Archived press release
UK 108th in new 'Happy Planet Index'

A new global measure of progress, the `Happy Planet Index',measures the environmental cost with which countries deliver lives of different length and happiness to reveal for the first time that happiness doesn't have to cost the Earth. It shows that people can live long, happy lives without using more than their fair share of the Earth's resources. The new international ranking of the environmental impact and well-beingof nations reveals a very different picture ofglobal wealth and poverty.

The Happy Planet Index, an innovative new index from nef (the new economics foundation) launched today, Wednesday 12 July 2006, is the first ever index to combine environmental impact with well-being to measure the environmental efficiency with which countries provide long and happy lives. The results are surprising, even shocking, but there is much to learn from what they show. The ranking unmasks a very different world order to that promoted by self-appointed global leaders, the G8. For example, the UK is a disappointing 108th and the USA fares still worse at 150th on the Index.

nef's report, The Happy Planet Index: An index of human well-being and environmental impact, published in association with Friends of the Earth, moves beyond crude ratings of nations according to national income, measured by Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to produce a more accurate picture of the progress of nations based on the amount of the Earth's resources they use, and the length and happiness of people's lives.

The Happy Planet Index (HPI) strips the view of the economy back to its absolute basics: what we put in (resources), and what comes out (human lives of different length and happiness). The resulting Index of the 178 nations for which data is available, reveals that the world as a whole has a long way to go. In terms of delivering long and meaningful lives within the Earth's environmental limits - all nations could do better. No country achieves an overall `high' score on the Index, and no country does well on all three indicators.

"It is clear that no single nation listed in the Happy Planet Index has got everything right. But the Index does reveal patterns that show how we might better achieve long and happy lives for all, whilst living within our environmental means. The challenge is - can we learn the lessons and apply them? Governments the world over have been concentrating on the targets for too long. If you have the wrong map, you are unlikely to reach your destination", says Nic Marks, head of nef's Centre for well-being.

The HPI shows that around the world, high levels of resource consumption do not reliably produce high levels of well-being (life-satisfaction), and that it is possible to produce high levels of well-being without excessive consumption of the Earth's resources. Key findings of the Index are:

Self appointed world `leaders' - the G8 - score generally badly in the Index: The UK comes a disappointing 108th - with the remainder of the G8 faring little, if at all, better. Italy is 66th, Germany 81st, Japan 95th, Canada 111th, France 129th, United States 150th and Russia 172nd.

The UK manages only 108th place in the Index: Just below Libya, but above Laos. The UK's heavy ecological footprint, the eighteenth biggest worldwide, is to blame. But well-being in the UK is also unspectacular for a Western nation: it is beaten by countries such as Germany, the US, Costa Rica, Malta and, in top place, Switzerland.

Central America is the region with the highest average score in the Index: The region combines relatively good life expectancy (an average of 70 years) and high life satisfaction with an ecological footprint below its globally equitable share. Central America has had a notorious history of conflict and political instability, but the last 15 years have been relatively peaceful, which perhaps, with traditionally high levels of community engagement, explain its success.

Countries classified by the United Nations as `medium human development' come out better than both low and high-development countries: Only one `low-development' country has a strong HPI score, whilst 21 per cent of countries classified as `highly-developed' do. However, 44 per cent of countries with `medium-development' score well. This is because, beyond a certain level, vastly increasing consumption fails to lead to greater well-being.

Well-being is not based on high levels of consumption: For example, Estonia - with high consumption - rates poorly on well-being. And, in the Dominican Republic where well-being is high, consumption is not above a globally equitable share.

Life satisfaction varies wildly country by country: Questioned on how satisfied they were with their life as a whole, on a scale of 1-10 (1 being `dissatisfied, 10 `satisfied'), 29.4 per cent of Zimbabweans rate themselves at 1 and only 5.7 per cent rate themselves at 10. By contrast, 28.4 per cent of Danes rate their satisfaction with life 10/10, with less than one percent rating 1.

Life expectancy also varies wildly: Babies born in Japan can expect to live to 82, but only to 32 and a half if born in Swaziland.

Overall, we are over-burdening the Earth's currently available biocapacity: By consuming 22 per cent above our ecosystems' ability to regenerate we are eating into and degrading the natural resources that our life-support systems depend on. In the process we are depleting the environmental goods and services that future generations will depend on, with potentially devastating consequences.

"We are used to comparing countries in terms of crude riches or what they trade. There are international league tables for performance on issues from corruption to sporting success. But, nef's Happy Planet Index measures something much more fundamental. It addresses the relative success or failure of countries in giving their citizens a good life, whilst respecting the environmental resource limits on which all our lives depend. The order of nations that emerges may seem counter-intuitive. But this is because, to a large degree, policy makers have been led astray by abstract mathematical models of the economy that bear little relation to the real world," says Andrew Simms, nef's Policy Director

Some of the most unexpected findings concern the marked differences between nations, and the similarities among some groups of nations:

Island nations score well above average in the Index: They have higher life satisfaction, higher life expectancy and marginally lower Footprints than other states. Yet incomes (by GDP per capita) are roughly equal to the world average. Even within regions, islands do well. Malta tops the Western world with Cyprus in seventh place (out of 24); the top five HPI nations in Africa are all islands; as well as two of the top four in Asia. Perhaps a more acute awareness of environmental limits has sometimes helped their societies to bond better and to adapt to get more from less. Combined with the enhanced well-being that stems from close contact with nature, the world as a whole stands to learn much from the experience of islands.

It is possible to live long, happy lives with a much smaller environmental impact: For example, in the United States and Germany people's sense of life satisfaction is almost identical and life expectancy is broadly similar. Yet Germany's Ecological Ecological footprint is only about half that of the USA. This means that Germany is around twice as efficient as the USA at generating happy long lives based on the resources that they consume.

As the HPI clearly demonstrates happiness doesn't have to cost the Earth. It also reveals that there are different routes to achieving comparable levels of well-being. The model followed by the West can provide widespread longevity and variable life satisfaction, but it does so only at a vast and ultimately counter-productive cost in terms of resource consumption.

"The UK economy hoovers up vast quantities of the world's scarce resources, yet British people are no happier than Colombians or Guyanese, who use far fewer. The current crude focus on GDP is outdated, destructive and doesn't deliver a better quality of life. The UK economy must get much smarter and greener," says Simon Bullock, Friends of the Earth's economics co-ordinator.

nef proposes a Global Manifesto for a happier planet, outlining how we might begin to both live within our environmental limits and increase well-being. Necessary first steps include:

  • Eradicating extreme poverty and hunger. Increasing material wealth in `developed' countries does not lead to greater happiness, while in `developing' countries extreme poverty systematically undermines people's opportunities to build good lives for themselves and their families. We urgently need to redesign our global systems to more equitably distribute the things people rely on for their day-to-day livelihoods, for example: income, and access to land, food and other resources

  • Supporting meaningful lives. Governments should recognise the contribution of individuals to economic, social, cultural, and civic life and value unpaid activity. Employers should be encouraged to enable their employees to work flexibly, allowing them to develop full lives outside of the workplace and make time to undertake voluntary work. They should also strive to provide challenges and opportunities for personal development at work.

  • Identifying environmental limits and design economic policy to work within them. The ecological footprint gives us a measure of the Earth's biocapacity that, if over-stretched, leads to long-term environmental degradation. Globally we need to live within our environmental means. One-planet living should become an official target of government policy with a pathway and timetable to achieve it. (The UK currently consumes at just over three times this level. If everyone in the world consumed as we do in the UK, we would need 3.1 planets like Earth to support us.)

But perhaps most importantly, nef calls for political organisations to embrace and apply new measures of progress, such as the HPI and properly adjusted GDP measures. Only then will we be equipped to address the twin challenges of delivering a good quality of life for all whilst remaining within genuine environmental limits.

Notes

1. CONTACTS: For more information please contact, Ruth Potts, nef press and public affairs

2. GRAPHICS and TABLES: Included in the report:

Inside back cover:The Happy Planet Index: Countries of the world in full rank order

Pages 18 - 21:Life satisfaction, Life expectancy, Ecological footprint and HPI for 178countries (ordered by HPI within region)

Page 27:The G8 and the HPI

Pages 28 -29Map of the world colour-coded by HPI

Page 42:Summary of each country's position in terms of Happy Life Years andEcological Footprint.

(The background data for all the charts and maps in the report is available on request)

3. From 12 July 2006 the full index will be available from the Happy Planet Index website at: www.happyplanetindex.org

Visitors to the site will be able to calculate their own, personal `Happy Planet Index' score, and get advice on ways in which they can improve their personal well-being without costing the Earth.

4. The UK

108th place: The United Kingdom

Life sat: 7.1 Life exp: 78.4 Ecological Footprint: 5.4 (g ha) HPI: 40.3

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (usually shortened to the United Kingdom, Britain, or the UK) occupies most of the British Isles off the northwest coast of mainland Europe. A member of the G8, the United Kingdom has a highly industrialised economy with the fifth-largest gross domestic product (GDP) in the world and the second largest in Europe after Germany. But our financial wealth doesn't seem to be making us any happier.

