The Environmental Performance Index

Does this reflect reality?

Authored by: Elisabeth Conrad , Louis F. Cassar

Routledge Handbook of Sustainability Indicators

Print publication date:  June  2018
Online publication date:  June  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138674769
eBook ISBN: 9781315561103
Adobe ISBN:


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The 2016 Environmental Performance Index (EPI) ranked the Mediterranean island state of Malta 9th out of 180 countries. This result was met with surprise in at least some quarters because of a common perception that Malta’s environmental performance is weak, especially given the country’s high population density, placing great pressure on environmental resources. In this chapter, we take a closer look at the EPI metric, using the case of Malta to evaluate whether and to what extent it accurately represents the country’s environmental performance in different priority areas. We also consider how the EPI evaluation compares to public opinion on environmental quality. Results show several mismatches between the EPI ranking and actual performance, with the EPI generally providing a more positive assessment than that suggested by other data. On the basis of this review, we conclude that the EPI has a poor ability to serve as a gauge of environmental performance in Malta, with reasons including limitations of the index itself as well as mismatches of scale. However, we argue that the EPI’s utility could potentially be enhanced via modifications tailoring the index to reflect regional and/or local priorities.

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