Ireland ranks worst in Europe on climate change index

State 49th out of 56 countries in report that points to positive renewable energy trend

Ireland is the worst performing country in Europe when it comes to taking action to combat climate change, a new study has revealed. The State has fallen 28 places to 49th out of 56 countries ranked in the 2018 Climate Change Performance Index, which focuses on the world’s worst countries for emissions.

The report, produced by Germanwatch and the New Climate Institute (NCI), says “greater efforts have been made globally to reduce greenhouse gas emissions” and highlights positive developments on switching to renewable energy sources and energy efficiency.

However, it says “no country is doing enough to prevent dangerous greenhouse gas emissions”.

Progress on this front was was still not in line with the commitments contained in the Paris Agreement on climate change and all countries must deliver much stronger policies to reduce polluting emissions, the report adds.


In light of steps taken by the Trump Administration, the US is placed 56th on the index but the report points to positive actions being taken by individual US states, cities and companies in reducing CO2 emissions.

The index ranks the 56 countries whose combined emissions account for 90 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gases. The analysis is based on evaluating emissions; adoption of renewable energy; energy use; and climate policy.

Report co-author Dr Jan Burck told The Irish Times that rising emissions were Ireland's difficulty, even though performance on this front had improved in the past five years.

The State was “nowhere close to being on track” in its commitments to keep global temperatures to within 2 degrees” currently and up to 2030. However, he did note “a very positive trend in the development of renewable energy”.

The report, which comes as delegates from 200 nations gather in Bonn to discuss climate action at COP23, places Sweden at the top of the index in fourth position – the first three positions were left empty as “no country is doing enough to prevent dangerous climate change”, the report states.

Agricultural emissions

While agricultural emissions were less significant in total emissions globally, where they were high in countries such as Ireland, there was difficulty in reducing them, but dietary changes in livestock and more efficient fertiliser use could play their part, added Prof Niklas Höhne of NCI.

Jerry Mac Evilly, policy co-ordinator for the Stop Climate Chaos coalition, said the report “lays bare the continuing and disturbing contradiction between Government rhetoric on climate change and the sad reality of policy implementation in Ireland”.

Ireland’s polluting emissions are rising and the State is failing to meet EU obligations, he added.

“The Government is not supporting greater EU ambition and, despite some positive noises, there is little indication that this situation is likely to change any time soon. This hypocrisy on climate change not only has significant reputational damage for Ireland but brings with it extremely negative impacts for our economy, our local environment and our health.”

Dr Cara Augustenborg of Friends of the Earth Ireland said the Citizens' Assembly put forward 13 concrete recommendations for climate action to allow Ireland to catch up with our European neighbours "and end nearly a decade of dithering and delay".

“Yet at national level, we’ve seen a new climate action plan which does not guarantee any immediate reductions in pollution. And at EU level, we’ve seen repeated Government efforts to have loopholes inserted into EU legislation currently under negotiation which would hinder greater climate action.”

Jack Power

Jack Power

Jack Power is a reporter with The Irish Times

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan is Environment and Science Editor and former editor of The Irish Times