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Can data help save the environment?

environmental protection
Jun 05 2020

On World Environment Day, the newly released Environmental Performance Index reveals that countries with long-standing policies to protect public health, preserve natural resources and decarbonising their economies top the ranking. European countries take the first 10 places in a list of 180 countries.  Nevertheless, no country – even those at the top – can claim to be on a fully sustainable path. 

About 20 years ago, the dissatisfaction with the results of environmental policy efforts and the need to make the environmental arena more data-driven led to the creation of the Environmental Performance Index. Since 2006, the index has been released biannually by the Yale Center for Environmental Law & Policy and Columbia University.

The JRC has been involved since the early stages providing recommendations on the process of building the index, based on the expertise and work conducted at the European Commission’s Competence Centre on Composite Indicators and Scoreboards. This year, the JRC has contributed to audit the 2020 edition of the Environmental Performance Index.

Auditing indexes developed by major international organisations and European Commission services is part of the daily work at the Competence Centre, which has reviewed over 100 indexes in a variety of policy domains. In this way, the JRC contributes to assess their quality and improve the reliability and transparency of the results.

The JRC statistical audit confirms that the Environmental Performance Index (EPI) meets the quality standards for statistical soundness and acknowledges the index as a reliable composite indicator to measure environmental performance worldwide. By looking beyond the overall index scores, the EPI allows to provide insights on its underlying categories where the real essence of a composite indicator lies. Nevertheless, some challenges remain for future versions of the index, particularly on the fisheries and forestry categories.

The Environmental Performance Index is fundamental in providing the data the world needs to understand which actions can make a difference on the environment and thus support more data-driven policymaking.

Have you read?

Behind the numbers: JRC audits two major indexes related to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development