A composite index defined by experts from the American universities of Yales and Columbia and published in the journal "Nature", establishes a world ranking of 146 nations according to their ability to sustainably preserve the environment. France takes only the 36e place of this hit parade, far behind Finland.
The index or ESI Environmental Sustainability Index, establish sustainability scores for nations in a "benchmarking" approach (only relative measures are established). For example, a country with a higher index is more likely to be able to preserve its environment in the near future.
The ESI is based on 76 different kind of variables (quality of goods, subsidies ...). These are used as a methodology to calculate indicators 21 5 classified into groups:
- The inventory (air quality, biodiversity, natural areas, quality and water resources);
- Limitation of the media pressures (air pollution, water, forest ...);
- The reduction of human vulnerability (health, nutrition, natural disasters, ...);
- The institutional response capacity (regulation, knowledge, governance, ...);
- The international positioning (international agreements and commitments, cooperation ...).
ESI indicator is the simple average of these indicators 21.
However, they do not have the same meaning as the French indicators for sustainable development, the aim is rather to select certain key variables for 3 pillars of sustainable development (environment, economy, social and health).
So we learn the rankings?
5 the first countries: Finland, Norway, Uruguay, Sweden and Iceland (except for Uruguay, little industry, is not subjected to strong environmental pressure) are highly developed countries with significant natural resources, a strong economy and low population density. In addition, each of them has already had the opportunity to demonstrate its capacity to face the challenges of development.
According to the study, this is not the case for the last 5 country ranking: North Korea, Iraq, Taiwan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, whose political institutions are presented (except for Taiwan) as weak and not allowing to take the kind of decisions to solve the many environmental problems related to natural hazards or human activities.
The United States are placed 45ème position, just behind the Netherlands and the UK before. This ranking reflects both good US performance on the water quality and protection of the environment, but also to poorer results in particular related to emissions of greenhouse gas.
France ranks meanwhile the 36e site (11e for the European Union alone) within a group of countries with high density of population, including institutional capacity is still above average.
Unlike a general bad reputation due to deforestation, some Latin American countries derive their game, including Uruguay which 3e place position with a biodiversity that remains of great wealth.
Gabon was the first African country (12e). This is especially the one that is less likely to suffer a sharp deterioration in its short and medium-term environment: many data on its natural resources earned him the rank 3e for the inventory, although as developing countries, institutional capacity remains below the average.
The study confirms the key criteria of environmental performance: the low population density, economic vitality and good governance.
National income, meanwhile promotes (without guarantee) good environmental management: all the top ranking countries are relatively prosperous. However, whatever their level of economic development all countries face environmental problems: some choose to settle, others not ... There is no determinism in the matter, and that no country is very good or very bad in all areas.
Despite the drawbacks associated with all composite indicators, which can stick to the unavailability of data and especially the difficulty of aggregating variable whose impact can be very different in different countries, the ESI is an instrument for comparison environmental policies.
At a time when the numbers are taxed in decision making, assess the environmental performance is not without interest to promote sustainable development ...
Official site The Environmental Performance Measurement Project (English)
Read the full study (PDF - English)
References of the study:
Esty, Daniel C., Marc A. Levy, Tanja Srebotnjak, and Alexander de Sherbinin (2005). 2005 Environmental Sustainability Index: Benchmarking National Environmental Stewardship. New Haven, Conn. : Yale Center for Environmental Law & Policy.