Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Yale 2012 Environment Pollution Index in Asia-Pacific: New Zealand, Japan, Malaysia are best “strong performers”, but Indonesia, China, India most populous countries are among “weak performers”

Figure 1 : Last child who contracted polio in India (globalgiving.org)

Yale University has published its 2012 ranking of EPI Environment and Pollution Index, across 132 worldwide countries. The data concerning the 20 Asian-Pacific countries are summarized below (see Figure 2).

Figure 2: Asian-Pacific countries 2012 EPI and Trend 


For each surveyed country EPI index is compiled from the two composite indices as follows:

The index EH “Environmental Health” describes pollution effects on human health notably from air (air pollution and particles), water (drinking water & sanitation) and the environmental burden of disease (Child mortality as a proxy). EH accounts for 30% in the EPI, the most important parameter being child mortality a proxy for underlying environmental conditions which amounts for half inside EH.

The index EV “Ecosystem Vitality” reports effects of pollution on nature ecosystems: water resources, biodiversity, forests, marine habitats, agriculture and climate change drivers (CO2, renewable). This component accounts for 70% in EPI index the most important parameters being biodiversity and climate change, each amounting for a quarter inside EV. 

These relative contributions of EH versus EV do not reflect the prioritization of nature indicators over environmental health, but rather a wish to better compound contributions inside EPI, because standard deviations are twice bigger for EH than for EV (see following Figures 4 & 5).

The raw data values are transformed by dividing by population, GDP, or some other denominator in order to make the data comparable across countries. Then a logarithm transformation is applied, allowing EPI to reflect important differences not only between leaders and laggards, but among best-performing leaders as well.

Asian-Country 2012 EPI 

Figure 2 above shows that the 20 Asian-Pacific countries are moderately effective when compared to the worldwide survey: 

  • There is no Asian-Pacific country among the 10 "Strongest performers" which are mainly 9 European countries- the first being Switzerland- and Cota Rica (5th).

  • 9 Asian-Pacific countries are among the “strong performers” which first 3 are: New Zealand (14th), Japan (23rd) and Malaysia (25th). 

  • 4 countries are  “modest performers” on which 2 developed countries Australia & Singapore.

  • 7 countries are “weak performers”. It is worrying that the three most populous countries: China, India and Indonesia, which concentrate 74% of the population in Asia-Pacific region have such weak performance.

Figure 3: Asian-Pacific countries 2012 EPI and Trend dynamic

There is however a positive upside (see Figure 3). No country in the area is among the last 12 worldwide “weakest performers”. The trend is favorable since among the 20 Asian-Pacific countries under survey, 11 countries have a strong positive EPI trend over the period 2000- 2010 (North East quadrant in Figure 3).

Figure 4: Asian-Pacific country Environmental Health Composant

In Asia-Pacific region the first emerging country is Malaysia which as compared to New Zealand shows good results on Agriculture and Biodiversity but should improve on EH (Environmental burden of disease and Water) and EV (Climate Change and Forests).

The ranking is misleading for countries with very small land area: Singapore is number one for the EH, but because it has a limited land surface is the last EV ranked Asian-Pacific countries.

Among the developed countries, Australia  is very weak on EV because Agriculture, Air pollution on Ecosystem, Climate Change and Forest parameters have low performances.

Figure 5: Asian-Pacific country Ecosystem Vitality Composant


Policy response needed to improve  Ecosystem Vitality

A closer examination of the Trend EPI for a subset of countries demonstrates distinct differences between Environmental Health and Ecosystem Vitality performances in the last ten years.

For the Environmental Health measure, most countries have improved their scores significantly since 2000. This is an indication of positive policy responses.

By contrast, for the Ecosystem Vitality measure, a majority of the countries doing poorly at present have been getting worse since 2000 which denote no political respond as far as EV is concerned.

Reduction of tropical forest clearing needed in Asia

The Yale Survey reports that 27 tropical countries accounted for 94% of global forest clearing and especially in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis.  But the economic 2008 downturn does not fully explain the decline in forest clearing. Instead, the data suggest that local and regional factors are more important when explaining deforestation dynamics.

Reductions in forest clearing have occurred in 12 countries (most significantly in Brazil, Paraguay, Bolivia, China) while increases have occurred in 14 including Myanmar, Peru, Malaysia and Venezuela.

But when aggregated together, decreases in the global share of forest clearing by large countries like Brazil have more than offset increases in countries such Malaysia and Indonesia and resulted in significant decline in tropical forest clearing worldwide.