How is my country doing?

There are many ways of comparing individual countries’ contributions to the climate crisis; none of them are perfect and some are deliberately deceptive. The Climate Change Performance Index looks like one of the better studies; it carefully explains the method it uses. Each of the 61 rated countries earns a score (where a high score is good) based on various metrics (e.g. carbon emissions per capita, climate policy, use of renewable energy); that score is used to group countries into categories (Very High, High, Medium, Low and Very Low) and to produce a league table.

  • No country makes it into the Very High category.
  • Sweden is the top of the league table, as it has been for the previous two years.
  • The USA has fallen for 2 years in a row and is now dead last in the list.
  • Some of the worst offenders (e.g. the USA, Australian and Canada) are among the richest countries and some of them (e.g. the USA and Australia) have essentially no plans to improve.
  • There are lots of surprises – e.g. India is the 3rd biggest CO2 emitter but it gets into the High category.
  • Only 2 G20 countries (India and the UK) get into the High category but 8 G20 countries are in the Very Low category.
  • I can’t see any relationship between a country’s position in the list and how desirable it is considered to live there. For example, most people would consider Sweden (top of the list) and the USA (bottom) as highly desirable places to live. You can draw all sorts of conclusions from this but my favorite is that there is no ‘quality of life’ / ‘managing climate change’ trade-off (i.e. ‘we can’t afford to deal with climate change’ is bogus).
  • Rich countries near the bottom list (e.g. Canada, the USA and Australia) are the worst offenders, in that they can afford to do better. But, for the same reason, they’re also the best opportunity for improvement.
  • The carbon emissions used to produce the ratings are those of production and not consumption. Which measure is more useful is debatable (e.g. do you blame the drug suppliers or the drug consumers?) but using production rewards a country for ‘outsourcing’ its carbon problem. As ourworldindata shows, production emissions skew the results to favor service economies (e.g. the USA, the UK) at the expense of manufacturing economies (e.g. China) or energy supply countries (e.g. Russia or Saudi Arabia).

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