U.S. ranks last on environment; UK ranks ninth out of 21 countries

November 14th, 2007 - 2:01 am ICT by admin  
The Index, produced annually by the Center for Global Development, an independent Washington research and policy organization, ranks 21 high-income industrialized countries on how well their policies and actions support poor countries’ efforts to build prosperity, good government, and security. The scoring adjusts for size, leveling the playing field for large and small nations.

The environment component is one of seven policy areas that comprise the CDI. The other Index components are aid, trade, investment, migration, security, and technology.

The Netherlands comes in first on the 2007 CDI on the strength of ample aid-giving, falling greenhouse gas emissions, and support for investment in developing countries. Close behind are three more big aid donors, Denmark, Sweden, and Norway. Australia, Canada, and New Zealand are among those tying for fifth. They have a very different profile: generally low on aid but strong on trade, investment, migration, and security.

Japan remains last.

Overall standings in the Index were little changed from last year, because countries policies and practices towards development tend to change slowly.

On the environment component, the Index penalizes fishing subsidies, tropical timber imports, imports of endangered species, higher per capita CO2 emissions, and low gasoline taxes (which encourage consumption, thereby raising emissions and hastening global warming.)

“The environment component of the CDI dramatically exposes the disaster of US environmental policies when compared to other rich countries”, said CGD research fellow David Roodman, who is the architect of the CDI.

“The US can do much better. It has the money, technology, and entrepreneurial flare to be a global environmental leader,” he added.

According to the 2007 Index results newly released on the CGD website, Norway tops this year’s environment standings, displacing U.K. as the frontrunner. Norway’s net greenhouse gas emissions fell during 1995-2005, the last ten years for which data are available, thanks to steady forest expansion, which absorbs carbon dioxide.

Second place Ireland scores high in part because its economy has grown 6.6 percent per year faster than its greenhouse gas emissions. The U.K., which has steadily increased gasoline taxes and supported wind and other renewable energy sources, continues to perform well, coming fourth this year, the best showing of any major economy.

The U.S. comes in last due partly to its extremely high greenhouse gas emissions per capita (21.7 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per person, the third worst after Canada and Australia), and the lowest gasoline taxes of all 21 countries in the Index. Although low gasoline prices are popular, they make driving seem falsely cheap by hiding the costs of global warming, most of which will be borne by poor countries. The U.S. also loses points for its failure to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, the most serious international effort to deal with climate change.

CGD president Nancy Birdsall said that she hoped that the poor U.S. showing on the CDI’s environment component would serve as a wake-up call, especially to policymakers in Washington. “There is a growing body of evidence that developing countries will suffer first and worst from climate change,” she said. “Americans aren’t accustomed to being the bad guys, and there is growing public pressure domestically for action on climate change. I hope by next year the U.S. will have moved up in these rankings.”

A recent report by William Cline, a senior fellow at CGD and the Peterson Institute of International Economics, found that developing countries will suffer an average 10 to 25 percent decline in agricultural productivity by the 2080s, given current greenhouse gas emission trends.

Rich countries, which typically have lower average temperatures, will experience a much milder or even positive average effect. But India, for example, could see a drop of 30 to 40 percent. Sudan, already wracked by civil war fueled in part by failing rains, is projected to suffer as much as a 56 percent reduction in agricultural production potential.

Meanwhile, a new study co-authored by CGD senior fellow David Wheeler predicts that a two-meter sea level rise driven by global warming would flood 90 million people out of their homes, many of them in the river deltas of Bangladesh, Egypt, and Vietnam.

Because of the potentially far-reaching impact of climate change on developing countries, policies in this area account for 60 percent of the total score in the CDI environment component. Biodiversity-including ratification of relevant treaties and tropical timber imports-accounts for 30 percent of the environment indicator, while fisheries policy accounts for the remaining 10 percent.

Within each of these areas there are several weighted indicators. Climate change, for example, includes greenhouse gas emissions per capita (10 percent of the total environment score), average annual change in greenhouse gas emissions per unit of GDP over the past 10 years (15 percent), gas taxes (15 percent), consumption of ozone-depleting substances per capita (10 percent), and ratification of the Kyoto Protocol (10 percent), for a total of 60 percent of the environment indicator. Roodman designed the environment component in 2003, and incorporated contributions from Amy Cassara and Daniel Prager of the World Resources Institute in 2005.

Norway’s strong showing this year partly reflects a change in how the Index is calculated: greenhouse emissions from land use are now included and Norway’s forest growth appears to have accelerated in recent years, so total greenhouse gas emissions fell from nearly 36 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent in 1995 to just under 27 million tons in 2005. (ANI)

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