U.S., Saudi at bottom of climate class: report

They show ‘hardly any signs’ of reducing their greenhouse gas production

Published - December 10, 2019 10:44 pm IST - Madrid

Time to act:  Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, right,  at the COP25 Climate Conference in Madrid on Tuesday.

Time to act: Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, right, at the COP25 Climate Conference in Madrid on Tuesday.

The U.S. and Saudi Arabia are among major polluters showing “hardly any signs” of reducing their greenhouse gas production, a global assessment of countries’ emissions trajectories said on Tuesday at United Nations climate talks.

The Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI) measures the emissions, renewable energy share and climate policies of 57 countries and the European Union.

It found the U.S. ranks last, followed by Saudi Arabia and Australia, although several countries did report falls in emissions last year, largely due to an industry-wide fade out of coal.

While climate performance varied greatly — even within the EU, with Sweden leading the way — the report found that none of the countries surveyed were currently on a path compatible with the Paris climate goals.

The 2015 accord saw nations agree to work towards limiting global temperature rises to “well below” two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

U.S. President Donald Trump says he plans to withdraw from the global plan to reduce emissions.

China, the world’s largest single emitter, was found to have taken “medium action” due to its high investment in renewables.

India, for the first time, ranks among the top 10 in this year’s Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI) presented on Tuesday at the COP25 climate summit here.

The current levels of per capita emissions and energy use in India, ranked 9th in the “high category”, are still comparatively low and, along with ambitious 2030 targets, result in high ratings for the green house gas emissions and energy use categories, said the report released here in the Spanish capital.

However, despite an overall high rating for its Climate Policy performance, experts point out that the Indian government has yet to develop a roadmap for the phase-out of fossil fuel subsidies that would consequently reduce the country’s high dependence on coal.

However, the index warned that Beijing could slump to the bottom rungs if it follows through on its plan to continue building coal-fired power plants.

Ursula Hagen from the environmental watchdog Germanwatch, who co-authored the accompanying report, said both the U.S. and China were “at a crossroads” on climate.

“The index shows signs of a global turnaround in emissions, including declining coal consumption. However, several large countries are still trying to resist this trend - above all the USA,” she said.

“Much will depend on further developments in China and the elections in the USA.”

Delegates are gathered at the COP 25 in Madrid to devise ways of putting the Paris plan in action, but key sticking points remain over emissions trading schemes and how the fight against climate change is funded.

“This science based assessment shows again that in particular the large climate polluters do hardly anything for the transformational shift we need,” said Stephan Singer from the Climate Action Network.

He said nations need to implement “deep emissions reductions to curtail the run to potentially irreversible climate change”.

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