Think Your Country Is Fighting Climate Change? You May Want To Think Again…


February 4th, 2019 by The Beam 

“The global picture doesn’t look very good,” began Prof. Dr. Niklas Höhne, co-author from NewClimate Institute of the Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI) 2019. After three consecutive years of stable CO2 emissions, emissions are rising again. Yet, “conditions to do more on climate action have never been as good as they are today,” the cost of renewable energy has reduced by a third since the signature of the Paris Agreement, and they are now competing with the fossil fuel industry.

Like last year, Sweden is leading the group of high-performing countries in the Climate Change Performance Index.

Developed by Germanwatch and the NewClimate Institute, CCPI is a ranking of the 56 countries and the EU that together are responsible for about 90% of global GHG emissions. This year, the report shows only a few countries have started to implement strategies to limit global warming below 1.5°C. To rank each country, the experts look at its GHG emissions, renewable energy, energy use, and climate policy. The CCPI also looks into the future and evaluates to what extent the respective countries are taking adequate action within the categories: emissions, energy use, and renewables to being on track towards the global Paris-goal of limiting global warming.

The gap between current emission levels and what is needed to put the world on track for a well-below-2°C or even 1.5°C pathway is widening, warn the experts. There is also a widening gap on leadership at a time when countries must be strengthening the climate agenda. “It is very important now that the EU needs to enhance its current climate commitment to show leadership,” says Stephan Singer from the Climate Action Network (CAN), co-publisher of the CCPI.

Not enough countries have proven enough political will to prevent dangerous climate change

While there is continued growth and competitiveness for renewable energy, especially in countries that had low shares before, this study shows a lack of political will from most governments to phase out fossil fuels with the necessary speed. Consequently, in most countries the climate policy evaluation by national experts is significantly lower than in the last years.

Let’s look at Germany for a start. The country falls from place 22 to place 27, its second lowest ranking in the history of the CCPI. It is rated medium regarding renewable energy and climate policy, and the country’s emissions have not decreased since 2009. Jan Burck, co-author of the CCPI at Germanwatch, explains: “Decisions on a coal phase-out or a strategy to decarbonise the transport sector are still lacking. In addition, a CO2-pricing scheme to ensure for emissions reductions across all sectors is not put in place yet. This leads to a lower national policy rating in comparison to the last years. But the government has the opportunity to improve its rating again with a strong climate protection law next year.”

France is not doing much better than its neighbor. Despite an increased share of renewables over the past five years, France’s overall performance in renewable energy is rated relatively low, with the country’s 2030 target not being in line with a well-below-2°C trajectory. The country might find it difficult to maintain its 21st place as one of the main reason for this ranking was the implementation of a carbon taxation (which is now being abandoned following the ‘Yellow Vests’ protests). If it wasn’t for Macron’s leading role in international climate diplomacy and the decision on coal phase-out by 2022, the country would rank much lower. Experts are pointing to the lack of tangible action to reduce emissions especially in transport and building sectors.

Some good performers but no role models

None of the countries are clearly working towards a well below 2°C pathway in their overall performance, so the experts decided to leave the top three spots of the CCPI 2019 unoccupied. “There are bright spots in all categories, but no country performs well in all categories” explains Niklas Höhne. The countries’ ambition as well as the level of implementation is not high enough.

Still, some countries are doing better than others. With comparably good ratings in emissions and renewables Sweden again leads the ranking. The country has adopted a long-term target to reach net zero emissions by 2045 but national experts criticize the lack of a clear strategy for achieving the targets. They highlight that, to be in line with a well-below-2°C pathway, Sweden’s emissions would need to reach net zero by 2030 and particularly require a decrease in consumption-based emissions.

Sweden is followed by Morocco, who has significantly increased their share of renewables over the past five years and has increased new renewable energy capacity. By connecting the world’s largest solar plant and multiple new wind farms to the grid, the country is well on track for achieving its target of 42% installed renewable energy capacities by 2020 and 52% by 2030. While national experts observe some delay in the implementation of national policies, they acknowledge the consultative process of developing a long-term strategy for 2050, which among other initiatives could make the country a policy frontrunner on the international level.

India moves to rank 11 as a result of an improved performance in renewable energy, comparatively low levels of per capita emissions and a relatively ambitious mitigation target for 2030.

“If all countries would follow the leaders, we would come a long way towards a well below 2°C pathway,” state the experts.

The most polluting country on the planet: China, climbs to rank 33, reaching the group of the medium-performing countries for the first time. China performed relatively well regarding its emissions trend from 2014 to 2016, but emissions started to increase again recently. The overall high rating in the climate policy category reflects the government’s progress on regulating industrial emissions, building emissions and a successful renewable energy support scheme.

Who’s at the bottom of the ranking?

In the group of very low performers we find almost half of the G20 countries: Japan (49), Turkey (50), Russian Federation (52), Canada (54), Australia (55), Korea (57) and — at the bottom of the index — USA (59) and Saudi Arabia (60).

The experts from the United States rated the climate policy of the Trump administration very low, but they highlight some positive signals because of climate action in several states and cities and because of the Democrats’ promise to push climate policy with their new majority in the House of Representatives.

Poland, the host country of this year’s UN Climate Change Conference (COP24), performs low in all categories, except in the Energy Use category and ranks 41st. National experts highlight that the white certificate system introduced by the government succeeded in reducing energy consumption and they acknowledge the introduction of an electro-mobility plan. However, transport emissions are rising fast and coal still dominates the country’s energy mix. Experts criticize the lack of any coordinated long-term policy strategies for reducing the high dependency on coal and for advancing the development of renewable energy.

Saudi Arabia remains at the bottom of the CCPI. The country continues to be a very low performer in all index categories. On climate policy, experts give Saudi Arabia a very low rating. Although the government is taking steps to expand renewable energy, it has not adopted emission reduction targets. Experts also continue to criticize the country’s very low performance in international negotiations.

“Governments are cheating people and nature on their desire for safe planet and for protecting ecosystem,” comments Stephan Singer from Climate Action Network. The good news is that renewables are moving forward, even in countries where the national government are not supporting them. But the conclusion of the experts is clear: now is the time to raise ambition.

By The Beam Editor-in-Chief Anne-Sophie Garrigou.

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Tags: China, Climate Action Network, Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI), France, Germany, India, NewClimate Institute, Poland, saudi arabia, Sweden, US

About the Author

The Beam The Beam Magazine is a quarterly print publication that takes a modern perspective on the energy transition. From Berlin we report about the people, companies and organizations that shape our sustainable energy future around the world. The team is headed by journalist Anne-Sophie Garrigou and designer Dimitris Gkikas. The Beam works with a network of experts and contributors to cover topics from technology to art, from policy to sustainability, from VCs to cleantech start ups. Our language is energy transition and that’s spoken everywhere. The Beam is already being distributed in most countries in Europe, but also in Niger, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Japan, Chile and the United States. And this is just the beginning. So stay tuned for future development and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Medium.

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