EU member states figure high in new environmental sustainability index

February 14, 2002

Brussels, 13 February 2002

Finland has gained first place in a new environmental benchmarking report presented by Colombia and Yale Universities at the annual meeting of the World economic forum in New York at the beginning of February.

The list is the result of a new environmental sustainability index (ESI) which uses 20 indicators to monitor the environmental performance of 142 nations. Indicators include factors such as urban air quality, water quality and the strength of environmental regulations. Most EU countries were listed in the top 50, while the USA and Japan only reached places 51 and 62 respectively.

The study reveals that a nation's economic status is not necessarily linked to its environmental success. While Uruguay and Costa Rica made it into the top ten, other countries with a GDP per capita similar to that of the report's frontrunner Finland, lagged far behind.

The researchers structured the ESI results for each country in five categories:
- environmental systems (state of air, soil and water),
- environmental stresses (pollution and exploitation),
- human vulnerability to environmental risks,
- social and institutional capacity to respond to environmental threats,
- global stewardship of the shared resources.

The better a country scores in any of these categories, the better its prospect of maintaining favourable environmental conditions in the future.

The majority of EU and candidate countries fared as well as the USA regarding human vulnerability, social and institutional capacity and global stewardship. Their scores in environmental systems and environmental stresses were however lower in many cases.

This is partially due to the higher population densities and the significantly smaller average territorial size of the European countries. The impact of such factors on the final outcome of the study is a and that a fully sustainable path remains to be found. The results are interesting in the light of the European Commission's prioritisation of sustainable development in the Sixth Framework programme.

For full details of the report, please consult the following web address: point of contention with regard to the scoring system.

Nonetheless, the study clearly shows that there is room for further improvements in all countries

Research DG; Cordis News

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