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Review of the Environmental Performance Index (EPI)

Review of the Environmental Performance Index (EPI)

Review of the Environmental Performance Index (EPI)


The Environmental Performance Index (EPI) identifies targets for environmental performance and measures how close each country comes to these goals. Ecologic contributed to the review of data and methods for the EPI, and three experts participated in the international review meeting held on 27-28 October 2005 at the Yale Center for Environmental Law & Policy (YCELP). The EPI 2006 has since been published.

Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy (YCELP) and the Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN) of Columbia University carry out the Environmental Performance Measurement Project (EPM), which responds to the growing demand for data-driven tools for environmental policy-making at the local, national, and global levels, in particular environmental indicators and statistics. EPM produces two deliverables:

  1. The Environmental Sustainability Index (ESI), a periodically updated composite index that tracks 146 countries on 21 sustainability indicators.
  2. The new EPI assesses key environmental policy outcomes using trend analysis and policy targets linked to the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

The EPI is a performance-oriented composite index designed to supplement the environmental targets set forth in the MDGs to help governments measure progress toward a comprehensive set of pollution control and natural resource management goals by focusing on environmental policy outcomes. Supplementation is necessary since the MDGs are not intended nor designed to allow for comprehensive performance assessment at the national level. Further, the environmental dimension of the MDGs, especially Goal 7, has not been fully specified nor aligned with a complete set of quantitative indicators of progress.

Goal 7 currently reads: "Ensure environmental sustainability: 1) Integrate the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programs; reverse loss of environmental resources; 2) reduce by half the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water; and, 3) achieve significant improvement in lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers, by 2020".

The EPI fills these gaps by measuring national environmental performance with regard to outcome indicators spread across core policy objectives. The targets are based on existing international agreements, scientific evidence on the harmful impacts of pollution on humans and ecosystems, and economically feasible environmental protection strategies. The objectives encompass key environmental topics such as clean air, potable water, and protecting biodiversity. Each objective is linked to a small number of performance indicators selected according to strict criteria for theoretical logic, policy relevance, measurability, and extent and quality of available data.

To balance temporal considerations with long-term objectives, the EPI gauges progress toward specified environmental performance goals along two tracks: interim goals take into account a country's current policies and level of development; and ultimate targets indicate what must occur to meet long-term sustainability, the goal of the 7th MDG. The EPI represents the first comprehensive effort to track progress against absolute as well as country-specific performance targets. The EPI should be of particular value to decision makers because of its outcome-oriented methodology and short- to medium-term time horizon, which promotes accountability and policy-level performance evaluation. The EPI 2006 has since been published.

To help YCELP and CIESIN prepare for EPI's debut at the World Economic Forum in January 2006, nearly 50 experts discussed the Pilot version of the index during the review meeting. Ecologic was invited on the basis of its expertise in water issues, its familiarity with drafting, reviewing and implementing international and European environmental policy agreements, its commitment to transatlantic relations, and its connections to YCELP.

Dan Esty, YCELP Director, and Marc Levy, Associate Director for Science Applications at CIESIN co-chaired the workshop. Representing Ecologic were Director R. Andreas Kraemer, Partner Sascha Müller-Kraenner - as Yale World Fellow, and Transatlantic Fellow David Campbell.


R. Andreas Kraemer
Founder and Director Emeritus, Ecologic Institute
Visiting Assistant Professor and Adjunct Professor, Duke University
Initiator and Convenor, Arctic Summer College
David W. Campbell
Project ID
sustainable production and consumption, public policy, environmental policy, country rating, sustainability rating, indicators, criteria