(January 25, 2016) The 2016 Environmental Performance Index (EPI), a Yale-based initiative that evaluates how 180 countries protect ecosystems and human health, finds cause for both optimism and serious concern. The world’s nations have expanded access to water and sanitation while creating more protected areas than ever before, yet countries have failed to reverse degradation of air quality and decline in fisheries, the report finds. The EPI, which measures national and global protection of ecosystems and human health from environmental harm, draws out trends and highlights data gaps in priority areas including air quality, water management, and climate change.
Increased access to water and sanitation stands out as a major success story: concerted efforts to develop clean drinking water and sewage infrastructure have significantly reduced deaths from waterborne diseases. The number of people who lack access to clean water has been cut nearly in half since 2000, though at 550 million, or around 8 percent of the world’s population, there is still much room for improvement. The world’s nations also show strong commitments to habitat protection, and countries are now within striking distance of international targets for terrestrial and marine habitat protection.