Environmental performance, Denmark rises to #1 in the rankings

Denmark emerges at the top of the 2020 Environmental Performance Index (EPI). Other nations in the top tier include Luxembourg, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and France

© Francesco Ungaro on Pexels

Protection of biodiversity and natural habitats, quantity of forest cover, vitality of ecosystems, climate policies, air and water quality. These are some of the 32 parameters on which the EPI (Environmental Performance Index) report is based to evaluate, every two years, the trend of global environmental sustainability.

The dossier, created by the universities of Yale and Columbia University and now in its 22nd year, was created with the aim of analyzing the environmental policies of 180 countries on the basis of 32 performance indicators. In June 2020, the latest version was published that updates the national report cards and the ranking of the most and least virtuous countries in terms of sustainability. Compared to the last edition, that of 2018, new indicators have been added to deepen the analysis of ecosystem services and climate change.

Denmark ranks first in the Top Five 2020 for global environmental sustainability, followed by Luxembourg, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and France. The first eleven positions are all occupied by European countries: after France there are, in fact, Austria, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Germany and the Netherlands. These posts are dedicated to those who have been able to launch long-standing commitments for the protection of public health, the protection of natural resources and the decoupling of economic growth from greenhouse gas emissions. The 12th and 13th places are occupied respectively by Japan and Australia, the only two non-Europeans in the top 15.

Italy is in 20th position, with an index of 71, on an equal footing with Canada and the Czech Republic. Compared to the last report of 2018, when it was ranked 16th, our country loses four positions. In particular, land consumption and the loss and fragmentation of habitats that worsened it to 166 ° in the general classification are worsened. The indices for the overexploitation of fish stocks and the protection of marine ecosystems are also negative, so we earn 108 °, for the quantity of CO2, CH4 and N2O released into the atmosphere and for the greenhouse gases emitted per capita, respectively at 111th and 118th place.

There are, however, some positive signs. We are in first place with regard to the indicator of protection of the terrestrial biome, 10th for the health status of fish stocks, 11th for the quality of drinking water. We are also 25th for lead exposure and 29th for the viability of ecosystems.

The EPI ranking on environmental sustainability for 2020 highlights the critical points and problems of political agendas even more visible due to the crisis period due to COVID-19. The pandemic has managed to highlight, the researchers write, “the interdependence of all nations and the importance of investing in resilience”. The “sharp drop in pollution levels and the return of wildlife” due to lockdown measures have given, for EPI researchers, an “unexpected glimpse of what an environmentally sustainable planet might look like, albeit at a terrible price in terms of public health and economic damage “. If we could draw inspiration from it, we could achieve that “political transformation necessary for a sustainable future that is economically strong and respectful of the environment”.