UPSC Daily Editorial Analysis | Environmental Performance Index | 20 June 2022

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What the article is about?

  • Talks about the recent EPI and India’s status in environmental ranking and promises.

Syllabus: GS-III Environmental Conservation


  • The Environmental Performance Index (EPI) assessment, carried out by Yale and Columbia Universities with an emphasis on climate change mitigation, has become controversial for prioritising the flow of greenhouse gases from countries while reducing the emphasis on the stock of carbon dioxide from industrialised countries that is warming the globe.
    • The latest (EPI) placed India last among all 180 assessed countries.
  • The national rank of 165 on Climate Policy and score of 21.7 in this category — which overall has a 38% weightage in the calculations along with 42% for Ecosystem Vitality and 20% for Environmental Health — has particular significance.
    • Within the overall climate score, India does better in sub-metrics such as growth rates for black carbon, methane and fluorinated gases, and greenhouse gas emissions based on their intensity and per capita volumes.
    • The Index rates the country low on projected greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for mid-century, a target for Net Zero emissions.
  • The EPI report estimates that China, India, the United States, and Russia are expected to account for over 50% of global residual greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
  • The country has protested that the new India State of Forest Report (ISFR) 2021 was not factored in as part of the biodiversity metric.
    • On the face of it, India scores abysmally low on some of the Ecosystem Vitality variables, such as Marine Protected Areas (0.3 of a possible 100) and Protected Areas Representativeness Index, or PARI (0.5), Terrestrial Biome Protection (TBM) – National (1.2) and TBM – Global (2.1). Wetland loss prevention is among the best scores for India, at 62.
    • The EPI-assigned rating for India in protecting biomes has led to sharp differences too. The Index assigns a ‘laggard’ rank on tropical and subtropical dry broadleaf and coniferous forests, montane grasslands and shrublands and the worst performance on deserts and xeric shrublands.
  • A second sensitive area in which India brings up the rear in the EPI is air quality. With a score of 7.8 and a rank of 179, the familiar dispute over data and reliability of several parameters has reopened.
    • Data for 2019, when economic activity was unfettered by COVID-19, attribute 1.67 million deaths during the year from air pollution.
    • In 93% of India, the amount of pollution remains well above WHO [World Health Organization] guidelines. 

Way Out:

  • What India needs to adopt is a rigorous dashboard approach to indicators, assigning high weight to the environment, modelled on the proposal made by Amartya Sen, Joseph Stiglitz and Jean-Paul Fitoussi in their exploration of development beyond GDP.
  • This can generate good data, identify the real beneficiaries of policies, avoid serious environmental deficits and ensure intergenerational equity in the use of natural resources. It can also curb pollution.
  • Distorted rankings from external assessments would matter little. 

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