Which Countries Fail the Most at Climate Leadership?


by Arne Jungjohann, excerpted from Grist.

Sweden, the U.K., and Germany: The European trio leads the world in fighting climate change.

That’s the finding of the most recent Climate Change Performance Index [PDF], which was released this week at COP 17 in Durban. But Swedes, Brits, and Germans shouldn’t cheer just yet; even their countries are not contributing their fair share.

In fact, that is the most worrying result of the index: No country is doing enough to seriously fight climate change. Consequently, the report — published by Germanwatch and Climate Action Network Europe — did not reward any country a ranking of 1-3. The countries ranked worst this year are Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Kazakhstan.

What about the United States? In comparison to 2010, the U.S. has climbed up two ranks, mainly due to emission reductions from the recession and increased renewable energy capacity. However, given still-high emissions and the lack of substantial national policies, the U.S. remains toward the bottom of the index, ranked No. 52. Among the large emitters around the world, only Canada, Russia, China, and Iran are worse.

China is a particularly interesting case, with a somewhat contradictory performance. While it remains the world’s largest CO2 emitter (in absolute, not per-capita, terms) and its emissions continue to grow dramatically, its attempts to curb domestic emissions are intensifying, with binding energy-intensity targets and renewable-portfolio requirements. In just a few years, these top-of-the-class policy efforts will influence its emission trajectory.

This is how the index works:

On the basis of standardized criteria, the index evaluates and compares the climate protection performance of 58 countries that are, together, responsible for more than 90 percent of global energy-related CO2 emissions. 80 percent of the evaluation is based on objective indicators of emissions trend and emissions level (50 percent for emissions trend, 30 percent for emissions level). 20 percent of the index results are built upon national and international climate policy assessments by more than 200 experts from the respective countries.

— Arne Jungjohann is the program director for Environment and Global Dialogue with the Heinrich Boll Foundation in Washington, D.C.

5 Responses to Which Countries Fail the Most at Climate Leadership?

  1. Merrelyn Emery says:

    I suppose who is coming first or last is of some academic interest although I really don’t care, but do we really have to turn everything into a competition?

    Surely that is one of the major reasons, if not the reason, that we got the result we did from Durban. Nations competing to be the toughest, the trickiest, to get as much of their way as possible while giving up as little as posssible, in a structure and process designed to be adversarial and nitpicking.

    We desperately need genuine cooperation based on respect for the Earth. So far she is only wimpering but pretty soon she is going to start screaming. As long as we continue to see everything as a race, the only winners will be those who have enough left to attribute blame with the highest level of decibels – until their amplifiers are too knocked out and silenced, ME

  2. Chris Lock says:

    How can Canada’s rank “improve” from 57 to 54 when we’ve just officially pulled out of Kyoto?

    We are going to start removing our Canada flags on knapsacks as we backpack around the world and replace it with an American flag!

  3. Tim says:

    I’ve never seen any ranking in which China’s GDP already exceeds the US, though the gap is closing. According to the CIA Factbook (2010 est., GDP, PPP):

    EU: 14.82 trillion
    US: 14.66 trillion
    China: 10.09 trillion

  4. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    One of the characteristics of capitalist economies is the division of people into ‘winners’ and ‘losers’. Currently the 1% and the 0.01% have ensured that they are winners, and the rest losers. This is a process both deliberate and deliberately sadistic. The basic mechanism for this dispensation is money power, euphemised as ‘The Market’ (All Praise to the Market!). The Holy Market (in truth the rich)does not care for Gaia, Mother Earth, human beings, Nature or anything but reproducing itself as prolifically as possible. There, in my opinion, is the root cause of all evil-the sado-monetarist cult with its inherent and neoplastic necessity for money to go on forever multiplying, even when it causes the planet’s ecosystems to collapse, the finite resources to be exhausted, and the economy to implode under debt, despite the human sacrifice of whole populations to the Market Moloch.

  5. Dr.A.Jagadeesh says:

    Excellent post on country leadership in Climate Change.

    Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore (AP), India