UK scores well in climate rankings - but no country wins a medal

Analysts say green policies of all top-rated nations fall short of expectations

Four European countries came top in a ranking of climate change policies – but missed out on medals when analysts said none had done well enough to merit one.

Denmark, Sweden, Norway and the UK were the four best-rated countries in the Climate Change Performance Index.

Britain, the host of the Cop26 summit, was praised for its shift towards renewable energy and its quest for carbon neutrality by 2050.

But no country received a “very high” ranking, the top grade, and the three medal positions were left empty.

The UK was let down by vague plans on energy efficiency, analysts said, while Sweden was criticised for its high rate of forest loss.

“No single country is on track with short-term policies to meet their long-term net zero targets,” said Dr Niklas Hoehne of the NewClimate Institute, one of the think tanks that produced the report.

“There’s a huge gap between the intentions, which are good, and the real implementation, which is totally insufficient.”

Many countries came to Cop26 with plans to reduce their net emissions to zero in the coming decades.

The UK and EU have set 2050 as their target date, while China is aiming for 2060 and India has set its sights on 2070.

Jan Burck, a senior adviser at another think tank, Germanwatch, said countries could move up the table by fulfilling promises made at Cop26 to curb deforestation, methane emissions and coal use.

“As always with promises [by] leaders of countries, they really need to be backed with real measures at home,” he said.

“Even the countries in the front are not doing well enough.”

Denmark was rewarded for its widespread replacement of coal power with wind and biomass energy

Mr Burck said the UK had earned points for reducing carbon emissions and its shift away from coal power, which is set to be switched off by 2024.

Britain plans to ban sales of petrol cars by 2030 and to have an entirely renewable electricity grid by 2035.

But its “policies on energy efficiency are lacking and the heating sector remains a considerable source of carbon emissions,” the report said.

“Using carbon credits to achieve the net zero target is also problematic, along with insufficient consideration of offshored emissions in supply chains, and continued subsidies for fossil production.”

Germany, France, India and Morocco were among other highly rated countries on the table. The US was one of the worst performers.

Although US President Joe Biden has made climate change a priority since taking office, political divisions “remain a substantial barrier to implementing any ambitious national policies”, analysts said in a report.

Australia was criticised for failing to wind down its coal industry and exports of fossil fuels. It failed to sign up to a coal pledge at Cop26.

“They really get zero points for national and international policy,” Mr Burck said.

Updated: November 10th 2021, 4:23 PM