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Finland tops environmental scorecard at World Economic Forum in Davos

Finland ranks first in the world in environmental sustainability out of 146 countries according to the latest Environmental Sustainability Index (ESI) produced by a team of environmental experts at Yale and Columbia Universities.

The 2005 ESI, to be released at the World Economic Forum January 27 in Davos, Switzerland, ranks Norway, Uruguay, Sweden and Iceland two to five respectively. Their high ESI scores are attributed to substantial natural resource endowments, low population density, and successful management of environment and development issues.

The ESI ranks countries on 21 elements 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.

The United States places 45th in the rankings. This high-middle ranking, just behind the Netherlands (44) and ahead of the United Kingdom (46), reflects top-tier performance on issues such as water quality and environmental protection capacity. Bottom-rung results on other issues, such as waste generation and greenhouse gas emissions, bring down the overall U.S. standing.

"The ESI provides a valuable policy tool, allowing benchmarking of environmental performance country-by-country and issue-by-issue," said Daniel C. Esty, professor at Yale University and the creator of the ESI. "By highlighting the leaders and laggards, which governments are wary of doing, the ESI creates pressure for improved results."

The lowest ranked countries are North Korea, Iraq, Taiwan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Esty said these countries face many challenges, both natural and manmade, and have poorly managed their policy choices.

The 2005 ESI generates a number of policy conclusions. Income emerges as a critical driver of environmental results. At every level of economic development, however,
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Contact: Karen N. Peart
karen.peart@yale.edu
203-432-1326
Yale University
4-Feb-2005


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