An overview of each country’s national and international climate change policy. Lower rankings indicate stronger climate change policies
Portugal (Rank 6)
Still reeling from the economic crisis, Portugal has shown great pragmatism in desperate times. Using the disaster to its benefit, the country is looking for fresh approaches in order to bring its economy back from the brink. It has strengthened its climate policies, reduced fossil fuel dependency, and rather than squander profits from earlier investments made in renewable energy projects, it has reinvested into successful projects. There is still a long way to go, both in its efforts to make a mark on climate change and to fully emerge from its economic situation, but it fares better than Greece, which has completely abandoned its climate policies as a result of the Troika’s economic stranglehold.
Morocco (Rank 15)
The only non-EU nation to appear in the top 19 places on the list, Morocco performs strongly. Its overall score is helped by a good result in the renewable energy resource sub-index – to which, along with its North African neighbours, it has injected significant investment. Morocco has very low emissions and has the highest score for policy among the Arab states, with the government having implemented a wide range of projects (from a national action plan to prevent global warming to an ambitious solar plan). There are still areas for development, with transport a key issue, but overall the country fares well. It’s risen five places since last year and now sits in the ‘good’ category – a promising position.
Netherlands (Rank 31)
While several EU member states come near the top of the list and dominate the first 14 ranks, the Netherlands slips slightly behind, ranking in at 31st this year at the top end of the ‘poor’ rating – just behind Cyprus, Austria and India, and just ahead of Finland. It has nevertheless climbed up 18 places from 2013 as a result of improved policies, having risen up the ranks by 41 places the year before. But it fell back several ranks with regard to energy emissions, which suggests the country is continuing to feel the effects of its previous leaders. The new state policies should help lower those emissions as the country advances to become greener and cleaner.
Brazil (Rank 36)
BRIC countries have been reluctant to act on the issue of climate change, as in doing so, they are aware they risk having to forfeit economic prosperity. Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff shocked the international community when she refused to commit to slowing deforestation in the Amazon at the recent UN Climate Summit in New York City. This contentious decision by the South American leader will not serve her well within the international community, as combatting deforestation is crucial if there is any hope of making a dent in reducing emissions, with the Amazon producing more than 20 percent of the world’s oxygen. Brazil may also slip further down international standings.
United States (Rank 43)
The US continues to fare relatively badly, retaining its 2013 rank, which is only four places above the ‘very poor’ rating. The nation’s energy-related CO2 emissions have, however, seen a promising eight percent decrease over the past five years. It performs strongly with regard to policy, jumping 12 places this year following a tightening up of its environmental strategies. The state has been debating the use of environmentally damaging HFC gases after the release of the latest IPCC report, and is fighting to establish a global agreement as part of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). It still has further to go if it’s to attain the higher scores seen within the EU and some parts of Asia.
China (Rank 45)
China’s CO2 emission levels remain the highest in the world. The country has, however, moved up the ranks to number 45 this year, indicating an overall improvement as CO2 emissions have slowed. It’s developing in terms of environmental awareness, having recently invested in renewable energy resources – although its performance in that field still rates as ‘poor’ due to a delayed impact. The State Council presented an air pollution project in September 2013 with the aim of cutting coal in four of the country’s major regions. These initiatives are promising steps in helping the world as a whole slash its environmental damage over the coming years, given China’s size and its dominance in global emission levels.
Australia (Rank 57)
With a change in government came the repeal of the carbon tax, losing Australia further ground in its efforts to effectively combat the effects of climate change. Now, lawmakers – in a bid to offset their poor track record on the controversial issue – are proposing implementing a cap-and-trade system, which will penalise companies that fail to meet emissions targets, while also opening up Australia to the international carbon market – valued at approximately $63bn. In the meantime, the world’s biggest emitter of carbon per capita is left in limbo, with no official climate policy to speak of. With staunch opposition coming from the Labour and Green parties, the country may fall further down the rankings.