The climate change performance index 2012

6 Dec 2011

Key findings

This year's Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI) shows some interesting and worrying results.

As in the years before, we still cannot reward any country with the rankings 1-3, as no country is doing enough to prevent dangerous climate change.

Sweden is back at the top and ranks 4th. This is especially due to their low emissions level and good emissions trend in some sectors (esp. housing sector). However, Swedish experts are criticising the Swedish climate policy as being not ambitious enough and insufficient with regard to the 2°C limit.

The UK, ranked 5th, has shown strong elements of environmental leadership, but recently there have been worrying signs (e.g. ignoring recommendations of the Committee on Climate Change to tighten up the intervening carbon budgets) that the UK is stepping back from its efforts, which has kept them from achieving the top position.

Brazil lost its top ranking because of increasing emissions. Also, the emissions from deforestation have increased since the end of 2010. Brazil would have received a worse ranking if the absolute emission indicators reflected not only energy, but also forest-related emissions.

Germany’s new energy concept and a relatively good emissions trend resulted in a better evaluation of the national climate policy and, therefore, a climb from the seventh to the sixth rank. However, the emissions level in Germany is still too high for a top placement.

Overall, mostly due to discouraging emissions levels and trends, the three lowest-ranking countries are Saudi Arabia, Kazakhstan and Iran.

The US has climbed up two ranks mainly due to its reduction in emissions as a result of the economic crisis. However, the US remains at the bottom end of the index because of poor policy evaluations and a very high emissions level.

India dropped 13 ranks because of a worse overall performance, especially because of a worse performance in the emissions trend.

China’s climate performance is full of contradictions. While China (in absolute, not in per-capita terms) remains the world’s largest CO2 emitter with dramatically growing emissions (with a growing gap when comparing China with all other countries), the focus on national emissions reduction policy is rapidly intensifying through nationally binding energy-intensity reduction targets and a three-percent renewable-energy portfolio requirement. By now, China, which was previously considered a “nobody” in renewable energy production, is installing about half of the global renewable energy capacity per year. China’s position in the index will dramatically improve as soon as these positive trends will influence its emissions trend.

One important factor for this years’ index is the financial and economic crisis of 2008 and 2009, which, as an unintended positive side effect, had a favourable influence on emissions trends of, e.g., Ireland and Spain, both of which climb up ten ranks in the Emissions Trend Indicator.

The economic crisis also signified an opportunity for countries with high emissions levels to remodel their economies to include policies for a sustainable use of environmental regeneration. In order to include this development and bring the index up-to-date, a new indicator which measures the trend of CO2 per capita emissions from 2009 to 2010 is included in this year’s index. This indicator rewards countries for which the financial and economic crisis led not only to a dent in a continuously rising emissions trend, but which also contributed to further reductions in emissions during economic recovery.

Australia has made encouraging steps towards improved climate policy. The experts recognized the new carbon tax as especially positive. Due to continuously high emissions, Australia remains in the last quarter of the CCPI. However, the latest emissions trend and the policy evaluation made Australia climb ten ranks and indicate that Australia has the ability to climb up in future rankings.

Poor emissions trends and poor policy evaluations made the Netherlands lose twelve ranks.

There are several leading countries in Europe, above all Sweden, UK and Germany. Here, performance rankings have increased during the last year. However, within Europe, countries such as Turkey, Poland and Croatia hold some of the lowest positions in the overall ranking. This is partly due to their policy evaluations. During its presidency of the European Council, Poland blocked the proposed EU’s 30 percent reduction target (until 2020).

Within the first ten-ranking countries, Denmark improved its performance the most. This can be attributed to its improved national and international climate policy.

It is especially worrying that the global trend towards burning coal (and oil from tar sands) has not been stopped. This is the main reason why we see emissions per gross domestic product (GDP) increasing in many countries.

There is a robust trend towards increasing national renewable energy capacity. Especially China, the US and Germany are successful in this field.

The countries with the worst score in the indicator ‘emissions levels’ are Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia and Estonia.

The average grades for the national and international policies are weak. Most experts are not satisfied by far with the efforts of their governments with regard to the 2°C limit.

This year’s host country of the UN Climate Summit, South Africa, is showing an improved performance in the field of national climate policy each year. However, their emissions are still relatively high and the country remains addicted to coal.

China, Mexico, Korea and South Africa are the countries with the best policy evaluation. Mexico was explicitly rewarded for the excellent COP Presidency last year in Cancun.

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