Australia continues to perform poorly in a global ranking of countries on their responses to climate change, with weak federal climate policies seeing Australia rank amongst the world’s worst, even as the more ambitious state renewable energy policies help the country gain two places in a new international assessment.
The latest Climate Change Performance Index, which scores countries on a number of criteria, including renewable energy uptake, greenhouse gas emissions and climate change policies, sees Australia continue to rank below countries like China and Russia in the 2020 edition of the rankings.
Australia’s ranked almost last in terms of national and international climate change policies, beating only the United States’ Trump Administration.
The annual assessment of 57 countries and the European Union, covering around 90 per cent of global emissions, was prepared by global non-governmental groups, including Germanwatch, Climate Action Network and the NewClimate Institute. The Australian Conservation Foundation, Doctors for the Environment Australia and The Australia Institute all contributed to Australia’s assessment.
Australia ranked poorly in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, particularly for its per capita emissions, and received some of the worst scores for climate change and clean energy policies. Australia scored better rankings for a trend of increasing renewable energy uptake but again scored poorly for lack of a future renewable energy target.
Australia managed to improve slightly on the overall ranking received in last year’s Climate Change Performance Index, gaining two spots and overtaking Kazakhstan and Malaysia, which the Australian Conservation Foundation says was largely attributable to ambitious renewable energy policies being introduced by state governments.
“Australia’s improvements from last year are due to the leadership shown by the states and territories, several of which have forged ahead on renewable energy, complemented by strong private sector investment,” Australian Conservation Foundation climate change campaigner Suzanne Harter said.
“Australia’s 2020 renewable energy target has already been met and the Morrison government has no national renewable energy ambition for 2030. Instead we’ve seen a dangerous increase in plans to support the growth of the fossil gas industry.”
“Australia is ahead of only Trump’s USA in the climate policy category,” Harter added.
European countries dominated the highest rankings, with Sweden, the United Kingdom and Denmark taking out the top three spots, however, the environmental groups found that none of the countries assessed performed sufficiently well to satisfy their top criteria for climate change performance and that none were taking sufficient action to prevent ‘dangerous’ levels of global warming.
New Zealand, which has legislated a Zero Carbon Act as well as a commitment to zero net emissions by 2050, ranked mid-pack, at 28th.
The Australian Conservation Foundation used the release of the rankings to add its voice to a chorus of calls for the Morrison government to strengthen its emissions reduction targets, including by committing to a zero emissions target by 2050, particularly as world leaders will soon meet to ramp up ambition on climate action as part of a Climate Ambition Summit to be hosted by the United Kingdom on 12 December.
“While every Australian state and territory government has a net zero by 2050 target, the Morrison government is yet to set such a target, or to set policy that would put Australia on a pathway to achieve economy-wide net zero emissions before 2050,” Harter added.
“We encourage the Prime Minister to use this week’s UN climate summit to set a net zero by 2050 target for Australia and to commit to much stronger action to rapidly reduce Australia’s climate pollution.”
The Australia Institute’s climate and energy program director Richie Merzian said that recent reports that the Morrison government is set to back down from relying upon surplus emissions credits from the Kyoto Protocol to meet its 2030 emissions target fell short of the kinds of commitments being made by other countries.
“The Australian Government’s decision not to use legally baseless Kyoto credits to meet its Paris Agreement target is the bare minimum it should do on climate policy and is incomparable to the ambition shown by other countries,” Merzian said.
“Two years in a row near the bottom of the ladder, Australia risks remaining a laggard on climate action if it doesn’t pick up its efforts, both in the short term with more ambition and in the long term with a net-zero target.”
Prime minister Scott Morrison rejected the findings of the 2019 version of the Climate Change Performance Index, saying that he did not find it credible. The 2019 assessment gave Australia a score of zero for its international climate change policies, seeing Australia ranked last in the policy category.
Federal energy and emissions reduction minister Angus Taylor has been contacted for comment.