The Australian government’s policy response to the climate crisis is placed last in an assessment of 60 countries released at the global climate summit in Glasgow.
The Morrison government’s lack of policies, high per capita greenhouse gas emissions, weak targets, low levels of renewables and high levels of energy use, saw the country given an overall ranking of 54 among individual countries.
As a major fossil fuel exporter, Australia’s resources minister, Keith Pitt, said this week the country will continue to produce as much coal as other countries will buy.
On the sidelines of the Cop26 talks, Australia has refused to sign a pledge to cut emissions of potent greenhouse gas methane, dismissed calls to phase out coal, refused to improve its 2030 targets, but has promoted gas, carbon capture and storage and hydrogen as solutions.
The Climate Change Performance Index, which also includes the European Union, covers 92% of global emissions of greenhouse gases and assesses countries across four categories – policy, emissions, renewables and energy use.
Countries are given one of five ratings from “very high” to “very poor”. No country was given an overall “very high” rating because “no country is doing enough to prevent dangerous climate change”.
The top five performing countries overall are Denmark, then Sweden, Norway, the United Kingdom and Morocco. The bottom five are Kazakhstan, followed by Saudi Arabia, Iran, Canada and Taiwan.
The world’s second-highest emitter, the United States, climbed six places from last year’s position but its response was rated “very low” overall and ranked 51st among individual countries. China, the world’s biggest emitter, was 33rd.
Overall, Australia slipped four places on the index from the previous year and was the only country allocated a score of zero in the climate policy category, faring only slightly better in three other areas.
“The country’s lack of ambition and action has made its way to the international stage,” the report says.
“Australia has fallen behind its allies and its inaction even attracted public criticism in the run-up to Cop26.”
Australia’s best performance came in the renewable energy category, where it narrowly missed an overall “low” rating.
While renewable energy use was growing in Australia, the report says the country has “failed to take advantage of its potential [in renewables], and other countries have outpaced it”.
In two of 12 sub-categories, Australia received a “high” ranking – one for the trend on energy use per capita, which is falling, and another for the trend in renewable energy uptake.
Australia’s ranking includes consideration of the government’s pledge to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and the release in October of a long-term emissions reduction strategy.
“No new policies and plans were announced to go along with this [October] announcement,” the report says.
The prime minister, Scott Morrison, told reporters in Glasgow that “if we want the whole world’s emissions to go down” then a focus needed to be on reducing the costs of technologies.
Australia’s emissions reduction minister, Angus Taylor, left the summit last week saying he was proud to have represented the nation and there had been “enormous interest” in the country’s approach.
“This is doing it the Australia way,” he said.
Suzanne Harter, a climate change and clean energy campaigner at the Australian Conservation Foundation, was one of seven experts that provided an evaluation for the climate policy category of the index that looked at national and international policy performance.
She said: “There’s no genuine strategy, no reasonable interim targets or any appropriate investment. There’s no phase-out plan for fossil fuels, no carbon pricing and the technology roadmap relies on technologies that don’t even exist yet.
“There’s no national renewable energy policy and we’re one of the last OECD countries without efficiency standards for vehicles.
“Not only do we not have a policy, but the government is promoting the opposite direction. If anything, the government is giving more money to fossil fuels, such as with the gas-fired recovery.”
The index is produced by thinktanks Germanwatch, NewClimate Institute and Climate Action Network (CAN) International, a coalition of climate campaign groups.
Stephan Singer, of CAN, said: “The same countries that are among those with the worst climate performance, are identical with the globally largest fossil fuel exporters and large fossil fuel users like US, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Australia.
“They also belong to the group of those countries that have the highest per capita energy consumption and CO2 fossil fuel emissions as well as much lower renewable energy and energy efficiency achievements.”
On Tuesday, the Morrison government released an electric vehicles strategy that focused on increasing the number of charging stations but ignored calls from the industry for subsidies, tax exemptions and targets to promote greater range and uptake of EVs.