This emerges from a statistical analysis of the environmental performance of 21 industrialised nations carried out by the New Economics Foundation and the Independent.
Eleven issues were considered, covering air and water pollution, nature conservation, car use, energy efficiency and household waste. The main source was the latest environmental statistics collected from members of the 'rich countries club', the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
Each country was awarded a score of between 0 and 100 for each issue - with the best scoring 100 and the worst 0 - and the scores were then averaged out.
Austria came first with 76 per cent, followed by Portugal (73 per cent) and Japan (72 per cent). Britain, with just under 64 per cent, was in 10th place out of the 21 OECD nations analysed. At the bottom were Belgium (48 per cent), Canada (37 per cent) and the United States (35 per cent).
Ed Mayo, director of the New Economics Foundation, said: 'The analysis threw up several surprises, including Britain's better-than-average relative performance. Our findings may be controversial but they're robust. We looked at a very broad range of parameters which, taken together, do give a good idea of the nations' comparative environmental performance.'
Less developed countries such as Turkey, Spain and Portugal tended to score highly for their low air pollution, car use and refuse production, but poorly for low levels of sewage treatment and lack of nature reserves and national parks.
Germany's low ranking - seventh in the European Union, 13th among the 21 OECD nations - reflects that country's reunification. Affluent West Germany had one of the best environmental performances in Europe, East Germany with its filthy heavy industries one of the worst.
Andrew Lees, campaigns director of Friends of the Earth, described the analysis as a 'a brave effort'.
'This kind of exercise provides a crude rule of thumb but the analysis is confounded by the narrow range of indicators and doubts about the relative weight they should be given.'
Green record, page 21
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