Costa Rica has topped the 2016 Happy Planet Index – the leading global measure of sustainable wellbeing.
The index, compiled by independent think tank the New Economics Foundation (NEF), ranks 140 nations on how efficiently and fairly they deliver long, happy lives for their residents given their per capita environmental resource use.
No G8 economy appears in the top 10. The Index instead highlights success stories in Latin America and Asia Pacific, where residents enjoy relatively high, and equally distributed, life expectancy and wellbeing despite much smaller ecological footprints than other more advanced economies.
Costa Rica vs USA
Costa Rica has topped the Happy Planet Index for a third time, delivering high life expectancy and high life satisfaction for its citizens at relatively low environmental cost.
Costa Rica’s GDP per capita is less than half that of the USA. Despite this, Costa Ricans have higher wellbeing and – on average – live longer.
Costa Rica’s per capita ecological footprint is just one third of the size of the USA’s.
‘The Happy Planet Index provides a compass to guide nations towards genuine progress, and shows that it is possible to live good lives without costing the Earth. We can learn much from smaller, often overlooked economies – making huge strides for their populations with limited resources.
‘Too often governments prioritise accelerated economic growth above all other concerns. They lose sight of what truly matters – long, happy, sustainable lives for people around the world.’
Senior Wellbeing Researcher at the New Economics Foundation
UK ranks 34th
The UK is the highest placed G8 economy on the Happy Planet Index.
It performs relatively strongly on wellbeing and life expectancy: both in their absolute levels and in how equally they are distributed across the population.
But like other advanced economies, the UK is denied a place in the top 20 on its overall HPI score due to its high and unsustainable ecological footprint – 4.9 global hectares per capita.
If all countries matched the UK’s resource use, we would need almost three planets to maintain our consumption levels.
A number of the countries in the HPI top 10 – like Costa Rica – come close to the goal of delivering high wellbeing and life expectancy within environmental limits.
But the consumption levels of fewer than a third of ranked nations are compatible with environmental limits. The worst offender – Luxembourg – consumes the equivalent resources of more than nine planets.