India ranks 168th on Environmental Performance Index

June 09 2020

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India has ranked 168th out of 180 countries in the 2020 Environmental Performance Index (EPI), according to researchers at Yale and Columbia universities, who say Indias decarbonization agenda needs to accelerate, and the country faces a number of serious environmental health risks, including poor air quality.

In the 2020 EPI - a biennial scorecard of national results on a range of sustainability issues - Denmark has ranked first in the world, followed by Luxembourg, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, France, Austria, Finland, Sweden, Norway and Germany in the top 10 countries. While Japan has ranked 12th, the United States of America ranks 24th, and China stands at 120th.

Now in its 22nd year, the EPI report has become the premier metrics framework for global environmental policy analysis, ranking 180 countries on 32 performance indicators across 11 issue categories covering environmental health and ecosystem vitality. The 2020 EPI features new metrics that gauge waste management, carbon dioxide emissions from land cover change, and emissions of fluorinated gases � all important drivers of climate change. The findings were released in June 2020.

According to the researchers, high-scoring countries generally exhibit long-standing commitments and carefully constructed programs to protect public health, conserve natural resources, and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

India comes in near the bottom of the global rankings at 168th place worldwide, and only Afghanistan (178th place) ranks below India in Southern Asia. Leading the region is Bhutan (107th), with relatively high scores in biodiversity & habitat protection. Sri Lanka (109th) and Maldives (127th) round out the top three countries in Southern Asia, followed by Pakistan (142nd), Nepal (145th), and Bangladesh (162nd).

The researchers say that India struggles to perform well on several of the 2020 EPI's environmental issue categories. For air quality, India and Pakistan both rank at the very bottom of the 2020 EPI, at 179th and 180th places, respectively. By comparison, low air quality also continues to plague China, although its recent pollution controls and other environmental investments have helped it climb to 120th place in the EPI, 48 places ahead of India's 168th overall ranking.

On biodiversity and habitat, India places 148th in the world, failing to maximize the conservation potential of its protected areas, especially in marine ecosystems. Perhaps most critically, India places 106th in the world on climate change mitigation.

"As one of the world's most significant emitters of greenhouse gases, India should be applauded for recent gains in renewable energy investments. However, the data show India is not on track to decarbonize quickly enough to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. Low EPI scores for India suggest a need for national sustainability efforts on a number of fronts, including air and water pollution, biodiversity protection, and the transition to a clean energy future. EPI rankings have long highlighted the environmental challenges that India faces. India's 168th ranking in the 2020 EPI reflects our improved knowledge about the current state of the world. Ten years ago, these same metrics would have given India a rank of 163rd in the world. The EPI finds essentially no overall improvement in India's environmental performance over the past decade, though there are gains and losses on individual issues," they said in a statement.

The 2020 EPI reveals that global progress on climate change has been halting.

Despite its high regional ranking in the 2020 EPI, Sri Lanka's climate change score dropped by 12.5 out of 100 over the past decade, due to heavy reliance on fossil fuels, and India's score dropped by 2.9. China, by contrast, improved its climate change score in the last ten years by 24.5.

Meeting the goals set out in the 2015 Paris Climate Change Agreement requires sustained cuts in emissions of all greenhouse gases, and the 2020 EPI finds that no country is decarbonizing quickly enough to meet these climate change goals. Some of India's neighbours do excel on individual greenhouse gas reductions, most notably Sri Lanka on methane and Pakistan on fluorinated gases, they noted.

(Siddhi Jain can be contacted at siddhi.j@ians.in)

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