One among the many critical factors impeding progress at the climate treaty talks in Copenhagen was substantial disagreement about how to quantify, measure, report, track and verify environmental performance. Many countries do not even collect minimal statistics, while others (Cuba and North Korea for instance) are notorious recidivists at faking data or exaggerating progress for political reasons.
One attempt to develop useful measurements, despite daunting odds, is the effort by research specialists at Yale and Columbia Universities to create a viable Environmental Performance Index to be released every two years.
The preliminary version of the Environmental Performance Index 2010 is now available in a variety of forms. As the index authors suggest, “the 2010 Environmental Performance Index (EPI) ranks 163 countries on 25 performance indicators tracked across ten policy categories covering both environmental public health and ecosystem vitality.” Their hope is that these indicators may serve as a “gauge at a national government scale of how close countries are to established environmental policy goals. The EPI’s proximity-to-target methodology facilitates cross-country comparisons as well as analysis of how the global community is doing collectively on each particular policy issue.”
For a quick two-page take on the Index, see the initial press release which accompanied the report, or review the four page summary for policymakers. You’ll also find a few relevant comments in “Iceland Leads Environmental Index as US Falls” in the New York Times.
For more substantive and detailed analysis, consult the 37 pages of country ranking charts, 327 pages of individual country profiles, or the 73-page report on the preliminary results. (Final results will be issued February 12th)