Explained: What is the Environmental Index and why did India question it?

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The new Environmental Performance Index (EPI) 2022, measured by Yale and Columbia universities, ranks India last among 180 countries. The Ministry of the Environment issued a rebuttal saying that the indicators used in the assessment are based on “unfounded assumptions”.

So what is the Environmental Performance Index?

The IPE is an international ranking system of countries based on their environmental health. It is a biennial index, first launched in 2002 as the Environment Sustainability Index by the World Economic Forum in collaboration with the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy and the Columbia University Center for International Earth Information. Network.

The 2022 EPI uses 40 performance indicators to assess and rank 180 countries. The report says it uses the most recent data and that the indicators “measure how close countries are to meeting internationally established sustainability goals for specific environmental issues.”

The 40 indicators fall into broad performance categories of climate change, environmental health and ecosystem vitality. The IPE 2022 has included new metrics in its previous assessments, with projections of progress towards net zero emissions by 2050, as well as new air quality indicators and sustainable use of pesticides.

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How poor is India’s EPI rating?

With a rank of 180 and a score of 18.9, India has dropped from rank 168 and a score of 27.6 in 2020. India comes after Pakistan, Bangladesh, Vietnam and Myanmar, the least efficient. Denmark tops the list with a score of 77.9.

India ranks near the bottom on a number of indicators including ecosystem vitality (178th), biodiversity (179th), biodiversity habitat index (170th), habitat protection index species (175th), loss of wetlands, air quality (179th), PM 2.5 (174th), heavy metals such as lead in water (174th), waste management ( 151st) and climate policy (165th), including greenhouse gas emissions projections (171st).

India also scored low on rule of law, control of corruption and government effectiveness, according to the report.

Source: 2022 Environmental Performance Index

What objections has India raised?

In a statement on Wednesday, the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change: “Some of these indicators used to assess performance are extrapolated and based on non-scientific assumptions and methods.”

Ministry officials cited two major concerns: benchmark data did not appear to have been used and that there was no explanation for the weights given to certain indicators. “It’s not like comparing apples to apples, but apples to oranges,” an official said.

The ministry said the change in weighting on many indicators resulted in India’s poor ranking. For example, for black carbon growth, India’s score actually fell from 32 in 2020 to 100 (the best score) in 2022, but the weighting of this indicator was reduced to 0.0038 in 2022 vs. 0.018 in 2020.

The government has objected to calculations of greenhouse gas projections for 2050, which are tied to countries’ net zero targets. India has set a net zero target for 2070, unlike developed countries which have set 2050.

Source: 2022 Environmental Performance Index

What is the objection with the projection?

The government said the projection of greenhouse gas emissions was calculated based on the average rate of change in emissions over the past 10 years rather than modeling that takes into account a longer period, the extent of the capacity and use of renewable energies, additional carbon sinks, energy efficiency, etc. He said crucial carbon sinks that mitigate GHGs, such as forests and wetlands, have not been taken into account. India’s low emissions trajectory, unlike the historically high trajectories of developed countries, was ignored, he said.

The government objected to the low weight given to GHG emissions per capita (2.6%). “There are no indicators talking about renewable energy, energy efficiency and process optimization,” he said.

Among other objections raised: the index emphasizes the extent of protected areas rather than the quality of the protection they offer; the calculation of biodiversity indices does not take into account the evaluation of the effectiveness of the management of protected areas the index calculates the extent of ecosystems but not their state or their productivity; indicators such as agro-biodiversity, soil health, food loss and waste are not included, although they are important for developing countries with large agrarian populations.

Do environmental scientists agree with the report?

Dr Navroz Dubash of the Center for Policy Research, among the authors of the latest International Climate Change Report (IPCC) report, said the climate change metric in the EPI report is “very problematic”.
“Of course the weightings are at the discretion of the agency, but giving climate change such a high weighting is problematic. it is understood that developing countries will need more time GHG emissions will continue to grow in poorer countries for some time, unlike many developed countries which have peaked. expect us to give up energy for development. The 2022 EPI is neither ethically correct nor does it reflect political reality. Moreover, the methodology that EPI used for its 2050 projections, using the shows from the last decade, is extremely gross,’ Dubash said.

In developing countries, many of which, like India, have low emissions trajectories, the contribution is not to reduce emissions but to “avoid getting stuck in higher emissions trajectories”. “This is what is expected of developing countries, but this methodology does not allow it and the government is right to point this out,” he said. He said the EPI assumes that every country is in the same economic, developmental and environmental position.

IIT Delhi professor and air pollution expert Dr Sagnik Dey said the low weight given to GHG emissions per capita automatically lowers the ranks of countries like India and China. “Even though air pollution is steadily decreasing, in countries like India and China, due to their large populations, the overall health burden figure or DALY for example, will still be high and will therefore always fall to the bottom of the pile, if GHG emissions per capita are less weighted.”

So how seriously should the results be taken?

Dr Dey warned that despite the inconsistencies, the government should not overlook the fact that India ranked 168th in 2020 and has never been in the top 150 countries since the index was launched.

Dr Dubash said that despite the problems with the EPI, India has serious local environmental issues, which were highlighted in the report and need to be addressed.

Dr Ravi Chellam, Coordinator, Biodiversity Collaborative, said: “Much smaller and poorer countries have done better. I don’t think you should get carried away with rank alone. If other countries perform worse, India’s ranking will improve. It is vital to focus on the paths of sustainable development that we must adopt immediately. »

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