Much ink has been spilt proclaiming the “leading role” of the USA in combatting climate breakdown; with large countries like China and India in the developing world seen as the problem.
The figures from the latest Carbon Change Performance Index explode this myth.
Overall, with scores given for Greenhouse gas emissions (40%) Renewable energy (20%) Energy use (20%) and Climate Policy (20%) the USA ranks 55 (out of 64). China is at 37. India is at 10. The 64 countries covered are responsible for 92% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
Their more detailed report groups countries into categories for overall performance.
The USA is in the “Very low” group, along with Australia, Saudi Arabia, Russia, South Korea, Taiwan, Canada and Poland (amongst others).
China is in the “Low” group, along with New Zealand, Japan, Belgium, Vietnam and Ireland.
India is in the “High” group along with the UK, Denmark, Sweden, Chile and Finland.
On specific categories, the USA ranks
- very low (i.e. poor) for greenhouse gas emissions: China is also rated very low but India is rated high.
- very low for renewable energy; China and India are rated medium.
- very low (i.e. poor) for energy use: China is also very low. India is high.
- medium for policy: China and India are rated high.
The policy is what points to the future, if they are carried out. China has a record of meeting or exceeding its targets and the IEA assesses that its plan is viable and can be accelerated. In fact, China is due to invest £3.4 trillion to reduce carbon emissions in the next decade, which is more than the US and EU combined. The US plan has already been hobbled in Congress and there are worrying signs that the possible Second Coming of Donald Trump in 2024 (or someone like him) will throw any semblance of global cooperation out of the window.
On the way down the hill, I pass a man who looks as though he’s been out all night; battered wincing face, booze blotched complexion, dark glasses protecting from the glare of pale April sunlight. He marches grimly towards the sound of psychic gunfire, carrying an appeasing bouquet of flowers upside down in his fist in the same way you might carry a mallet.
Approaching the steep and teetering top of Haydon Close with the last lot of leaflets and there is a startlingly fresh cluster of daffodils, still clean and bright; a belated flowering in a higher altitude. Hints of snow line and time warp.
The little round woollen hat worn by a Buddhist monk on the 183 bus is on the beige side of saffron. Possibly indicating that he is a doctrinal moderate. The middle way of the middle way?
On the lunchtime Radio news, the update of the horrifying situation in India – people dying on the streets outside hospitals, a new viral variant now killing younger people and children, a black market in oxygen, desperate families trying to find any place for sick loved ones, or even a place to cremate them – is followed by a bloke from the hospitality trade calling for earlier and wider easing of restrictions to get business going and money flowing, because they think its all over. Cutting straight from one to the other is morally and emotionally dizzying. It reminds me of an edition of “Nationwide”- the BBCs early evening “news magazine” programme in the early seventies – in which a grave interview about a famine in Bangladesh was followed instantly with the presenter* turning straight to camera, making eye contact with the viewer in a horribly intimate way, swapping his serious look for something chummily happy and, with the air of relief of a man returning to the comforting insularity of his “normal” day to day preoccupations, announced …”NOW, holiday traffic!”
*Michael Barrett, for it was he.