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Measuring National Environmental Performance: Statistical Considerations

By identifying specific targets for environmental performance and measuring how close each country comes to these established goals, the Pilot 2006 Environmental Performance Index (EPI) provides benchmarks for current national pollution control and natural resource management results. The issue-by-issue and aggregate rankings facilitate cross-country comparisons both globally and within relevant peer groups. The EPI thus provides a powerful tool for improving policymaking and shifting environmental decisionmaking onto firmer analytic foundations.

The EPI centers on two broad environmental protection objectives: (1) reducing environmental stresses on human health and (2) protecting ecosystem vitality. Derived from a careful review of the environmental literature, these twin goals mirror the priorities expressed by policymakers, most notably the environmental dimension of the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals. Environmental health and ecosystem vitality are gauged using sixteen indicators tracked in six established policy categories: Environmental Health, Air Quality, Water Resources, Biodiversity and Habitat, Productive Natural Resources, and Sustainable Energy.

The Pilot 2006 EPI deploys a proximity-to-target methodology focused on a core set of environmental outcomes linked to policy goals for which every government should be held accountable. This approach provides a context for spotting trends and issues of concern, evaluating policy results, highlighting leaders and laggards, and identifying best practices.

While a lack of time-series data and other data gaps constrain the current effort, over time, this methodology should facilitate rankings based on rate of progress and enable global-scale assessments of the sustainability of the world's environmental trajectory.

Top-ranked countries-New Zealand, Sweden, Finland, the Czech Republic, and the United Kingdom-all commit significant resources and effort to environmental protection, resulting in strong performance across most of the policy categories. The five lowest-ranked countries-Ethiopia, Mali, Mauritania, Chad, and Niger-are underdeveloped nations with little capacity to invest in environmental infrastructure (such as drinking water and sanitation systems) or aggressive pollution control and systematic natural resource management.

Every country lags its peers on some issues. This suggests that all governments stand to benefit from using the Pilot EPI to identify policy options and models to borrow from other countries. Globally, considerable work remains to be done to put the planet on the path toward environmental sustainability.

Background links:
The Pilot 2006 EPI will formally be presented at the World Economic Forum's meeting in Davos, Switzerland, on Wednesday 25 January 2006 but all materials (full report, Policymaker brochure, data, etc.) are already available on the website:

Additional useful links are:
Today's New York Times article on the Pilot 2006 EPI:

Environmental Performance Measurement Project:

Yale Center for Environmental Law & Policy: