Australia Improves in the Global Environmental Sustainability Index
According to the 2005 Environmental Sustainability Index (ESI) produced by a team of environmental experts at Yale and Columbia universities, Australia is rated 13th in the world in environmental sustainability out of 146 countries, just ahead of Gabon, but behind New Zealand and Latvia.
The Index, released earlier this year at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, ranks Finland, Norway, Uruguay, Sweden and Iceland as the top five sustainable nations, respectively. Their high ESI scores are attributed to substantial natural resource endowments, low population, and successful management of environment and development issues.
The EIS ranks countries on 21 dements of environmental sustainability covering natural resource endowments, past and present pollution levels, environmental management efforts, contributions to protection of the global commons, and a society's capacity to improve its environmental performance over time.
Improving from 2002's 16th place, Australia scored well in the Social and Institutional Capacity, Environmental Systems, and Reducing Human Vulnerability sectors, with Science and Technology rated highly. We ranked very poorly, however, in the Global Stewardship and Reducing Stresses sectors, with scores for Reducing Air Pollution and Reducing Transboundary Environmental Pressures being twice as low as the average score for countries in our socio-economic grouping. This suggests that Australia has some of the best knowledge capacity for how to solve major problems, but could still be doing much more to alleviate them.
While the 2005 ESI generates a number of policy conclusions, income emerges as a critical driver of environmental results. It's also clear that the variables that gauge a country's commitment to good governance--including robust political debate, a free press, lack of corruption, and rule of law are highly correlated with overall environmental success.
The ESI demonstrates, however, that environmental protection need not come at the cost of competitiveness. Finland is the equal of the United States in competitiveness but scores much higher on environmental sustainability and outperforms the US across a spectrum of issues, from air pollution to contributions to global-scale environmental effects. …