Our heavy ecological footprint, the eighteenth biggest worldwide, is largely to blame for the UK's position on the Index. The UK's total ecological footprint is 5.4 global hectares per person compared with a world average of 2.2. If everyone on Earth lived as we do in the UK, we would need 3.1 planets to support us. Regionally, however, there is quite significant variance within the UK. About a quarter of the UK's 59 million population live in England's financially prosperous south-east - the region with the highest footprint of all the developed administrations and English regions - an earth destroying 6.3 global hectares per person. So what are we consuming so much of? The main constituents of the UK's ecological footprint are: home and energy (1.16 g ha), food and drink (1.14 g ha), travel (0.84 g ha), capital investment (0.76 g ha) and consumables (0.65 g ha), In the South-East, the pressure of this footprint is increased by financial prosperity - higher income means greater access to resources, a very high travel demand dominated by low-occupancy, high-polluting vehicles, long distance exotic holidays more than once a year and large and often old inefficient homes with low occupancy compared to their size all contribute to a heavy, and ultimately unsustainable environmental footprint.

To make matters worse, our over-use of the earth's resources isn't making us any happier. Our well-being is unspectacular for a Western nation and is bettered by countries such as Germany, the US, Costa Rica, Malta and, in top place, Switzerland. Of the 20 countries with higher well-being, nine our doing it with a smaller footprint than ours - Malta's is 3.5 g ha, whilst Costa Rica's is below the world average at 2.1g ha. Our European neighbours, the Swiss, live on average almost three years longer than we do, are significantly happier and have a slightly smaller environmental footprint than the UK. And, when looking across Western Europe, the Austrians, The Dutch, the Belgians, the Irish and the Germans are all happier than we are.

One way to consider levels of well-being in the UK is to look at which groups are least happy. Whilst wealth by no means guarantees happiness, deprivation certainly limits it. In a separate study, nef found that people living in areas classified by the UK Government as suffering high "multiple deprivation" (related to crime, unemployment, poor housing and education, etc.) report lower life satisfaction than less affected areas. If conditions were improved in these areas, perhaps the UK's mean life satisfaction would edge up to top those of, for example, Australia and Belgium.

5. The HPI top 10

Countries

Life Sat

Life Exp

EF (g ha)

HPI

HPI rank

Reasonable ideal

8.2

82.0

1.5

83.5

Vanuatu

7.4

68.6

1.1

68.2

1

Colombia

7.2

72.4

1.3

67.2

2

Costa Rica

7.5

78.2

2.1

66.0

3

Dominica

7.3

75.6

1.8

64.6

4

Panama

7.2

74.8

1.8

63.5

5

Cuba

6.3

77.3

1.4

61.9

6

Honduras

7.2

67.8

1.4

61.8

7

Guatemala

7.0

67.3

1.2

61.7

8

El Salvador

6.6

70.9

1.2

61.7

9

St. Vincent and the Grenadines

7.2

71.1

1.7

61.4

10

The HPI bottom 10

Countries

Life Sat

Life Exp

EF (g ha)

HPI

HPI rank

Chad

4.5

43.6

1.3

25.4

168

Turkmenistan

4.0

62.4

3.1

24.0

169

Equatorial Guinea

5.2

43.3

2.5

23.8

170

Lesotho

4.3

36.3

0.6

23.1

171

Russia

4.3

65.3

4.4

22.8

172

Estonia

5.1

71.3

6.9

22.7

173

Ukraine

3.6

66.1

3.3

22.2

174

Congo, Dem. Rep. of the

3.3

43.1

0.7

20.7

175

Burundi

3.0

43.6

0.7

19.0

176

Swaziland

4.2

32.5

1.1

18.4

177

Zimbabwe

3.3

36.9

1.0

16.6

178

For a full explanation of the HPI colour coding, see page 15 of the main report.

6. The Happy Planet Index. The HPI incorporates three separate indicators: ecological footprint, life-satisfaction and life expectancy. The statistical calculations that underlie the HPI are quite complex. (See page 14 of the report for a full description.). However conceptually, it is straight forward and intuitive:

Life satisfaction x Life expectancy

HPI = Ecological Footprint

The HPI reflects the average years of happy life produced by a given society, nation or group of nations, per unit of planetary resources consumed. Put another way, it represents the efficiency with which countries convert the earth's finite resources into wellbeing experienced by their citizens.

7. nef (the new economics foundation) is an independent think-and-do tank that inspires and demonstrates real economic well-being. We believe in economics as if people and the planet mattered. We aim to improve quality of life by promoting innovative solutions that challenge mainstream thinking on economic, environment and social issues. We work in partnership and put people and the planet first.

