International expert analysis ranks Ireland worst country in Europe on climate action for second year in a row


International expert analysis ranks Ireland worst country in Europe on climate action for second year in a row

2019 Climate Change Performance Index ranking highlights gap between Minister Bruton's new rhetoric and reality of Ireland's inaction  

December 10 2018, 10:20am

The 2019 Climate Change Performance Index, launched this morning (9.30am Irish time) at the UN Climate Conference (COP 24) in Katowice, ranks Ireland as the worst performing country in Europe for action on climate change, for the second year running. The Index is produced annually on the basis of joint analysis by two leading European think-tanks. It places Ireland 48th out of 56 countries worldwide, up one place from last year. 

Speaking from Poland, Jennifer Higgins, Policy and Advocacy Advisor at Christian Aid Ireland, commented:

“We have heard consistently citizens calling for more action, and a willingness to take on the radical changes we need to see domestically to tackle climate change.  It’s time for Government ministers to wake up and listen, not only to the science and to the criticism we continually face at the bottom of the pack, but also to the people, both at home and in countries worst affected by climate change. With Minister Bruton  coming to Katowice to the UN climate conference this week, the Government needs respond immediately to the strong recommendations from the Citizens’ Assembly.”

The publication of the CCPI Report comes just one month after Minister Bruton announced the development of a new “all of Government” climate action plan which will set out obligations Government Department by Government Department with specific actions and timelines, modelled on the Action Plan for Jobs. However, just Iast week during the Government’s presentation of its annual progress report on climate action to the Dáil, three Ministers of State (from the Departments of housing, agriculture and transport) left the Dáil chamber without responding to questions from deputies, leaving only Minister Bruton in attendance.

Speaking from Poland, Clodagh Daly of Friends of the Irish Environment said:

“This report highlights the gap Minister Bruton has to close between his new rhetoric on climate change and reality of Ireland’s approach to climate action. His ministerial colleagues don’t seem to have got the memo. Minister Bruton has successfully raised expectations in recent weeks, but as yet he hasn’t taken actions that will actually lower our emissions."

Cliona Sharkey, Policy Adviser for Trócaire, commented:

‘The passage of the Fossil Fuel Divestment Bill this year was an incredibly important moment and demonstrated that our elected representatives know and accept that the vast majority of fossil fuel reserves must remain unburned if we are to deliver on the temperature limits adopted in the Paris Agreement.   It’s clear however that policy makers must do much more now if Ireland is to move from laggard to leader as the Minister has recently committed to, and leave behind the Very Poor performers category in the Index.   They have the opportunity to do that right now by swiftly passing the progressive climate Bills currently before the Oireachtas to speed up the phase out of fossil fuels, committing to implement the recommendations of the Citizens' Assembly, and putting in place a robust ‘carbon budget’ approach to ensure all government action is in line with the latest IPCC science.  This in all our interests, and given the devastating impacts of climate change on the poorest women and men in the world who are being hit hardest by a problem they have not caused, it is a basic question of respect and justice.’

The Climate Change Performance Index 2019 highlights the continued growth and competitiveness of renewable energy globally. However, it is emphasised that the gap between current emission levels and what is needed to put the world on track for a well below-2°C or even 1.5°C pathway is widening. Polluting emissions are on the rise again and continued investments in fossil fuel infrastructure are leading to a major risk of a lock-in into high emissions pathways.

Sweden, Morocco and Lithuania lead the ranking. Almost half of the G20 countries are in the group of very low performers: Japan (49), Turkey (50), Russian Federation (52), Canada (54), Australia (55), Korea (57) and - at the bottom of the index - USA (59) and Saudi Arabia (60). Experts from the USA rated the climate policy of the Trump administration very low. However, positive signals have emerged due to climate action in several states and cities and because of the Democrats’ commitment to drive climate policy with their new majority in the House of Representatives.

Meanwhile, Ireland’s polluting emissions are on an upward trend, the state is failing to meet EU obligations and the Government is not joining other member states in calling for the EU to raise its ambition in line with the Paris Agreement. A special all-party Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action is currently considering the recommendations on climate action from the Citizens’ Assembly and will produce proposals for the development of Ireland’s new National Energy and Climate Plan.


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The 2019 Climate Change Performance Index is available to download here.


