State improves performance on global warming


Ireland’s ninth place ranking in survey is at least partly due to economic recession

For the first time, Ireland has made it to the top 10 in the annual survey by Germanwatch and Climate Action Network (Can) Europe of how well, or badly, countries are performing in efforts to tackle global warming.

Since the first three slots in the latest Climate Change Performance Index are left blank because no country is yet doing enough – in the eyes of those who compile it – Ireland’s ninth place effectively puts it sixth in the rankings, compared to 17th last year.

The index covers 58 countries responsible for 90 per cent of global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

And given that these have risen by 54 per cent since 1990, “we are in a quite desperate situation”, Germanwatch co-ordinator Christoph Bals said yesterday.

Deforestation, which accounts for 20 per cent of global CO2 emissions, has been included in the index for the first time, with the result that both Brazil and Indonesia have moved down the rankings. In 2010, Brazil rather surprisingly was rated top performer.

Jan Burch of Germanwatch said rankings were based on countries’ CO2 emissions in 2010, how they are being mitigated and what’s being done to prioritise energy efficiency and renewables, as well as a “qualitative assessment” of climate policies by 230 experts.

European top 10

Wendell Trio, director of Can Europe, noted that all of the top 10 performers in the latest index were European countries. Some of these, notably Denmark and Sweden, had “strong policies in place”, while others had seen their emissions falling due to the recession.

Of the latter, Portugal took the third available slot after Denmark and Sweden because it had decided to stick with its climate change policies despite being hit hard by the economic crisis. Switzerland came next, followed by Germany, Ireland and Britain.

Pat Finnegan of Grian, which is affiliated to Can Europe, said “at least half of the rise [in Ireland’s ranking] can be attributed to the self-inflicted economic shock caused by bad fiscal management of the economy”, as this had reduced the country’s CO2 emissions.

Arguing that Ireland could do better, he warned that “any attempts to restart the economy will only reinflate emissions unless direct and powerful new renewable energy and energy-efficiency measures become basic to every aspect of Government policy”.

Other nations’ performances

The US is still a poor performer, but moved up from 52nd to 43rd place, due to a marginal reduction in its emissions largely as a result of exploiting shale gas rather than coal – although “this has led to an increase in coal exports to other countries”, Trio said.

The Netherlands has fallen from grace, coming last among EU states in 49th place – even behind coal-consuming Poland. Burch described this as “remarkable”, but said Germanwatch was hoping for changes from the new Dutch government elected in October.

China is in 54th place, mainly due to its prodigious CO2 emissions, now the world’s largest and rising annually, while at 58th, Canada remains the worst performer in developed countries, having “resigned” from the Kyoto protocol because it was unable to comply.

Saudi Arabia again achieves the lowest score – although it would have been beaten for last place by Qatar if the host country for the UN’s 18th climate conference had been included. Qatar had the world’s highest per capita CO2 emissions in 2009.

Noting the oil-rich state had not pledged to cut emissions, Trio said: “We hope Qatar will use the opportunity of the climate summit to pledge both emissions cuts and financial support for mitigation and adaptation in developing countries.”