THE 2018 Environmental Performance Index (EPI) which came out recently finds that air quality is the leading environmental threat to public health. Now in its twentieth year, the biennial report is produced by researchers at Yale and Columbia Universities in collaboration with the World Economic Forum. The tenth EPI report ranks 180 countries, the Philippines included, on 24 performance indicators across 10 issue categories covering environmental health and ecosystem vitality.
The 2018 EPI offers not only a snapshot of where countries stand today but also reflects important trends in environmental performance at both the national and global levels. The global community is generally improving on a number of issues, such as health outcomes related to drinking water and sanitation and protection of marine ecosystems, while on other issues significant challenges remain.
* Air quality remains the leading environmental threat to public health. In 2016 the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation estimated that diseases related to airborne pollutants contributed to two-thirds of all life-years lost to environmentally related deaths and disabilities. Air pollution issues are especially acute in rapidly urbanizing and industrializing nations such as India and China.
* The world has made great strides in protecting marine and terrestrial biomes, exceeding the international goal for marine protection in 2014. Additional indicators measuring terrestrial protected areas suggest, however, that more work needs to be done to ensure the presence of high-quality habitat free from human pressures.
* Most countries improved GHG emissions intensity over the past ten years. Three-fifths of countries in the EPI have declining CO2 intensities, while 85–90% of countries have declining intensities for methane, nitrous oxide, and black carbon. These trends are promising yet must be accelerated to meet the ambitious targets of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.
* With 20 years of experience, the EPI reveals a tension between two fundamental dimensions of sustainable development: (1) environmental health, which rises with economic growth and prosperity, and (2) ecosystem vitality, which comes under strain from industrialization and urbanization. Good governance emerges as the critical factor required to balance these distinct dimensions of sustainability.
How the Philippines performed:
Overall, the Philippines ranked 82nd out of 180 countries, doing better than some of its neighbors like China (#120), Thailand (#121), Vietnam (#132) and Indonesia (#133).
Going down to the details for Ecosystems Vitality, the Philippines ranked 66th in Agriculture, 43rd in Air Pollution, a poor 83rd in Biodiversity and Habitat, 69th in Climate and Energy, a good 19th in Fisheries, 81st in Forest and a very poor 103rd in Water Resources.
For environmental health where the Philippines performed poorly, the country ranked 111th place in Air Quality mainly due to the use of solid fuels in households, 133rd in Heavy Metals due to lead exposure and 107th in Water and Sanitation.
The EPI report is a good reference for our regulatory agencies like the DENR and for our lawmakers to craft the needed policies to improve environmental management.