Europe map

ShutterstockEurope, as viewed from a greenhouse gas.

There isn’t a country in the world that’s on track to reduce emissions to the extent needed to keep global warming under 2 degrees Celsius (3.7 Fahrenheit). But for a glimpse of something resembling climate leadership, peer across the pond.

The Climate Change Performance Index [PDF], produced by Germanwatch and Climate Action Network Europe, ranks countries based on their greenhouse gas emissions, emissions-reduction efforts, energy efficiency, renewable energy portfolios, and policies aimed at slowing climate change. Here’s the top-10 list from this year. Every country is in Europe:

  1. Denmark
  2. United Kingdom
  3. Portugal
  4. Sweden
  5. Switzerland
  6. Malta
  7. France
  8. Hungary
  9. Ireland
  10. Iceland

Eight of those 10 countries are part of the European Union, which is also taking action — and even committing real money — to fight climate change. The European Parliament just adopted a seven-year budget that includes an unprecedented $243 billion for climate projects. Most of that will be spent within the E.U.’s 28 states, but some of it is earmarked as climate aid for developing countries.

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E.U. climate commissioner Connie Hedegaard discussed the budget during a press conference in Warsaw, Poland, where U.N. climate negotiations are underway. She said that for the world to successfully tackle climate change, “one of the things we need … to change is the whole economic paradigm, including the way we construct our budgets.”

Beyond Europe, it’s not looking so good. The U.S. ranked 40th out the 58 countries on the Climate Change Performance Index, just three spots above China. The report notes that the U.S. did reduce greenhouse gas emissions 8 percent over the last five years, thanks in part to Obama administration regulations covering transportation and coal.

At the bottom of the list are Saudi Arabia, Kazakhstan, and Iran. Those are the only three countries that rank worse than Australia and Canada — two of the four countries behaving badly that we told you about on Monday.

Australia’s delegates have been accused of particularly boorish behavior during the Warsaw talks. “They wore T-shirts and gorged on snacks throughout the negotiation,” a Climate Action Network spokesperson complained to The Guardian. Worse, Australia has blocked progress toward a treaty. Along with the U.S. and E.U., Australia refused to discuss developing countries’ demands for climate-change compensation, leading to 132 countries walking out of negotiations. 

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“There is a sense that Australia was being horrible and the U.S. wasn’t moving toward accepting the creation of a new body to address loss and damage,” Jake Schmidt, the Natural Resources Defense Council’s international climate policy director, told Grist from Warsaw. “It was also 4:00 in the morning.”

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