ESI Results

The ESI ranking provides a relative gauge of environmental sustainability in 146 countries (these countries met the criteria for inclusion in the 2005 ESI, such as country size, variable, and indicator coverage) (Table 23.2). The ESI results cannot be compared between editions; there are too many refinements in the methods and improvements in variables for such comparisons at present.

The higher a country's ESI score, the better positioned it is according to selected variables. However, as is often the case with composite indices, it is difficult to interpret results. Besides ranking, the ESI can be useful in the search for the best practices in environmental decision making. Because of difficulties with reaching consensus on the index or even component level, that search might be best conducted at the indicator or variable level. It shows that countries at different levels of development face distinct environmental challenges, such as the pollution pressures of industrialization on one hand and the stresses and impacts of poverty and incapacity on the other. ESI also demonstrates that economic success contributes to the potential of environmental success (high environmental performance) but does not guarantee it because it is affected by many various factors.

ESI has been both positively accepted and subject to criticism, like most other attempts to measure such complex issues (Parris and Kates 2003, Wackernagel 2001). The main criticisms may be summarized as follow:

• The ESI has an inherently Northern bias; it favors developed countries by including too many measures of capacity and favoring technological innovations.

• The equal weighting of the ESI is arbitrary or inappropriate; it underemphasizes certain critical aspects of environmental sustainability.

• The index architecture is inappropriate; environmental sustainability cannot be summarized in a single index that combines too many disparate elements (even in the terms of causality) in one, thus rendering it meaningless.

• Many countries that score high on the ESI, such as the Nordic countries, have levels

Table 23.2. ESI ranking and scores.

ESI Rank

Country

ESI Score

ESI Rank

Country

ESI Score

1

Finland

75.1

41

Netherlands

53.7

2

Norway

73.4

42

Chile

53.6

3

Uruguay

71.8

43

Bhutan

53.5

4

Sweden

71.7

44

Armenia

53.2

5

Iceland

70.8

45

United States

52.9

6

Canada

64.4

46

Myanmar

52.8

7

Switzerland

63.7

47

Belarus

52.8

8

Guyana

62.9

48

Slovakia

52.8

9

Argentina

62.7

49

Ghana

52.8

10

Austria

62.7

50

Cameroon

52.5

11

Brazil

62.2

51

Ecuador

52.4

12

Gabon

61.7

52

Laos

52.4

13

Australia

61.0

53

Cuba

52.3

14

New Zealand

60.9

54

Hungary

52.0

15

Latvia

60.4

55

Tunisia

51.8

16

Peru

60.4

56

Georgia

51.5

17

Paraguay

59.7

57

Uganda

51.3

18

Costa Rica

59.6

58

Moldova

51.2

19

Croatia

59.5

59

Senegal

51.1

20

Bolivia

59.5

60

Zambia

51.1

21

Ireland

59.2

61

Bosnia & Herzegovina

51.0

22

Lithuania

58.9

62

Israel

50.9

23

Colombia

58.9

63

Tanzania

50.3

24

Albania

58.8

64

Madagascar

50.2

25

Central African Republic

58.7

65

Nicaragua

50.2

26

Denmark

58.2

66

United Kingdom

50.2

27

Estonia

58.2

67

Greece

50.1

28

Panama

57.7

68

Cambodia

50.1

29

Slovenia

57.5

69

Italy

50.1

30

Japan

57.3

70

Bulgaria

50.0

31

Germany

56.9

71

Mongolia

50.0

32

Namibia

56.7

72

Gambia

50.0

33

Russia

56.1

73

Thailand

49.7

34

Botswana

55.9

74

Malawi

49.3

35

Papua New Guinea

55.2

75

Indonesia

48.8

36

France

55.2

76

Spain

48.8

37

Portugal

54.2

77

Guinea—Bissau

48.6

38

Malaysia

54.0

78

Kazakhstan

48.6

39

Congo

53.8

79

Sri Lanka

48.5

40

Mali

53.7

80

Kyrgyzstan

48.4

Table 23.2. ESI ranking and

scores (continued).

ESI Rank

Country

ESI Score

ESI Rank

Country

ESI Score

81

Guinea

48.1

120

Sierra Leone

43.4

82

Venezuela

48.1

121

Liberia

43.4

83

Oman

47.9

122

South Korea

43.0

84

Jordan

47.8

123

Angola

42.9

85

Nepal

47.7

124

Mauritania

42.6

86

Benin

47.5

125

Libya

42.3

87

Honduras

47.4

126

Philippines

42.3

88

Côte d'Ivoire

47.3

127

Viet Nam

42.3

89

Serbia & Montenegro

47.3

128

Zimbabwe

41.2

90

Macedonia

47.2

129

Lebanon

40.5

91

Turkey

46.6

130

Burundi

40.0

92

Czech Republic

46.6

131

Pakistan

39.9

93

South Africa

46.2

132

Iran

39.8

94

Romania

46.2

133

China

38.6

95

Mexico

46.2

134

Tajikistan

38.6

96

Algeria

46.0

135

Ethiopia

37.9

97

Burkina Faso

45.7

136

Saudi Arabia

37.8

98

Nigeria

45.4

137

Yemen

37.3

99

Azerbaijan

45.4

138

Kuwait

36.6

100

Kenya

45.3

139

Trinidad & Tobago

36.3

101

India

45.2

140

Sudan

35.9

102

Poland

45.0

141

Haiti

34.8

103

Niger

45.0

142

Uzbekistan

34.4

104

Chad

45.0

143

Iraq

33.6

105

Morocco

44.8

144

Turkmenistan

33.1

106

Rwanda

44.8

145

Taiwan

32.7

107

Mozambique

44.8

146

North Korea

29.2

108

Ukraine

44.7

109

Jamaica

44.7

110

United Arab Emirates

44.6

111

Togo

44.5

112

Belgium

44.4

113

Democratic Republic of the Congo

44.1

114

Bangladesh

44.1

11

Egypt

44.0

116

Guatemala

44.0

117

Syria

43.8

118

El Salvador

43.8

119

Dominican Republic

43.7

of natural resource use per capita beyond those that the biosphere can indefinitely sustain (other indicators such as the Ecological Footprint do a better job of measuring it).

Despite the fact that measuring trends with respect to environmental sustainability is conceptually difficult, ESI provides a way to benchmark performance and facilitates efforts to identify the best practices. The statistical foundation of the 2005 ESI represents a significant improvement from earlier versions. It was used both for the ESI construction (e.g., imputation of missing data, sensitivity analysis) and its interpretation. The approaches and methods for combining data sets into a single index continue to be refined (e.g., the authors are already thinking about the "ideal ESI" that would incorporate issues such as environmental impacts of trade, investment, and consumption flows; transboundary environmental pressures; solid and hazardous waste generation; and stresses on ecosystem functioning). Thus the problem of persistent data gaps seems to be the most serious impediment to obtaining a full and unbiased picture of environmental sustainability.

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