Number 61

That's where the United States stands on a ranking of 163 countries in environmental performance, tied with Paraguay, just ahead of Brazil, and right behind Georgia. Iceland, Switzerland, Costa Rica, and Sweden are the top 4.

The 2010 Environmental Performance Index (EPI) ranks 163 countries on 25 performance indicators tracked across ten policy categories covering both environmental public health and ecosystem vitality. These indicators provide a gauge at a national government scale of how close countries are to established environmental policy goals. The EPI's proximity-to-target methodology facilitates cross-country comparisons as well as analysis of how the global community is doing collectively on each particular policy issue.

The data used to compile the index are available from the EPI website, and a banner at the top of the website promises an interactive version will be available on Monday.

A new ranking of the world's nations by environmental performance puts some of the globe's largest economies far down the list, with the United States sinking to 61st and China to 121st.

In the previous version of the Environmental Performance Index, compiled every two years by Yale and Columbia University researchers, the United States ranked 39th, and China 105th.

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"Countries that take seriously the environment as a policy challenge do improve, and those that don't deteriorate," said Daniel C. Esty, director of the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy, who oversees the index project. "Both the U.S. and China are suffering because they're industrial and haven't been paying much attention to environmental policy." ("Iceland Leads Environmental Index as U.S. Falls". by Elisabeth Rosenthal, The New York Times, 27 January 2010)