India getting ranked at the bottom of all countries in the 2022 Environmental Performance Index (EPI) has created a buzz. While the Centre has rejected this score, stating that it is based on “unfounded assumptions” and “surmises” it may be a good idea to take a closer look at the areas where India fared poorly, to get some takeaways for future actions.

The score is based on a report by Yale University and Columbia University in collaboration with the World Economic Forum. EPI is an attempt toward meeting the UN stipulated sustainable development goals (SDGs). This year, the study used 40 performance indicators across 11 environmental issue categories, to sum up the ranking. It included three policy objectives which are Climate, Environmental Health and Ecosystem Vitality.

“India ranks at the bottom of all countries in the 2022 EPI, with low scores across a range of critical issues. Deteriorating air quality and rapidly rising greenhouse gas emissions pose threat and needed urgent action,” notes the EPI report.

Toppers in EPI score

The top places were secured by Denmark, the United Kingdom and Finland with an EPI score of 77.9, 77.7 and 76.5 respectively. Neighbouring countries like Myanmar, Bangladesh, Vietnam, and Pakistan fall under the category of low-scoring countries whose main focus was economic growth over sustainability. Civil unrest is one of the main reasons behind the weak performance of these countries.

India has registered a 10-year change of -0.6, with an EPI score of 18.9. Across different categories, India particularly came in the bottom list in biodiversity, air quality, ozone, ecosystem vitality and health. The report highlighted India’s rising greenhouse gas emissions, and deteriorating climate change. Looking at the past year’s trends, India has ranked 178 in 2017, 177 in 2018 and 168th in 2020.

What went wrong

The parameters which pulled down India include biodiversity, air quality, health and ecosystem vitality where India scored 5.8, 7.8, 12.5, 19.3 respectively. Denmark, on the other hand, scored 76.9, 80.5, 85.5 and 61.3 respectively on these aspects.

 “Many of the countries with low scores in the overall EPI also place near the bottom of the Air Quality issue category, including India and Pakistan. Urbanisation and industrialisation in these and other countries continue to emit dangerous levels of air pollutants, presenting a challenge to policymakers as they aim to develop sustainability,” reads the report.

With concerns about greenhouse gas emissions, EPI states that only Denmark and United Kingdom are heading in the right way to reach neutrality by 2050, as set by the Glasgow climate pact. Others like India, Russia and China are slipping badly in execution. If EPI projections are to be looked at, then four countries- China, India, US and Russia would contribute 50 per cent of residue global greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Other global rankings

On the contrary, India ranked 10 out of 61 in the Climate change Performance Index 2022 released by non-profit Germanwatch, Newclimate institute and the CAN (Climate Action Network). Across the different factors which CCPI considers, India has shown a strong position ranking ninth in GHG emission, 14 in energy use, 16 in climate policy with a mediocre 24 in the renewable energy category.

This report indicates a clear picture of the contributions taken by participating countries to achieve the Paris Agreement. India, the third-largest CO2 emitter after China and the US, has made the pledge to set a net-zero target by 2070.

In the Sustainable Development Report, published by Sustainable Development Solutions Network, with regard to environment, India has ranked 121 out of 193 countries. Like the EPI, it also focuses on the SDG provided by UN.

The author is an intern with BusinessLine