Denmark, Sweden, and Chile are the top countries in terms of performance and commitment to climate action, according to a report unveiled at the United Nations COP27 climate conference in Egypt. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Kazakhstan rank at the bottom of the climate list because of their continuous investment in fossil fuel energy. But no matter how you look at it, no one country is doing enough.
The Climate Change Performance Index, published by the NGOs Germanwatch, New Climate Institute and Climate Action Network, takes stock of the state of global climate action. The report looks at climate measures taken by 59 countries plus the European Union (EU), all accountable for over 90% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Countries were assessed in four categories (Emissions, Renewable Energy, Energy Use, and Climate Policy) and ranged from very low to very high. Overall, no one was strong enough in all categories to achieve an overall very high rating. That’s why the three top places were left empty. Denmark was in the fourth position, as it was last year, meaning it’s doing more than everyone else, but still not enough.
“These are the countries responsible for the problems the world is facing,” Jan Burck, senior advisor at Germany Watch, said in a press conference. “Even the leading countries who did well in the ranking aren’t doing enough. Denmark, for example, ranked first but is questioned by experts for its lack of energy efficiency measures.”
Only three G20 countries are among the high performers in the report: India (8th), the UK (11th), and Germany (16th). Twelve G20 countries got a low or very low rating. This is especially concerning as the G20 members emit over 75% of the world’s emissions. Russia, Saudi Arabia, and South Korea were the worst G20 countries.
The US rose three positions (52nd) thanks to its recently approved climate package but it’s still among the worst-performing countries. The US emits the most greenhouse gas emissions after China, which suffered the biggest blow in the ranking – falling 13 places to 51. This is mainly because of rising emissions from new coal-fired energy plants.
The EU rose three spots from the previous year to the 19th, and just barely misses the high classification. Nine EU countries are among the high and medium performers, with Denmark (4th) and Sweden (5th) leading the overall ranking. Spain improved its performance, raising 11 spots to 23rd, while France dropped 11 ranks to the 28th spot.
“We have no time to lose. Countries have to change their policies and that’s not an easy thing to do. Having a nice plan might be a good thing but not enough at all. We need real emissions reduction”, Niklas Hohne from the New Climate Institute said at COP27. “Renewable energies are more cost-effective than any new conventional power plant.”
Betting on fossil fuels
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine shows that most countries are still heavily dependent on fossil fuels, the report’s authors said. As many countries sanctioned Russia and reduced their import of Russian natural gas, demand for natural gas from outside of Russia has surged which is obviously bad news for the climate.
There is a persistent and critical need to use all available opportunities and to halt all support for fossil fuels, the authors add. However, the opposite is happening because of the war, with fossil fuel infrastructure now expanding globally and insufficient investments in renewable technologies.
Fossil fuels account for over 75% of all emissions, which means limiting fossil fuel extraction and production is a vital part of the solution to the climate crisis, they said. No new permits for fossil fuel extraction should be handed out, and no new fossil fuel infrastructure switched on. Countries must stop investing in fossil fuels and instead invest in renewables.
Since 2000, emissions grew globally by over 40%, they found. After a drop in 2020 due to the pandemic, 2021 saw a rebound. Emissions per capita show a relatively even development in the last 20 years due to population growth, while emissions per GDP are falling due to a relative decoupling of energy supply from GDP, according to the report.
“Good climate policy is paramount. A lot has to be done and we have little time until 2030. Any delay or defiance to take ambitious actions has big repercussions,” Janet Milongo from CAN said in a press conference. “A shift to renewables will create opportunities for everyone, as clean energy goes along with meeting the SDGs.”
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