Climate Change: Australia Almost Comes Last In World Ranking

NEWS.com.auCharis Chang (with AFP)

WE’VE come up short in an important world ranking of more than 50 countries in what has been described as embarrassing.

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AUSTRALIANS are proud of their clean, green environment but when it comes to cutting pollution, the country has been ranked fourth-last in the world.
The Climate Change Performance Index uses four key categories to rank more than 50 nations — greenhouse gas emissions, energy efficiency, clean energy, and climate policy.
It rated Australia 57 out of 60 countries, although the top three positions were not filled because no one achieved a “very high” rating.
Only Iran, Republic of Korea and Saudi Arabia performed worse than Australia on overall performance to tackle climate pollution. Even China managed to beat Australia.
Overall Australia was among 15 countries rating as “very low” in general, including the United States, which was ranked 56 just ahead of Australia.
Sweden was the best performing country, followed by Lithuania, Morocco and Norway.
The United Kingdom was ranked eight, New Zealand was 33 and China was 41.
A separate Climate Action Tracker analysis also released this week found US President Donald Trump’s pullout from the Paris Agreement would push up global temperatures by nearly 0.5C, with temperatures on track to reach 3.2C above pre-industrial levels by 2100.
Even if all 196 countries, including the US, honoured their carbon-cutting pledges global, temperatures are still expected to increase by 2.8C.
Countries need to step up their efforts if warming is to be kept under 2C and avoid the impacts of climate change like extreme drought, deadly heatwaves and super storms.
Even though the climate index still rates China’s performance as “low”, analysis released by the Lowy Institute notes the country had become an active participant in climate diplomacy.

Australia's carbon emissions according to data from the Department of Environment and Energy, March 2017 Quarterly Emission Results, Released August 2017. Source: Australian Conservation Foundation. Source:Supplied
Australia's carbon emissions according to data from the Department of Environment and Energy, March 2017 Quarterly Emission Results, Released August 2017. Source: Australian Conservation Foundation. Source:Supplied
Report author Dr Sam Geall, executive editor of chinadialogue, said China’s domestic commitments were consistent with its climate pledges and go even further.
China plans to roll out a nationwide emissions trading scheme, the biggest in the world, in late 2017. It also leads the world in the technologies needed to mitigate climate change.
“Chinese companies account for five of the top six global solar photovoltaic manufacturers, and seven of the top 15 wind turbine manufacturers,” Dr Geall’s analysis noted.
“Four of the five biggest renewables deals in 2016 were made by Chinese companies.
“China is also the dominant manufacturer of the world’s lithium-ion batteries, which among other things are used in electric cars.”
While Dr Geall believes it is unlikely China will take a leadership position on climate change in the short term, it may eventually show greater ambition in the future.
The Climate Change Performance Index rated China’s climate efforts as higher than Australia’s.
The index takes into account pollution per person, developments in the last five years in absolute pollution and how Australia’s targets compare to the action needed to keep global warming below 2C.
In particular, Australia was rated as one of the “very low” performing countries in three of the index’s categories: for efforts to reduce emissions, improve energy efficiency and to develop a decent climate policy.
Efforts on clean energy achieved a slightly higher “low” category.
Australia’s poor rating has been described as an embarrassment by the Australian Conservation Foundation, which was an adviser to the assessment.

Chinese workers ride in a boat through a large floating solar farm project under construction by the Sungrow Power Supply Company on a lake caused by a collapsed and flooded coal mine on June 13, 2017 in Huainan, Anhui province, China. The floating solar field is billed as the largest in the world. Picture: Kevin Frayer/Getty Images  Source:Getty Images
“This assessment has found Australia has the highest level of climate pollution per person,” ACF chief executive officer Kelly O’Shanassy said.
“This is a national embarrassment for a wealthy nation with so much at risk from climate change and such abundant sun and wind that could be harvested for clean energy.”
Ms O’Shanassy said Australia’s climate pollution was on the rise and the continued reliance on burning coal and gas for power contributed significantly to climate change. Australia’s exports were also creating more pollution overseas.
“Australia’s continued failure to put in place a robust and comprehensive national plan to cut pollution is raising alarm bells around the world,” Ms O’Shanassy said.
The report was prepared by Germanwatch, Climate Action Network Europe and the NewClimate Institute, and was released at the latest round of major UN climate change negotiations in Bonn, Germany.
It noted that experts had emphasised the need for Australia to strengthen its 2030 targets, especially in terms of emissions reduction and renewable energy.
Australians should be demanding governments implement credible policies to meet targets, the report added.
Opposition spokesman on climate change, Mark Butler, said the Federal Government’s own data suggested Australia would have zero emissions reductions by 2030 on 2005 levels.
“(Prime Minister Malcolm) Turnbull is incapable of standing up to the hard-right fossils of his party and implementing credible climate policy,” the Labor MP said in a statement.
“Not only will Turnbull fail our international obligations, he is failing future generations of Australians.”
A national review of climate policy was due next month and Ms O’Shanassy said the poor rating should give the Turnbull Government a push to deliver a strong plan.
“Our elected representatives need to put in place a comprehensive plan to cut climate pollution, swiftly transition to clean energy and end the burning of coal and gas,” she said.

* None of the countries achieved positions one to three. No country is doing enough to prevent dangerous climate change.  **rounded © Germanwatch 2017

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