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“BRIC” Countries Top Many Industrialized Nations in Environmental Commitment
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The so-called "BRIC" countries--Brazil, Russia, India, and China--all scored in the top 11 in a recent ranking of countries' environmental commitments. The list evaluates the efforts of these four nations alongside those of 21 members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), a group of the world's wealthier nations. The results of the assessment indicate that when it comes to finding solutions to climate change, "rich countries should take the lead, but developing countries need to follow pretty closely behind," says David Roodman of the Center for Global Development (CGD).

The ranking is part of CGD's 2007 Commitment to Development Index, an annual assessment of OECD countries' efforts to "build prosperity, good government, and security." The Index evaluates indicators in seven key policy areas--aid, trade, investment, migration, environment, security, and technology--and calculates an overall score for each nation. Of the 21 OECD countries surveyed, the Netherlands scored highest this year, in part because of policies that promote productive investment in poor countries, while Japan scored lowest, in part because of its high tariffs on rice imports.

In 2007, for the first time in its five-year history, the Index included an evaluation of the BRICs' environmental performance alongside that of the OECD countries. CGD chose to include these four nations because, according to Roodman, "Rapid economic growth in India and China, the renewed geopolitical clout of Russia in an era of expensive oil, and the de facto declaration of financial independence by Brazil and its neighbors from the International Monetary Fund all remind us of the global stature of nations outside the traditional circle of developed countries."

Because certain data were not available for all four BRIC countries, the environmental component restricted the evaluation criteria to several key indicators. For instance, Brazil, Russia, and India all ranked in the top five on the index because they performed well in measurements of greenhouse gas emissions per capita and consumption of ozone-depleting substances. Meanwhile, Australia and the United States placed last due in part to high emissions per capita and their failure to ratify the Kyoto Protocol.

David Wheeler, a senior fellow at CGD, suggests a metaphor to better understand the greenhouse gas component of the environmental ranking. "Suppose you see a school, and it's busy, and it's well-organized, things seem to be going well, and the school grades on a curve," he explains. Although several students are getting high marks, only one student in the school in fact passes the state-administered exam. The nations of the world are like this, according to Wheeler, because while some are doing better than others, none are emitting few-enough greenhouse gases per capita to be sustainable. "Although there are A, C, and F grades,...collectively, we're all failing," he observes of the rankings.
Image: Courtesy of Center for Global Development, via Worldwatch Institute

This story was written by Alana Herro for Eye on Earth (e2), a service of World Watch Magazine in partnership with the blue moon fund. e2 provides a unique perspective on current events, newly released studies, and important global trends.

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