Overall, New Zealand tops the 2006 Environmental Performance Index, which has been produced by environmental experts at Yale and Columbia Universities in the United States.
The index ranked 133 countries on 16 key environmental issues covering environmental health, air quality, water resources, biodiversity and habitat, productive natural resources and sustainable energy.
Sweden came second, followed by Finland, Czech Republic and the United Kingdom – to the satisfaction of Minister for Sustainable Development Lena Sommestad:
“It’s great to have it confirmed once again that our long term and deliberate environmental policies are delivering results,” Sommestad told The Local.
The report’s authors said that a country’s wealth is an important factor in its environmental performance. However, differences between countries with comparable economies such as Sweden and Belgium, which ranked 39th, show that “policy choices matter”.
“Good governance emerges as a critical driver of environmental performance,” said Daniel Esty, Director of the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy, who will present the findings in Davos.
The United States was placed 28th – a cause for concern, the report noted.
“The lagging performance of the United States on environmental issues – particularly on energy and climate change – signals trouble not only for the American people, but for the whole world,” said Gus Speth, Dean of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.
“Perhaps this ranking will serve as a wake up call to the American public and particularly to leaders in Washington.”
Sweden was ranked best in the world in the ‘Environmental Health’ category, with a score of 99.4 out of a possible 100. For air quality Sweden came 34th, the highest position for a European country.
Sweden’s water quality was ranked 26th. Norway came 4th and among the European nations, both Ireland and Switzerland were placed higher than Sweden.