Iceland ranks first among 163 countries in an Environmental Performance Index produced by environmental experts from Yale University and Columbia University. The Index was published on 28 January at the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The Environmental Performance Index has been compiled every two years since its inception in 2006.
According to the findings, Iceland’s top ranking derives from its high scores on environmental public health, controlling greenhouse gas emission, renewable energy production and reforestation.
Other top performers include Switzerland, Costa Rica, Sweden, and Norway. EU countries also placed high in the rankings. More than 20 EU countries outranked the United States, which dropped to 61st place.
The findings also reveal that income and economic conditions strongly influence country rankings. The bottom five countries include Togo, Angola, Mauritania, the Central African Republic and Sierra Leone - impoverished countries that lack basic environmental amenities and policy capacity.
China and India rank 121st and 123rd respectively, a reflection on the strain rapid economic growth imposes on the environment.
As a rule, income levels are a major determinant of environmental success. However, some countries achieve results that exceed what would be anticipated, demonstrating that policy choices also affect performance. For example, Chile, where substantial investments in environmental protection have been made, ranks 16th, while its neighbour, Argentina, which has done much less to improve its pollution control and natural resource management, lags in 70th place.
This is motivation to improve still further
According to Katrín Júlíusdóttir, Minister of Industry, Energy and Tourism, ‘These results should motivate Iceland to work even harder on those areas that could still be improved. It also quantifies in a measurable way the unique position Iceland has carved out through the use of renewable and clean energy resources. This is an area we can develop further by aligning such environmentally friendly energy production with broader industrial activities. Signs already point to this taking place, for example in the development of a planned ´Green Data Centre’, which is being done in cooperation with highly respected international companies. The results of the Environmental Performance Index should also be a boon to the tourism sector in Iceland.’