8. The centre for well-being at nef: The centre for well-being is a new research centre at nef (the new economics foundation). Set-up in 2006, the centre builds on nef's established well-being programme significantly expanding our work in this area, placing it at the heart of our policy and practice. The centre is directed by Nic Marks, a recognised expert in the field who has led nef's well-being programme since 2001. nef believes that well-being means increasing life satisfaction and promoting self-development, both for individuals and for communities. A well-being focus means redefining `progress' and asking the fundamental question: Do our systems and economies really shape the world as we want it? nef advances thinking in the area by conducting high quality research and consultancy, informing public policy and bringing the well-being agenda into the mainstream of organisational practice.

9. nef's Global Manifesto for a happier planet makes recommendations for each component of the HPI. Table 7, on page 42 of the report shows how each country fares on HLY and Ecological footprint, providing an indication of which component policy-makers in countries around the world need to prioritise:

9.1.Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger. Increasing material wealth in (so-called) developed countries does not lead to greater happiness, and that extreme poverty systematically undermines people's opportunities to build good lives for themselves and their families. We urgently need to redesign our global systems to more equitably distribute the things people rely on for their day-to-day livelihoods, for example: income, and access to land, food and other resources.

9.2. Improve healthcare. High life expectancy in a country reflects good healthcare and living conditions, and has a positive relationship to people's sense of well-being. Globally we need to increase access to clean water, halt the rise in diseases such as HIV/AIDS and malaria, and reduce child and maternal mortality. The World Health Organization estimates that everyone in the world could be provided with a good level of basic healthcare for just $43 per person, per year.

9.3. Relieve debt. Many developing countries are forced to prioritise the service of crippling financial debt over providing a basic standard of living. Debt sustainability calculations should be based on the amount of revenue that a government can be expected to raise without increasing poverty or compromising future development.

9.4. Shifting values. Value systems that emphasise individualism and material consumption are detrimental to well-being, whereas those that promote social interaction and a sense of relatedness are profoundly positive. Government should provide more support for local community initiatives, sports teams, arts projects and so on, whilst acting to discourage the development of materialist values where possible (for example, by banning advertising directed at children).

9.5.Support meaningful lives. Governments should recognise the contribution of individuals to economic, social, cultural, and civic life and value unpaid activity. Employers should be encouraged to enable their employees to work flexibly, allowing them to develop full lives outside of the workplace and make time to undertake voluntary work. They should also strive to provide challenges and opportunities for personal development at work.

9.6. Empower people and promote good governance. A sense of autonomy is important at all levels for people to thrive, and there is growing evidence that engaging citizens in democratic processes leads to both a more vibrant society and happier citizens. Promoting open and effective governance nationally and internationally, including the peaceful resolution of conflicts and elimination of systematic corruption, is important for all of us achieving greater well-being in the long term.

9.7. Identify environmental limits and design economic policy to work within them. The ecological footprint gives us a measure of the Earth's biocapacity that, if over-stretched, leads to long-term environmental degradation. Globally we need to live within our environmental means. One-planet living should become an official target of government policy with a pathway and timetable to achieve it. (The UK currently consumes at just over three times this level. If everyone in the world consumed as we do in the UK, we would need 3.1 planets like Earth to support us.)

9.8. Design systems for sustainable consumption and production. We need to reverse the loss of environmental resources, conserve our ecosystems and integrate a sustainable development approach throughout the global community. Ecological taxation can be used to make the price of goods include their full environmental cost, and to encourage behaviour change. Clear consistent labelling that warns of the consequences of consumption, as with tobacco, would also help, as well as giving manufacturers full life-cycle responsibility for what they produce.

9.9. Work to tackle climate change. For the UK to play its part in preventing catastrophic and irreversible global warming it is estimated that we will need to cut our greenhouse gas emissions by at least three per cent every year. More broadly, rich countries need to meet and exceed their targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions set under the Kyoto Protocol, cutting emissions to a level commensurate with halting global warming so that temperature rise is kept well below 2°C. After 2012, and in subsequent commitment periods of the Kyoto Protocol, emissions cuts should put industrialised countries on track to savings of up to 80 per cent by 2050.

9.10. Measure what matters. People all over the world want to lead happy and complete lives, but we all share just one planet to live on. We urgently need our political organisations to embrace and apply new measures of progress, such as the HPI and adjusted GDP indicators. Only then will we be equipped to address the twin challenges of delivering well-being for all whilst remaining within genuine environmental limits.

10. The Happy Planet Index was produced by nef with the support of Friends of the Earth England, Ireland and Wales and the AIM Foundation.

11. The Happy Planet Index. Any index is only as good as the data that feeds it and no data set is perfect, even those relied on by governments, central banks and international financial institutions. But we have used the best available official statistics - the same as those used by policy makers - and are confident that there is much to learn from what they show, however surprising it may be.

If you're a journalist looking for press information please contact the Friends of the Earth media team on 020 7566 1649.

Published by Friends of the Earth Trust