Thursday, January 24, 2008

World's Greenest Countries

Yale's Centre for Environmental Law and Policy just released the green ranking of 149 countries at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The environmental performance index was based on carbon and sulfur emissions, water purity and conservation practices.

The top ten: Switzerland was rated the world's greenest nation, followed by Sweden, Norway, Finland, Austria, France, Latvia, Costa Rica, Colombia and New Zealand.

Switzerland has a greenhouse-gas-efficient economy because of its use of hydroelectric power and its transport system, which relies more on trains than individual vehicles. So, wealthy countries seem to come out on top with more resources to devote to environmental protection and water quality. But, Costa Rica and Colombia show up in the top ten. Neither are rich countries, but I know from experience that Costa Rica for example, is taking environmental policy very seriously, demonstrating that good governance is as important as wealth.

No surprise then that the US is nowhere near the top; it ranks 39th. Australia with its coal based economy and high per capita emissions comes in at 46th. And the explosively developing nations of China and India come in at 105th and 120th, respectively.

Interestingly, the The World Economic Forum's competitiveness rankings actually correlate quite highly with Yale's Environmental Performance Index. So, in contrast to that old argument that environmental investment will cost the economy, this finding suggest that good environmental management equates to good business management. This correlation is not missed by many economists and investors who see the long term economic advantage of sustainability.

1 comment:

  1. I agree with most of your comments, including bottled water. However, I don't see how competitiveness rankings correlate quite highly with Environmental Performance Index with India & China pushing out product at the expense of the environment. I think that environmental concerns, if used correctly, do not necessarily make countries/companies non-competative (e.g. Great Lakes Brewery). However, it does cost more to build emmission controls on power plants. Just better in the long run.