Comparing Countries’ Environmental Efforts

Like most issues, some countries are more invested in the environment than others. And like most issues, these countries have different ways of dealing with various environmental problems. Using the Environmental Performance Index released this year, and these countries’ active environmental policies; I will compare them on the basis of their environmental friendliness.

Countries making an active effort to reduce their environmental impact

Switzerland – #1

Thunersee, Switzerland
“Thunersee” by Roland Zumbühl, Arlesheim

Coming on top of the EPI at number one, it’s clear that Switzerland prioritizes the environment. With a ranking of 100 (out of 100) in three separate categories – health impacts, water and sanitation, and biodiversity and habitat – this top ranking makes sense. Switzerland’s environmental policy is further evidence of a strong environmental presence. Switzerland’s Federal Office for the Environment continues to acknowledge and improve upon its flaws.

The Nordic Countries – Top 20

The Nordic Countries – Sweden (9), Norway (10), Denmark (13), Iceland (14), and Finland (18) – all rank in the top 20 on the EPI, and have proven to be consistently environmentally conscious. A large part of these countries’ success could very well be due to an appreciation for their environmental landscapes, of which there is plenty of beauty. Small populations is also a factor for these countries, as they don’t have to worry as much about emissions.

Australia – #3

Australia, ranked third for environmental performance, has rankings of 92 or above in five seperate categories. They have implemented several environmental policies and programs over the years, including a carbon tax and the green army. The carbon tax was abolished this past summer, but they have implemented an emissions reduction fund in place of it that incentivizes emissions reduction across the country. The green army is a government program where citizens ages 17-24 participate in acts of environmental conservation.

Blue Linckia Starfish in Great Barrier Reef
“Blue Linckia Starfish” by Richard Ling

Countries that are improving, but still not there

USA – #33

Under the reign of President Obama, there has been a clear attempt to emphasize the importance of environmental issues. Unfortunately, since the issue is bipartisan in the US (with liberals generally more concerned about the environment, and conservatives generally not), there has been minimal actual improvement in policy. However, the public has taken it into their own hands, promoting green enterprise in the free market and innovating sustainable alternatives (electric cars, public transportation, alternative energy) to harmful practices and products. It also helps that the government has some strong institutions in place to regulate and protect, including the EPA, Fish and Wildlife Service, and National Park Service. There is still an adamant opposition to this green movement, but the United States is moving up in environmental freindliness (currently ranked 33rd on the EPI).

Kuwait – #42

Kuwait is an interesting country in that one likely wouldn’t expect them to be here. However, Kuwait is drastically improving their overall environmental performance, especially in the area of biodiversity, where they now have a score of 92.88. This rapid increase is likely due to an increased focus on protecting biodiverse areas.  Kuwait now has 26 protected areas ranging from national park land to nature reserves. Unfortunately, their air quality is declining fairly rapidly, leaving them ranked at 42 when they could be higher if air quality was properly addressed. Check out Kuwait’s EPA website here.

Countries doing a poor job

China – #118

Air pollution in Hong Kong. “Hong kong haze comparison” by Tokyoahead at English Wikipedia.

Despite its emergence as a world power, China has yet to take responsibility for its environmental degradation. According to the latest EPI, which ranks countries on a variety of environmental factors, China is 118th out of 178 countries – a dismal ranking for the world power. This is due in large part to increasingly toxic air quality. On air quality alone, China is ranked 176th.

India – #155

India is ranked 155 out of 178 countries, with rankings 104 or worse in six different categories. Like China, their primary issue is that of air pollution. Given a rapidly increasing population, this isn’t too surprising, but it certainly isn’t good. Like most other countries, however, India is improving. This is represented in their environmental policy, of which there is plenty. Their website demonstrates a concern for the environment in a variety of categories, even if the policy implementation is taking a while to work.

Countries that couldn’t be doing worse

African countries – Bottom

There is a clear pattern occurring at the bottom of the EPI. Of the bottom 20 countries, 16 of them are in Africa. The absolute worst is Somalia, likely due to government corruption and civil war. The environment is certainly not their number one priority. In fact, it would rank fairly low on the list in all of these countries due to a lack of institutions to create, implement, and enforce environmental policy. A booming population in the area also makes it difficult to keep emissions down, and prevent excessive human intervention in the natural state.

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