Taiwan ranked No. 40 internationally on environmental performance, according to this year's edition of the Environmental Performance Index (EPI), released by environmental specialists at Yale University and Columbia University on Wednesday.
In response, the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) yesterday said that greenhouse gas emission reduction would be key to improving the ranking.
With a score of 80.8, Taiwan was only 0.2 shy of No. 39, the US, in the study of 149 countries.
The EPI ranked countries on 25 indicators spanning six policy categories: environmental health; air pollution; water resources; biodiversity and habitat; productive natural resources; and climate change.
"As a quantitative gauge of pollution control and natural resource management results, the index provides a powerful tool for improving policymaking and shifting environmental decision-making onto firmer analytic foundations," the study said.
Topping the list were mostly European countries, with Switzerland, Sweden and Norway found to have implemented the most rigorous policies and obtained the best results.
At the other end of the spectrum, African countries Mali, Mauritania, Sierra Leone, Angola and Niger occupied the bottom five positions.
"Analysis of the drivers underlying the 2008 rankings suggests that wealth is a major determinant of environmental success," the study said, adding that "[t]op-ranked countries have all invested in water and air pollution control and other elements of environmental infrastructure and have adopted policy measures to mitigate the pollution harms caused by economic activities."
Money, however, may not be the sole factor in the success of environmental policy.
Giving Costa Rica, whose GDP is US$9,647 -- a quarter of that in the US -- as an example, the study lauded the country's No. 5 rank, which it attributed to the country's substantial environmental efforts, leading it to significantly outperform its neighbor, Nicaragua, at No. 77.
"Every country has something to learn from the EPI 2008," Daniel Esty, lead author of this year's index and director of the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy, said in a press release.
Because of changes in methodology, the ranking this year was not directly comparable to the last one.
"More weight was placed on climate change," Esty was quoted as saying in the study.
Taiwan's drop from No. 24 last year to No. 40 this year should nevertheless be cause for alarm.
"The fact that the EPI 2008 included 25 indicators -- from 16 the previous year -- suggests that most of the new items added were on Taiwan's weaker segments in environmental protection," Green Party Taiwan Secretary-General Pan Han-shen (
"With climate change now a major EPI indicator, it will be difficult for Taiwan to improve its ranking if the number of development projects continues to increase."
Administration director of the international affairs office, Liang Yung-fang (
"It is also an inescapable fact that Taiwan has high greenhouse gas emissions," he said.
Although the EPI 2008 did not reflect well on Taiwan's environmental efforts, Liang said the data provided a good reference.
"It will be the EPA's priority in the coming years to reduce greenhouse gas emissions," he said, citing the opening of the greenhouse gas reduction management office as one of the administration's efforts. "With these measures, Taiwan's performance on environmental protection may improve."