Notes for the Editor


Stop Climate Chaos  is the civil society coalition campaigning for Ireland to do its fair share to tackle climate change. The Coalition’s 33 members include overseas aid and development, environmental, youth and faith-based organisations.

About the Climate Change Performance Index 2019

The Climate Change Performance Index by Germanwatch and the NewClimate Institute is a ranking of the 56 countries and the EU, together responsible for about 90% of global GHG emissions. The four categories examined are: GHG emissions (40%), renewable energy (20%), energy use (20%) and climate policy (20%). The latter is based on expert assessments by NGOs and think tanks from the respective countries. The CCPI also evaluates to what extent the respective countries are taking adequate action within the categories emissions, renewables and energy use to being on track towards the global Paris-goal of limiting global warming to well below 2°C. Since no country is on a Paris-compatible path yet, the top three of the CCPI 2018 are left unoccupied.


On Ireland’s position of 48th, it is noted in the Index:

Still rated as the worst-performing EU country in the CCPI, Ireland reaches position 48 and remains in the group of very-low performing countries. The performance in the GHG Emissions category is rated very low and the country is also occupying a spot among the low-ranking performers in the Energy Use category. Due to its increased renewable energy share over the past five years, and forthcoming support schemes for renewable heat and renewable electricity which recognise the value of citizen and community participation, Ireland is rated medium in the Renewable Energy category. National experts commend the Irish Parliament for its leadership in deciding to pass the Fossil Fuel Divestment Bill, which is the first of its kind in the world, and for the innovative Citizens’ Assembly process which produced far-reaching recommendations for climate action now being considered by a special parliamentary committee working on the development of Ireland’s National Energy and Climate Plan. Therefore, the performance on international climate policy is rated medium. However, existing climate mitigation efforts will not enable Ireland to achieve either its EU 2020 or 2030 targets domestically. The long-standing lack of implementation of substantive measures to put the country on a well-below-2°C pathway results in a very low rating for Ireland’s national policy performance.”


Last year, the Climate Change Performance Index noted Ireland as being the worst performing country in Europe for action on climate change. The Index placed Ireland 49th out of 56 countries.


In June 2018, analysis by Climate Action Network Europe put Ireland in second last place in the EU for action and ambition on climate change.


Information on Ireland’s climate action

Ireland’s leading experts in the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have repeatedly highlighted the inadequacy of current policies and plans, and that our performance is getting worse not better. Ireland is set to miss its 2020 emission reduction targets under the EU Effort Sharing Decision, The EPA have indicated that Ireland is at best likely to achieve a 1% reduction (below 2005 levels in the non-ETS sector) rather the 20% pledged, with emissions projected to continue to rise across all the main polluting sectors, indicating a policy failure on a massive scale. The EPA analysis also indicates that total Irish emissions would still be 9% above 1990 in 2030.


In July 2018, Ireland’s Climate Change Advisory Council produced its second Annual Review report, which provides an independent, expert assessment of Ireland’s performance on climate change. The Council concluded that Ireland is ‘completely off course’ in its response to climate change. It noted that at the current rate Ireland will not meet both its 2020 and 2030 EU obligations and crucially also underlined that even with investment commitments in the latest National Development Plan, major new initiatives are necessary.


The Citizens’ Assembly’s May 2018 report on necessary climate action in Ireland is available here. This includes the Assembly’s 13 recommendations on ‘how the State can make Ireland a leader in tackling climate change’. These were agreed by the Assembly after four days of expert presentations in 2017 and following a major public consultation which received close to 2000 submissions.

The Stop Climate Chaos coalition called for the establishment of a dedicated Oireachtas Committee to take forward the Citizens’ Assembly recommendations on climate change, as was done with the Assembly report on the eighth amendment to the Constitution. The Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action has been established is currently meeting to deliberate on these recommendations and report on necessary policy improvements in January 2019. For information on the Committee’s current meetings, see here.

Analysis by the EU body, the European Environmental Agency, indicates that Ireland is part of a small group of EU Member States which is set to miss its 2020 emission reduction targets under the EU Effort Sharing Decision. However, Ireland is the only one of these Member States where emissions are predicted to continue to rise and where the State will likely be highly reliant on concessions and special flexibility procedures, such as the buying of permits from other countries, to close the gap.