Bad news hit India’s Green Ambitions events last month! The country, aiming to accelerate its environmental missions this decade, ended up ranking last among 180 countries assessed on their ecological impact. The 2022 Environmental Performance Index (EPI) report ranked India 180th in terms of performance in climate, biodiversity and health metrics, well below other South Asian countries like India. Afghanistan (81st), Bhutan (85th), Maldives (113th), Sri Lanka (132nd), Nepal (162nd), Pakistan (176th), Bangladesh (177th).
The EPI ranks countries based on how close they are to achieving specific international climate goals for 2050, as well as their performance in environmental health and ecosystem vitality. Therefore, a high ranking indicates that the country has long-standing and ongoing environmental protection programs and policies in place.
According to the report, the top five performing countries (in order) are Denmark, the UK, Finland, Malta and Sweden, all of which belong to the Global-West region. In a not-so-surprising turn of events since the Trump administration, the United States ranked only 43rd overall, a distinct outlier as most wealthy countries also typically had high PPE scorecards. Asia-Pacific countries performed quite awfully overall, with only two countries breaking the top 50 – Japan (25th) and Singapore (50th).
How did India do?
EPI rankings are determined on 40 performance indicators that seek to indicate the status of national efforts to protect environmental health, improve ecosystem vitality and mitigate climate change. The report also lists individual performance scores for each indicator for each of the participating countries, as well as overall category scores and rankings.
In the health category, which includes air quality, sanitation, drinking water and waste management, India ranks 178th among all countries included. Another indicator, the ecosystem vitality index, aims to assess the health of our forests, their flora and their fauna. Despite our vast forest cover and abundant biodiversity, India seems to have failed to provide the proper safeguards, ranking only 178th.
On a more positive note, however, India fared slightly better in the fishing category, claiming 42nd place overall. According to the IPS, our fish stock – a subdivision of the fisheries category that rates our dependence on overfished or collapsed stocks – puts us in the top 20 in the world.
While this is indeed a much-needed small victory, it may also be important to note that the February IPCC report predicted that climate change would lead to a severe decline in our fisheries, which means that this ranking could be in vain unless we strictly implement better fishing safeguards. immediately.
When it comes to indices related to agriculture – an industry on which our economy heavily depends – a similar story can be seen in our pesticide consumption, where India was ranked the 47th most responsible pesticide user in the world. India is the largest exporter of rice and many other commonly used agricultural products. In order for us to continue producing at current levels while meeting climate goals, it is important that we continue to innovate sustainable practices to up our farming game.
Other EPI Findings
As long as there have been a few “victories”, we must not cling to them. The PPE report serves as a grim reminder that there is still a long way to go for rapidly developing economies like India in terms of sustainability.
For example, the report’s projections show that India is expected to join China, Russia and the United States in becoming the largest emitter of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Moreover, unless regulations and climate efforts are strictly tightened, a group of 24 countries known as the ‘dirty two dozen’ – which includes India, unfortunately – would account for up to 80% of total global emissions by 2050.
The EPI report also gives an explanation for some of the low rankings. According to them, most of the low-end countries have been afflicted by war or other upheavals, unfortunately making investment in environmental infrastructure very difficult for these nations. They go on to point out that India, Vietnam, Bangladesh and Pakistan suffered from lower rankings for this very reason, having prioritized economic growth over environmental sustainability.
India rejects ranking
The EPI methodology is overseen by the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy and the Center for International Earth Science Information Network, Columbia University. While they say the methodology was refined over two decades of meticulous data collection and evaluation, India has since determined there is much to improvise.
In a statement earlier this month, India dismissed its low ranking, saying many of the indicators used to assess the EPI are based on “unsubstantiated assumptions”, some of which are “extrapolated and based on assumptions and methods unscientific”.
It should be noted that India’s score has fallen by 0.60 since the last assessment in 2021. However, this is meaningless as the IPE continually claims that scores calculated using old methodologies do not are not comparable to current scores due to changes in ranking methodology. While this may be true, it should also be noted that India fell from 168th place in 2020 to 177th place in 2021.
Clarifying its position in the statement, the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) said that many important factors had been overlooked in the new methodology used in the study, such as the consideration of a longer period. They also claimed that the IPS revised the weights of some important indicators without explanation, resulting in poor scores for India.
They also said that many important indicators were omitted from the calculation of the scores, such as water quality indicators, water use efficiency, waste generation per capita, agro-biodiversity, soil health and food loss and waste – which includes some important indicators for developing countries with large agrarian populations like India.
Further, the statement stated: “The index emphasizes the extent of protected areas rather than the quality of protection they provide. Assessing the effectiveness of protected area management and ecologically sensitive regions is not taken into account in the calculation of biodiversity indices.”
With threats such as water scarcity expected to put up to 40% of the population in distress by 2050, the actions India decides to take next will certainly play a major role in determining the type of life that we and our children will carry out in the future. . We are one of the most “economically affected” countries due to climate change, threatened by rising sea levels and water scarcity that looks set to consume our country for years to come.
On the contrary, experts hope this report will remind our country to take stronger action and put in place better regulatory safeguards, to protect us and future generations from the continuing horrors of climate inaction.
For weather, science, space and COVID-19 updates on the go, download The Weather Channel app (on the Android and iOS store). It’s free!