause 10% of global deaths.
“While many environmental problems are the result of industrialization, our findings show that both poor and wealthy nations suffer from serious air pollution,” said Angel Hsu, Assistant Professor at Yale-NUS College and the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES) and lead author of the report.
The EPI serves as a diagnostic tool for policymakers to evaluate and improve performance towards improved environmental health and ecosystem vitality. It is produced biennially by researchers at Yale and Columbia universities. It also highlights data gaps and hurdles in the monitoring of progress and benchmarks for protecting fisheries, freshwater quality, agricultural sustainability, preventing species loss, fostering climate adaptation, and managing waste. “Even when data exists, policymakers often struggle to apply this information appropriately,” notes Marc Levy, Deputy Director of CIESIN at Columbia University. “The EPI works to identify and address these blind spots within existing policy goals.”
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