Kim Samuel-Johnson, Director of the Samuel Group of Companies, Chair of the Samuel Family Foundation and co-creator of the Environmental Performance Index, will partner with the Yale Center for Environmental Law & Policy (YCELP), the Center for International Earth Sciences Information Network at Columbia University (CIESIN) and the Asian Institute for Energy and Environmental Sustainability (AIEES) to engage expert collaborators from around the world in an effort to develop Guiding Stars-an innovative transformation of how people think about environmental protection.
Benchmarking has become an indispensable tool for decision-making. Across fields, benchmarking is a crucial way to determine productivity. From Mariott International's 'Total Hotel Optimization' program to Billy Beane's statistical approach to Major League Baseball talent scouting (made famous by 'Moneyball' the book and Academy Award nominated film of the same name), quantitative benchmarking is invaluable. However, whether utilizing quantitative performance measurement in a single business or in various levels and leagues of baseball, the underlying data is consistent, easily available and definable. The same cannot be said for global environmental data. A decade of the Environmental Performance Index has set the gold standard for environmental performance measurement and clearly defined the need for quantitative benchmarking to guide sound policy making but with each successive EPI, the need for better data is increasingly clear.
The Guiding Stars project will transform the Environmental Performance Index, and environmental benchmarking more broadly, in the same way that the EPI transformed environmental policy. Guiding Stars will convene world experts in air and water quality and coordinate these experts to collaboratively develop tools for gathering better data. Experts will map the theory and science of the issue areas in order to identify a core set of environmental issues for which metrics are needed. The experts will then assess existing data sets and judge the data's quality and possibilities for improvement. They will then identify best practices for data collection, verification and management on a country scale, determine what new metrics must be developed and propose a process for developing the right metrics and the data collection mechanisms, methodologies and budgets needed to carry out the recommendations.
This will be done, for each environmental issue, through an series of expert papers spearheaded by a renowned lead expert. For example, the project partners are working with Dr. Drew Shindell of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies as the lead expert on the first Guiding Star project focused on air quality. Dr. Shindell specializes in modeling atmospheric ozone and particulate and investigating their impacts on climate and health. Dr. Shindell further has substantial experience in leading large scientific teams from the United States Climate Change Science Program to the IPCC.
The expert papers in the air quality project and future projects will describe the state of the art on data, methods and models and then anticipate what advances will be needed in the future. These papers will be reviewed at workshops of the assembled experts, where the scientific nature of the papers will be reviewed and distilled into targeted short and long term activities for policy makers at different levels of government.
All of this effort will help to save lives by linking innovative measurement methods to decision-making. Guiding Stars will drive development of an improved Environmental Performance Index that can help policy makers understand the scope of the environmental and human health problem and put in place policies that will reduce pollution and other environmental degradation. Lessons of the first Guiding Star project will be tied directly into the 2014 EPI. As Guiding Stars develops a more complete foundation for environmental data, the EPI will be a more robust measurement, basing rankings on the most up-to-date and scientifically valid information.
Kim Samuel-Johnson will provide strategic oversight and financial support to the collaborators, helping to develop firmer analytical foundations for environmental policymaking. Crucially, Mrs. Samuel-Johnson is committing not only to helping the development of more robust metrics, but to helping convene crucial policymakers who can implement the lessons of the project and to promoting an understanding of the project to the broadest possible audience.
'Guiding Stars: Environmental Performance Innovation' will proceed over the next 3 years as each successive Guiding Stars project (air quality, followed by water quality) builds a framework for dramatically improved environmental data and feeds these underpinnings into an overhauled Environmental Performance Index.
The first Guiding Star process-addressing air quality-is already underway. The plan of action for this commitment is to support completion of that project, to transfer the lessons learned and methodology to a second Guiding Star project and to use the data derived from newly improved and expanded monitoring and modeling in future EPIs, starting in 2014.
The air quality initiative, titled 'Towards a next generation of air quality monitoring' is a partnership between YCELP, CIESIN and AIEES. Completion of this initiative is a crucial step in the larger Guiding Stars framework because it will set the stage for a continued effort to undertake the next project likely focused on water quality.
The next step of the air quality initiative is to convene an air quality workshop in South Korea in 2012. This workshop will be a three-day, intensive effort to put forward the scientific necessities for improved data and to define the scientific necessities in such a way that they can be easily translated into policy. At its completion this effort will be replicated for water quality and other environmental issues.
Importantly, the policy recommendations of the Guiding Stars projects will not address pollution abatement. Rather, they will address data gathering. In this way Guiding Stars is an innovative approach that will generate more complete and consistent data and that data will then be incorporated into the EPI, which itself is used as a tool for development of pollution abatement policies. The 2014 EPI will also move forward under this commitment, with coordination between the project partners and data review beginning in winter of 2013, expert engagement in the spring and data cleaning, analysis and decisions on indicator inclusions in summer 2013. The final 2014 EPI report will be prepared in December 2013 for a January 2014 launch. This timeline will allow for pilot incorporation of the early fruits of Guiding Stars, and will pave the way for the transformational overhaul that Guiding Stars promises in the longer term.
According to the World Health Organization, in 2008 the 300 million people had asthma, 210 million had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and millions more suffered from undiagnosed chronic respiratory diseases. In 2005 four million people died of these diseases, caused-at least in part-by air pollution
A decade of innovative, quantitative measurement from the Environmental Performance Index (EPI) is a breakthrough that has become an indispensable component of environmental policy making and has improved environmental policy. But even as measurement and policy improve, people across the globe continue to suffer the effects of pollution and environmental degradation. To drive environmental performance and protection of human health to the next level there must be another breakthrough, not in performance measurement itself, but in the critical data that underlies that measurement.
Guiding Stars: Driving Environmental Performance Innovation (Guiding Stars) is a multi-faceted effort to investigate and improve the underpinnings of environmental performance measurement. Guiding Stars will focus on a spectrum of environmental issues, starting with air quality then moving to water quality and fisheries and forestry issues. For each issue Guiding Stars will convene a team of leading experts in the given field to determine exactly what data governments should measure, the proper measurement methodology, how to improve quality of measurement where it exists, and perhaps most importantly, how to make sure that quality data exists everywhere and for every important environmental indicator.
Guiding Stars represents the potential for a breakthrough in environmental health. The project will feed into the 2014 Environmental Performance Index to begin an overhaul of a decade-long effort that has already led to important improvements but, as the degree of environmental damage shows, still has room for dramatic improvement.
There are a number of remaining gaps in national-level environmental data, and the team is looking for those that can share ideas for improvement. Data are particularly week in agriculture, recycling, and waste management. Insight into sources of national-level data, or recommendations on generating national-level data would benefit this commitment.
The EPI is most effective when policymakers take heed of its lessons and implement changes to improve performance. Therefore, this commitment would also benefit from assistance promoting the EPI to policymakers. The team seeks partners who can help bring the findings to national-level policymakers, participants in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal process, and others who can make use of the EPI results.