The Environmental Performance Index
(EPI) is a comparative analytic tool for policymakers created jointly by Yale
Universities in collaboration with the World Economic Forum
and Joint Research Centre of the European Commission
. The EPI was created in 2006 and is updated biannually. Data is drawn from 25 performance indicators that fall under 10 well-established policy categories, including the environmental burden of disease, the effects of water on human health, and agriculture. The indicators serve as a “gauge at a national government scale of how close countries are to established environmental [and health] policy goals,” write the authors.
The EPI draws data from a diverse array of sources, such as the World Health Organization, Food and Agriculture Organization, University of New Hampshire, and World Resources Institute. Users can view visualizations of the compiled data via an interactive map and the data is also available in the form of rankings charts, individual country profiles, and country group comparisons. The interactive map also allows users to isolate performance indicators or policy categories in order to compare an individual country’s performance with global trends. Furthermore, indicators may be scaled to visually reflect a country’s performance in relation to drivers of environmental performance, like gross domestic product, level of corruption, and government effectiveness.
This tool is particularly useful because users can effectively leverage points for policy change by identifying linkages between environmental policy and other issue areas, such as public health or sanitation. The EPI enables policymakers to visually conceptualize problematic regions, optimize investments in environmental protection, and identify best practices.
The index’s greatest weakness is its inability to track changes in performance over time. A pilot project was launched last year that tracks whether a country has progressed or deteriorated in an area of environmental performance, but the authors note that the project has “raised more questions than answers,” particularly concerning data availability and interpretation. Additionally, there are gaps in the data. Although these gaps signify a data quality weakness, they also support the continued calls for increased data collection by governments and other organizations to better inform environmental decision-making.