Environmental Transparency Rated in Multi-Factor Index

20 May 2015

An Environmental Democracy Index unveiled May 20 uses 75 indicators to evaluate 70 countries in three main areas: transparency, participation and access to justice.

The index was created by the World Resources Institute and The Access Initiative “based on objective and internationally recognized standards established by the United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEP) Bali Guidelines.”

While primarily a rating of laws, the index also has a “supplemental set of 24 limited practice indicators that provide insight on a country’s performance in implementation.” These are not included in the rankings.

“For the first time, with this index, governments and ordinary citizens will be able to see how their country ranks when it comes to environmental democracy,” said Manish Bapna, the WRI Executive Director and Managing Director, an inaugural press conference in Washington.

The top ten countries are: Lithuania, Latvia, Russia, United States, South Africa, United Kingdom, Hungary, Bulgaria, Panama and Columbia.

The national laws and practices were assessed and scored by more than 140 lawyers around the world. Country assessments were conducted in 2014 and will be updated every two years.

Bulgaria Gets Top Score on Transparency

The index includes a “transparency pillar” as well as pillars on participation and access to justice.

Bulgaria was rated most transparent, followed by Latvia, El Salvador, Lithuania, Romania, Ireland, Estonia, Colombia, Hungary and Mexico.

Transparency is assessed using seven general “guidelines,” beginning with “To what extent does the law clearly define specific grounds on which a request for environmental information can be refused?” The scoring is done on a 1-3 scale.

For almost all the guidelines, there are “indicators.” (Finding more about them here and learn more by clicking on “?”)

There are 21 separate transparency indicators,

So for Transparency Guideline 1, there are six indicators. The first indicator, for example, is: “To what extent does the law mandate access to environmental information to be provided upon request?”

A country scores a “3” if it has a freedom of information law, a “2” if “there are some sectoral laws and the environmental law which both provide for access to information on request,” and a “1” if “only the environmental law or some sectoral laws, but not both, provide for access to information on request.”

The website does not display country-by-country rankings for each indicator, but they can be seen in the data.

Measuring Performance

There are four questions in the transparency area designed to go beyond the legal assessment and to determine how well countries are performing in practice. Index authors said they hope to expand this area over time.

The “In Practice” scores which don’t affect the index ratings at this point. Nor are the “In Practice” scores are not used to rank countries on the website.

An example of an in practice question in the transparency area is: “Are real-time air quality data for the capital city of your country made available online by the government?”

The answers came be “Yes,” “Limited,” or “No.”

The overall ‘in practice” scores show up on the pages for each country.

The country pages also include sections on “What this country is doing well?” and “Where could this country improve.”

Also see explanatory blog post by Jesse Worker on the new index.

Text of Transparency Indicators and Practical Indicators (“P”), from EDI spreadsheet

1.1 To what extent does the law mandate access to environmentalinformation to be provided upon request?
1.2 To what extent does the law provide for natural or legalpersons’ access to environmental information?
1.3 To what extent does the law make access to environmentalinformation affordable?
1.4 To what extent does the law provide for timely accessto environmental information?
1.5 To what extent does the law include public authoritiesunder access to environmental information provisions?
1.6 To what extent does the law not require proof of legalor other interest for access to environmental information?
2.1 To what extent does the law require information on environmentalquality to be made proactively available to the public?
2.2 To what extent does the law require environmental informationon environmental factors that influence health be placed in the public domain?
2.3 To what extent does the law require information on environmentallaws and policy be placed in the public domain?
2.4 To what extent does the law require publicly available informationand advice on how to obtain environmental information?
P2.1 Are real time air quality data for the capital city of your countrymade available online by the government?
P2.2 In the last two years, has annual drinking water quality data for waterservices in your capital city been proactively provided to consumerseither by mail (post) or online and do they meet the minimum standardsestablished by the regulatory agency?
3.1 To what extent does the law clearly define specific grounds on whicha request for environmental information can be refused?
3.2 To what extent does the law require environmental informationthat is covered by a ground for refusal to be severed (separated)from the rest of the information before being released to the requester?
3.3 To what extent does the law require the decision-maker to take intoaccount the public interest served by disclosure when consideringexemptions (grounds for refusal)?
4.1 To what extent are competent public authorities mandated by lawto regularly collect and update relevant environmental information?
4.2 To what extent does the law mandate the public authorities tocomprehensively monitor the environmental performance and complianceby operators of activities potentially affecting the environment, and tocollect and update such information?
4.3 To what extent is there a system established by the law ensuring adequatepublic information about proposed and existing activities that maysignificantly affect the environment?
P4.1 Does a national agency in your country ensure that daily air emissionand waste water discharges by large-scale industries at a facility levelare proactively made publicly available either online, through a publicregister or at a library; if so, is that information comparable to a national standard?
5.1 To what extent does the law mandate the government to publish reportson the state of the environment (i.e. a State of the Environment report)?
5.2 To what extent does the law require the publication of a State of theEnvironment report to be periodic at reasonable intervals?
5.3 Does the law require the report to be comprehensive in the informationthat it provides?
5.4 To what extent does the law require the report to contain up-to dateinformation?
P5.1 In the last 10 years has a national government agency regularly publishedState of the Environment Reports? (Regular is at fixed intervals of five years or less)
6.1 When there is an imminent threat of harm to human health or theenvironment, to what extent does the law obligate or mandate the governmentagencies to immediately disseminate information to the public that enablesit to take preventive action?
Be Sociable, Share!

Filed under: What's New