Post Copenhagen - where do we stand?

Last year’s climate negotiations in Copenhagen failed to produce an international binding agreement to lower global CO2 emissions. It is unclear what the two summits in Mexico (Cancún) and South Africa will deliver. Generally, the index shows a shift in the rankings compared to last year.

Previously, national climate policy scores have been poorer than international scores. Now, the opposite is true: national actions are currently more dynamic than international negotiations. However, there are signs of a new international strategy on how to move forward this year and in the future.

The Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI) has the unique ability to document these developments through its strong review of national and international trends and policy assessments. Brazil is, same as last year, the leading country in the index.

In all three categories (energy and emissions level, emissions trend and policy ranking) Brazil is among the top 15 countries. Moreover, its policy ranking has further improved since the previous year. This is partially due to the advancements in diplomatic efforts on climate issues in preparation for the Rio-plus-20 summit in 2012. Furthermore, Brazil has decreased its deforestation rate, which constitutes a majority of its emissions.

Although deforestation is a strong contributing factor to expert’s judgement of policy, one of the limitations of this index is that it doesn’t take deforestation and land-use emissions into account due to lack of international data availability.

Also like last year, no country has performed well enough to place into the first three ranks. These are reserved for countries which have reduced per capita emissions enough to meet the requirements to keep the increase in global temperature below to 2˚C. One contributing factor to this years’ index is the financial crisis of 2008, which, as a positive side effect, had a favourable influence on emissions trends and, consequently, this years’ rankings.

The loss in industrial production has caused some countries to even exceed national emissions reduction targets. Subsequently, the resulting stimulus packages also provided several countries with a new setting for enhanced climate financing and a push for new projects.

China’s climate performance is full of contradictions. While China remains the world’s largest CO2 emitter (with a growing gap between itself and 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 is installing about half of the global renewable energy capacity.

In Germany, for the first time, there is a national plan to reduce greenhouse gases by 80 to 95 percent compared to 1990 levels, as well as an emissions reduction roadmap. However, Germany did not improve in the ranking. The new energy concept has not won favour with NGO experts owing to its inclusion of a lifetime extension of nuclear power plants, which strongly discourages investments in renewable energy, impairing its growth. The NGO experts in Germany further criticize the gap between the ambitious targets for greenhouse gas reduction, energy efficiency and renewable energy and the necessary policy instruments to reach them.

Thanks to President Barack Obama, the US has experienced a boost in climate protection policy in contrast to during the George W. Bush administration. Over ten percent of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has been allocated towards renewable energy and energy efficiency projects. Also, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) can now use its use authority to regulate greenhouse gases. However, the US hasn’t agreed on a comprehensive climate and energy bill and, due to this, the US is incapable of reaching the weak pledges of the Copenhagen Accord and is not able to take the lead in the UN negotiations. As a result, the US lost one rank in this year’s ranking. The US policy must be improved considerably. However, especially owing to the recent split in Congress, it will be profoundly difficult to move forward on a comprehensive energy and climate agenda.

Another distinct change within the index is Denmark’s large drop by 16 ranks (from rank 17 to 33) mainly due to its low scores for international climate policy. This shift is largely a result of the tragedy of the UN Climate Conference in Copenhagen (COP15), where many observers saw the COP presidency of the Danish Prime Minister Rasmussen as the worst performance in leadership dilivered by a COP presidency. In contrast, former Danish Environmental Minister Connie Hedegaard’s preparation for the COP15 received very good rankings last year.

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