Research at University of East Anglia (UEA) has found that countries with diverse ethnicity or religion do not try to improve their environmental performance. In addition, the lead author of the study, Dr Elissaios Papyrakis, a senior lecturer in UEA’s School of International Development and a senior researcher at Vrije Universiteit, in Holland, claims that religious diversity affects environmental performance much more than ethnic differences. He states that in order to reduce public spending on environmental protection and performance, these social differences should be overcome.
The findings are published in the latest issue of the Journal of Environmental and Resource Economics. Data for the study were collected from 127 countries for the period between 1960 and 2006. Dr. Papyrakis analysed the influences of a country’s ethnicity, religion, industry, income, population density and control of corruption on its environmental performance.
The environmental factor was measured based on the monetary damage as part of the gross domestic product, which is attributed to the emissions of the country.
This is the first time study of such kind is conducted and published. The findings indicate that religiously or ethnically diverse countries underinvest in environmental performance, because of the difference between the groups regarding when and where measures should be introduced. This becomes further complicated by the differences in language and culture. Dr Papyrakis is convinced that although many factors are responsible for level of environmental performance, a large part is related to ethnicity and religion.
The study outlines that some of the worst environmental performance are countries such as China, Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo, known as religiously or ethnically fragmented countries. When net savings are adjusted, underperformers are also the UK and the US, especially when compared with much less diverse Scandinavian economies.
The findings should be considered by policy-makers, according to Dr Parpyrakis. This would be the only way to promote collective action and communication across various groups. The scientist is convinced that this study os only the beginning to exciting research that will explan and explore the differences between different social groups and their influence on the environment.