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Environmental Performance MeasurementChina Environmental Performance Index

China Environmental Performance Index

China's environmental situation has become a focus of debate both within China and across the world. Scrutiny intensified when China overtook the US as the world's largest carbon dioxide emitter in 2007, and again when the country struggled to alleviate Beijing's air pollution woes leading up to the 2008 Olympic Games. But China's pollution problems go beyond air quality: The World Bank reports that half of the Chinese population may be drinking contaminated water, and the country may have lost up to one-fifth of its arable land to soil erosion and economic development in the past 60 years. China's degraded environment threatens the health of its people and its capacity for sustained economic growth. While China itself will bear the bulk of the costs for the lost vitality of its ecosystems, the harmful consequences reach far beyond the country's borders.

Policymakers, both inside and outside of China, need firmer analytic foundations on which to build pollution control and natural resource management programs. Sound data and provincial-scale environmental metrics can help to spot critical issues, track trends, identify priority issues, evaluate policy success, and target funding. Better environmental data and fact-based analysis as well as commitment to transparency and vigorous policy debate can help China move onto a more sustainable development trajectory.

The Yale Center for Environmental Law & Policy, working closely with the Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN) at Columbia University and the World Economic Forum, has been a world leader in developing national-scale environmental indices since 1998. The most recent of these reports, the 2010 Environmental Performance Index (EPI), provides national policymakers with a scientifically accurate and easily applicable tool for advancing data-driven environmental decisionmaking. The 2010 EPI ranks 163 countries on 25 performance indicators tracked across ten policy categories covering both environmental public health and ecosystem vitality. The EPI, however, only addresses environmental issues at the national scale. Given China's diverse geographical landscapes and fairly autonomous local governments, a sub-national index will be a more effective tool for that country's development of a focused, yet flexible, environmental policy.

In partnership with the Ministry of Environmental Protection's Chinese Academy of Environmental Planning, City University of Hong Kong, the Earth Institute at Columbia University, the Yale Center for Environmental Law & Policy developed an environmental performance index that assesses management and performance in a broad range of environmental categories at the provincial level in China. While stopping short of producing a final index that would have ranked the 31 provinces and municipalities according to environmental performance, the report is a major first step in providing a blueprint for metrics the government can use to aid tracking progress toward policy goals. The report comes at a particularly salient time for Chinese policymakers, who are in the process of implementing local plans to implement the recently adopted 12th Five-Year Plan. The Plan is considered the greenest to date with high-level goals concerning climate change, energy, and environmental pollutants.

The report is currently available for download in English; a Chinese version will be available on the website soon.


"Towards a China Environmental Performance Index" -- English

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Project Director: Angel Hsu
E-mail: angel.hsu@yale.edu

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