- A new report, ranking the world's countries by their environmental sustainability, has found that Gabon is the clear leader among African nations. Among 146 countries worldwide, Gabon ranks 12th, with an especially impressing high score regarding the well-being of its physical environment.
The 2005 Environmental Sustainability Index (ESI) was released at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, today. The study of 146 countries finds that many African countries rank "above average", with good systems in place for the management of environmental and development issues.
The African highlight of the study is nevertheless Gabon, receiving 61.7 out of a possible 100.0 score. Gabon was only beaten by mostly Scandinavian and South American countries, found have a more sustainable environment. Top scorer was Finland, with 75.1 points.
- Gabon is the highest-ranked country in Africa, which means that our analysis concludes that it is the African country least likely to experience major environmental deterioration in the short and medium-term future, the report says.
This however did not mean that Gabon was without environmental problems. "Contributing significantly to its high ESI score are its very high ranks on a number of natural resource measures, which account for it having the third highest overall score for environmental systems," the document says.
This high score was achieved because Gabon has an impressing high and intact biodiversity and water resources of high quality and high quantity. Gabon has placed a large part of its national territory under environmental protection.
As a developing country Gabon nevertheless had below-average scores on governance capacity, and "this fact is likely to pose significant challenges to the country as it faces the future. Its ability to move forward effectively, though, is enhanced by its relatively good scores on human vulnerability and global stewardship," the report says.
Gabon was not the only African country to impress in the ESI study. Many poor African countries made a surprisingly high score, in particular the Central African Republic, coming 25th worldwide and second among African nations. This high score (58.7) was obtained by the country intact environmental systems and its high global stewardship.
Among African nations, Gabon and the Central African Republic were followed by Namibia (56.7), Botswana (55.9) and Mali (53.7). A total of 13 African countries were listed among the top half of the world regarding environmental sustainability.
Worst of in Africa, according to the ESI, are Sudan (35.9), Ethiopia (37.9), Burundi (40.0) and Zimbabwe (41.2). The majority of African countries were on a level compared to most Central European countries. Despite poor governance, most African countries still have much unspoilt nature, contributing to their relatively high score.
According to the report's authors, the ESI ranks countries on 21 elements of environmental sustainability covering natural resource endowments, past and present pollution levels, environmental management efforts, contributions to protection of the global commons, and a society's capacity to improve its environmental performance over time.
The creator of ESI, Professor Daniel Esty of Yale University is quoted as saying: "The ESI provides a valuable policy tool, allowing benchmarking of environmental performance country-by-country and issue-by-issue. By highlighting the leaders and laggards, which governments are wary of doing, the ESI creates pressure for improved results."
The ESI was prepared for the World Economic Forum by the Yale Centre for Environmental Law and Policy (USA). While the study notes that income remains a critical driver of environmental results, it further observes that at every level of economic development there are countries managing their environmental challenges well and others less so.
In this regard, it concludes that: "The variables that gauge a country's commitment to good governance - including robust political debate, a free press, lack of corruption, rule of law are highly correlated with overall environmental success."
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