Climate change is a race against time. Anyone who has the edge in terms of climate protection and which industrialized country ends up in last place is shown by the Climate Protection Index published today.

To be clear, there is no winner in climate protection. At least as long as valued countries remain under the objectives of the Paris Climate Agreement to limit the global rise in temperature to well below two degrees.

Researchers largely agree that, as of today, it will be about three degrees warmer by the end of this century compared to pre-industrial times. Unless the man-made CO2 emissions are reduced rapidly and drastically. But it does not look exactly like that right now . At least the authors of the Climate Protection Index, which is presented today by the NewClimate Institute, the NGO Germanwatch and the Climate Action Network, come to the conclusion.

“The Climate Change Index has a tradition of leaving the top three in the lead, and they’re free again this year because no country really does have that much climate protection to be compatible with the climate agreement,” says Professor Niklas Höhne, one of the authors ,

Sweden in front, tail light USA

The ranking analyzes and compares how 57 countries and the EU as a community of states develop climate protection. Together, they account for more than 90 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. 

The more progress a country makes to reach the two-degree target of the Paris Climate Agreement, the better it will be rated. The focus is on four categories: greenhouse gas emissions, the share of renewable energy, per capita energy consumption, and the current climate policy and plans for the coming years.

As the winners’ podium for climate protection remains empty, the table is ranked fourth by Sweden. The first place behind the medal ranks has given the country its goal of 100 percent switching to renewable energy by 2040 , and the highest CO2 tax of 114 euros per tonne  – once again. For comparison: Germany plans from 2021 to introduce a CO2 tax of 10 euros. Sweden and Denmark are fifth and sixth respectively. Germany occupies only the 23rd place. In Europe, Poland stands out as the worst country in 50th place. China has improved to 30th place.

If there was such a thing as a second league in climate protection, the US, as the world’s largest economy, would slide there by the end of this year. Already on the relegation line in 2018, the US is now the bottom of the table this year. “Climate policy is being reversed there,” says Niklas Höhne. Responsible for this is above all the course of President Donald Trump. He announced in November that he would step out of the Paris Climate Agreement next year. 

In addition, the country still has an energy consumption per capita that is more than twice as high as in Europe and about ten times as high as in India. “That’s not a good situation,” says Höhne.

“Delicate movements in the right direction”

More than half of the countries “have declining emissions overall, especially smaller industrialized and developing countries, which is a positive aspect and gives us hope for a turnaround “, says Ursula Hagen, co-author of the report.

“We see delicate movements in the right direction,” adds Niklas Höhne. The world’s largest industrialized nations, the G20, “are unfortunately still very poor, with more than half of the G20 in the bottom half of our index.”India Energy 2018 |  Solar Energy, Shakti Sthala Plant in Pavagada Taluk (Getty Images / AFP / M. Kiran)

Renewable energies are being expanded in India

Morocco surprisingly far ahead

Runner-up in the climate protection world ranking list is the small country of Denmark. Overall in fifth place, it has collected many points, especially in the field of climate policy. Denmark aims to reduce 70% of its CO2 emissions by 2030. This makes Denmark the world leader. By 2030, one also wants to get out of coal energy.

The North African Morocco also plays a leading role in climate protection. As one of only a few countries in the world, subsidies for fossil fuels had already begun to be cut back in 2015, according to the report. It also highlights low energy consumption and ambitious renewable energy targets (52% by 2030).

Ambitious India

India is in the “Top 10” for the first time this year. India gets good marks because it has a comparatively low energy consumption per capita and, unlike the US and the European countries, emits little greenhouse gases. In addition, the country is investing heavily in renewable energy. By 2030, the proportion should rise to more than 40 percent. “I find that extremely amazing for a country in this state of development,” says Höhne.

There are deductions because at the same time India plans to cover its growing energy needs with the construction of several coal-fired power plants. “I see it as a responsibility of the world community to help India not to realize it, but to generate electricity with alternatives.”

Good place thanks to hydropower for Brazil 

With more than 70 percent of hydroelectric power in the power mix, Brazil is the world leader in this category. “The experts are nevertheless concerned about the high deforestation rates – the highest in the past ten years.” The forest fires in the Amazon are also a cause for concern, especially in light of the government’s curtailment under President Bolsonaro of the budget of the Environment Agency for firefighting, according to the report.

In addition, the scientists see little strategies and plans how the country wants to reduce its emissions in the long term . In the category “Climate Policy” Brazil lands in the last ten this time.  

Do you think Germany and the EU are serious?

The report praises the new EU Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, who has called on the EU to raise the targets for reducing EU emissions from 40 percent to 55 percent by 2030  . “These goals are the reason why we have given the EU a good rating on climate policy,” says Ursula Hagen. “Just like the goal of being climate-neutral by 2050, this has to be filled with concrete measures, and so far there are few or no strategies.” At present, the EU would not reach the Paris climate targets.

The German climate policy is not “Paris compatible” and “discouraged,” says Hagen. Overall, Germany improved slightly overall. Nevertheless, it continues to be well behind the objectives of the agreement. ” The German climate package is a step in the right direction, but far too small, and we need a clear commitment to climate neutrality,” adds Niklas Höhne. 

Until then, Germany remains mediocre and, like all countries in the ranking, clearly removed from the “climate protection podium”.


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