International expert analysis shows Ireland remains a laggard on climate action

Climate coalition urge Government to support higher EU ambition at COP 25

December 10 2019, 09:30am

The 2020 Climate Change Performance Index, launched this morning (9.30am Irish time, December 10th) at the UN Climate Conference (COP 25) in Madrid, shows that although Ireland has slightly improved its position since last year, it still ranks among some of the worst performing countries in Europe for climate action. In this year’s Index, Ireland climbs up to place 41st out of 57 countries worldwide, moving up from the group of very low to low-performers. This is an improvement in the ranking by seven places on last year, when Ireland was ranked the worst EU performer. 

Speaking on the results from Madrid, Christian Aid's Policy and Advocacy adviser, Jennifer Higgins, said

“Ireland has managed to climb up seven places from very low to low performer this year. Unfortunately, this improvement is not something to celebrate, and we still sit at the bottom of the EU pack on climate action.”

“Being ranked a low performer is a clear signal that current plans and policies continue to be inadequate to deal with the climate crisis, and they fail to put us on a pathway consistent with a sustainable future for developing as well as developed countries.” 


The Index highlighted the continued growth and competitiveness of renewable energy globally. However, it is also 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 and continued investments in fossil fuel infrastructure are leading to a major risk of a lock-in into high emissions pathways. Head of policy with the Stop Climate Chaos Coalition, Catherine Devitt commented, 

“We expected Ireland to rise a little in the rankings this year - we could hardly go any lower! The Index shows slight improvements in Ireland’s support for an increase in its share of renewable energy.”

“Nevertheless, Ireland’s polluting emissions remain on an upward trend, the Government has yet to join other member states in calling for the EU to urgently raise its ambition in line with the Paris Agreement, and the scale of 2% emissions cuts per year presented in the Government’s Action Plan is wholly inadequate.”

“The science and the mounting evidence clearly demonstrates that we need far-reaching transformation across all aspects of society. If the Government is serious about wanting to improve its reputation on climate change and to do its fair share of the global effort, there needs to be a frontloading of concrete action across all sectors to ensure the scale of reductions needed can be delivered.”


The Index report welcomes the new governance proposals set out in the 2019 Climate Action Plan, including putting the 2050 target into law and introducing legally-binding five-year carbon budgets. Minister Bruton is due to bring a new draft climate law to Cabinet before Christmas. The elements of this law will be essential to driving real action across all Government Departments and improve Ireland’s global reputation on preventing climate disruption. 

Ms. Devitt added, 

“We need to see a new climate law without delay to give us a fighting chance of meeting our climate obligations and to put us on a path that will help bring about net zero pollution and ensure a sustainable future for all.” 


The publication of the CCPI Report comes as Minister Bruton is expected to participate in the high level segment on December 10th and 11th at COP 25, where Heads of State and Government will make national statements on increasing their targets. Earlier this week, Stop Climate Chaos wrote to the Minister in advance urging the Government to align Ireland with other EU member states calling for an increase of the EU's 2030 target to at least 55%, and for Ireland to urge the European Commission to advance a proposal to increase the EU NDC target (in line with the science and the EU's fair share of the global effort) in the first 100 days in office. 


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

Notes for the Editor

  1. Stop Climate Chaos  is the civil society coalition campaigning for Ireland to do its fair share to tackle climate change. The Coalition’s members include overseas aid and development, environmental, youth and faith-based organisations.
  2. The Letter sent from the Stop Climate Chaos Coalition to Minister Bruton in advance of the high level segment on December 10th and 11th is available here
  3. 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.
  4. In 31 of the 57 high emitting countries assessed, collectively responsible for 90 percent of emissions, falling emission trends are recorded. However, none of the countries assessed are on a path compatible with the Paris climate targets. While some EU countries such as Sweden (4th) and Denmark (5th), one of the best climbers, achieve overall high or very high ratings, the performance of EU countries varies largely: Eight EU countries are rated high, eight low and two very low. Bulgaria (49th) and Poland (50th) are the worst performing EU countries, both with a very low policy rating and Poland with low to very low results on renewable energy. The European Union as a whole ranks 22nd, Germany 23rd (both "medium"). 
  5. On Ireland’s position of 41st, it is noted in the Index: "In this year’s CCPI, Ireland climbs up to place 41st and thereby moves up from the group of very low to low-performers. There has been a slight improvement in the GHG Emissions category. Nevertheless, Ireland’s GHG per capita emissions remain at a relatively high level, and significant challenges lie ahead in closing Ireland’s emissions gap, meeting the (current) 2030 target and aligning Ireland’s emissions trajectory with a net zero goal for 2050. Therefore, the country still ranks among the bottom ten performers in this indicator. Ireland was able to keep up the positive trend in increasing its share of renewable energy, which led to an overall high rating in the Renewable Energy category. Further, Ireland moves up in the Energy Use category, from low to medium-performers. However, national experts criticise the significant lack of progress in decarbonising key parts of the economy, mainly in agriculture, road transport and the residential sector, and highlight that renewable support schemes are insufficient and also slow to progress. At the international level, Ireland has in the past, called for less demanding targets due to claims regarding the economic importance of the agricultural sector. On a positive note, the government has indicated its support for an EU net zero target by 2050, and while at the time of writing (November 2019), the Government had signalled support for a higher 2030 EU target, they had not explicitly committed to the higher 55% target. While the country is rated low for its international climate policy performance, national experts’ evaluation leads to a very low rating for national performance. Experts acknowledge the new Climate Action Plan’s governance proposals, including putting the 2050 target into law and introducing legally-binding five-year carbon budgets, as positive if enacted without delay. They highlight however, that the Government must go much further in implementing policies across all sectors that drive sustained emissions reductions over the next decade. Near-term ambition needs to be ratcheted up quickly by specifying deep cuts in fossil fuel and reactive nitrogen usage to put Ireland on a net zero emissions pathway aligned with the Paris temperature goals."
  6. 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.