Global emissions have reached a new peak, but recent developments indicate a new readiness for action on climate protection. This is the message of the 10th edition of the Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI); a ranking of the climate-protection performance of the 58 highest emitters worldwide published by Germanwatch and CAN Europe at the COP20 Climate Conference in Lima this week.
"We see global trends, indicating promising shifts in some of the most relevant sectors for climate protection," says Jan Burck of Germanwatch, author of the Index. "The rise of emissions has slowed down, and renewables are rapidly growing due to declining costs and massive investments."
In countries such as Denmark (#4 — which last month set an ambitious goal to be powered completely by renewables by 2050), Sweden (#5) and the UK (#6), the result is decreasing emissions. On the other side of the globe, China — the world's biggest emitter - shows improvements in the efficiency sector and massive investments in renewables. Most recent developments indicate China's decade-long coal boom seems to be over, offering new hope for global climate protection.
In the United States (#44), "the Obama White House has recently sent strong signals to the world that it is more committed than ever to reducing carbon emissions," says Alexander Ochs, Worldwatch Institute's Director of Climate and Energy.
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"The U.S. government's agreement with China on greenhouse gas cuts in both countries, its proactive work in the Energy Ministerial and other international fora, and its supportive tone in the UN climate negotiations are reflected in an improved grade for International Climate Policy this year. However, given the U.S. Congress' inability — and in the case of many members, unwillingness — to pass effective climate and energy policies, the President's possibilities are limited."
"Progress on the necessary transition to a low-emission, climate-compatible society remains chiefly driven by individual U.S. states and municipalities. Therefore, the U.S. 2015 overall ranking did not improve from last year's. In contrast, several developing or emerging economies — including major emitters such as China (#45), India (#31), Indonesia (#23) and Mexico (#18) — are scoring higher this year, due to decisive national action," adds Ochs.
"Data showing declining emission growth rates together with promising political signs, suggesting that we are able to stabilize global emissions. The Paris Climate Summit in 2015, where countries will make new commitments for climate action, could be a turning point in this respect," adds Burck.
In terms of the laggards, in Canada (#58) nothing has changed and nothing is going forward at the state level. For industrialized countries, this poor performance is only beaten by Australia (#60), where the new conservative government reversed the climate policies previously in effect. In between these two, Kazakhstan (#59) and at the very bottom Saudi Arabia (#61) comprise the bottom four.
In Europe, the Index shows a mixed picture: "Many EU countries ranked high this year, but others, like Poland (#40) and Bulgaria (#41) scored poorly because of their opposition to further steps nationally and in the EU," explains Wendel Trio, Director of CAN Europe.
"Neither the current 2020 nor the new 2030 climate target are in line with the reductions needed by Europe to avert catastrophic climate change and achieve 100% renewables by 2050. To do this, Europe must meet its target to reduce energy consumption by 20% by 2020 against projections, phase out all fossil fuel subsidies immediately and agree on a fundamental reform of its Emissions Trading Scheme before the Paris Climate Summit," Trio concludes.
Two pleasant surprises in the new Index are Morocco — which jumped into the Top 10 because of its extraordinary renewables policy — and Mexico, whose ‘very good’ international climate policy evaluation landed it in the Top 20.
Progress on the necessary global transition to a low-emission society may also gain important momentum through the private sector: Not only are more and more multinationals making dramatic improvements in their operational efficiency and urging governments to do their part, the power companies are jumping on board, as well — both NRG Energy in the US and Germany’s E.ON recently announced bold commitments to renewables.