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Wild Law Update: SA Ranked Amongst Lowest in Environmental Performance Index

Wild LawA recent environmental study conducted by the Universities of Yale and Columbia has revealed that South Africa’s environment has deteriorated significantly over the past 20 years, ranking amongst the lowest in the study’s Environmental Performance Index, which uses 22 indicators to measure which countries conserve their natural environment the best. While South Africa ranked 128th on the list, close to Iraq (which came in last at 132), Switzerland came out tops in terms of air and water quality, biodiversity and conservation.

Garth Barnes, director of the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa, expressed his shock at the results, saying that the findings were surprising considering how South Africa has “some of the best environmental legislation in the world”. Barnes says that what this index therefore makes clear is the these laws are not being applied:

South Africa’s natural environment has, over the past 20 years, deteriorated nearly the fastest of most countries in the world, Beeld newspaper reported on Monday.

This was the finding of a group of scientists at the universities of Yale and Columbia, in the United States, who measured the state of the environment in 132 countries, in collaboration with the World Economic Forum.

To find out more about the study, visit the Yale University Environmental Performance Index website. You can download the EPI 2012 Summary, which looks briefly at the study’s framework and methodology and provides a summary of the overall EPI and Pilot Trend EPI rankings, results, and conclusions.

Another good source of information is Yale’s EPI blog. In the following blog post, Angel Hsu discusses the science and art involved in measuring a country’s environment:

My colleagues and I recently released the 2012 Environmental Performance Index (EPI) at the annual World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland. Countries that ranked high rejoiced; those low on the list sought explanation.

Nobody wants to look bad.

The EPI is a biennial report produced jointly by Yale and Columbia Universities that ranks countries on their environmental performance across a variety of measures, from pesticide regulation and forest loss to child mortality. There were 22 measures this year, each categorized under one of two overarching categories: environmental health or ecosystem vitality. After long hours of number crunching, the EPI produces a single number that ranks countries against each other. (You can find your country’s rank here.)…

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