Yale-based 2016 Environmental Performance Index (EPI) provides a global view of environmental performance and country by country metrics. It ranks the performance of 180 countries on high-priority environmental issues - protection of human health from environmental harm and protection of ecosystems. Let's see the results.  

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With constant calls to save our planet, something is finally happening. Governments (at least they seem to) listen. For example, at last year's Climate Change Conference in Paris 195 nations committed to lowering planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions, and that is only the beginning.

Since 2006, researchers from the Yale and Columbia universities in collaboration with the World Economic Forum have been creating the biannually released Environmental Performance Index (EPI). The EPI report provides a global ranking of environmental performance for 180 countries, measuring their efforts and achievements in how they protect ecosystems and the health of their population. The results of the report are to be used as a guideline for policymakers, when they discuss environmental and health issues.

In the 2016 report, Finland has taken the top spot with an overall score of 90.68, with Iceland, Sweden, Denmark, and Slovenia closely behind it. As an interesting fact, let us add that Slovenia's capital Ljubljana was also voted Europe's Green Capital 2016. Here is a list of the top ten scoring countries (to see the rankings in full along with the score sheet for each country, click here):

  1. Finland (90.68)
  2. Iceland (90.51)
  3. Sweden (90.43)
  4. Denmark (89.21)
  5. Slovenia (88.98)
  6. Spain (88.91)
  7. Portugal (88.63)
  8. Estonia (88.59)
  9. Malta (88.48)
  10. France (88.20)

But to focus on overall results, the findings of the 2016 EPI show that the world is making progress addressing some environmental issues, such as health impacts, access to drinking water, and access to sanitation, while others have worsened considerably, for example air quality (NO2) and fisheries, which are in a horrible state, with 34 percent of global fish stocks either overexploited or collapsed.

The key trends, as identified by the report, show that now more deaths globally occur due to poor air quality (in 2013, responsible for 10 percent of all global deaths) than unsafe water (responsible for 2 percent of global deaths). Nations that become successful and thus wealthier see their governments invest more in providing sanitation infrastructure and safe drinking water, which lowers the death rate from waterborne ilnesses (but note that 23% of countries have no wastewater treatment whatsoever).

On the other hand, progress and development in terms of industrialization, urbanization and motorization leave humans exposed to hazards and dangers, lurking in the air we breathe. The report confirms that deaths attributed to air pollution have risen steadily over the past decade. It is a global problem, with over 3.5 billion people living in countries with unsafe air quality – and that is a terrifying fact, as it points to one half of the entire world's population.

According to the report, the number of people lacking access to clean water has been nearly cut in half from 960 million in 2000 to 550 million today, around 8 percent of the world's population, while 2.4 billion people lack access to sanitation

World leaders have a lot to deal with, but the survival of the planet is at stake, so hopefully they will respond and start taking some serious action.

Jan. 28, 2016 Living photo: Profimedia

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