Portugal is amongst the top three eco-friendly countries in the world, out-performing a number of countries that have extensive ‘green’ legislation, but which failed to convert their laws into results.
In the week that marks the culmination of the UN Climate Change Conference in Doha, Qatar, Portugal’s praises have been sung far and wide and the country is being increasingly used as an example for richer and poorer nations to follow.
While campaigners argue that the light at the end of the tunnel cannot yet be seen in a time of heavily increasing greenhouse gas emissions and fossil fuel investments, Portugal has managed to considerably reduce its emissions.
The eighth annual Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI), which was published at the Doha climate talks this week by Germanwatch and the Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe, ranks the climate protection performance of the 58 highest emitters worldwide.
Portugal was rated sixth, up from 14th, but with no countries in the top three, after researchers refused to award podium places due to a lack of ambition to reach the goal of keeping global warming below 2 degrees Celsius, the country was effectively placed third.
For the first time, the index used deforestation data, which resulted in countries with high forest emissions such as Brazil and Indonesia, dropping in the rankings.
Portugal is seen as the surprise package, with its promotion up the green ladder.
However, a cocktail of environmentally-friendly polices and extensive investment, coupled with the global economic crisis, is seen as the motor behind Portugal’s excellent performance.
Generally, countries like Portugal, Spain, Italy, Ireland and Greece have substantially lowered their emissions in recent years.
But in contrast to its competitors, Portugal has managed to keep up with its climate policy and therefore deserves its place among the leading countries, investigators said.
“With Denmark, Sweden and Portugal on top, it is not a black and white picture we see here.
While Denmark and Sweden show better policy ratings and relatively low emissions, Portugal’s high rank is mainly derived from lower emissions due to the economic crisis.
But the EU as a whole presents a mixed picture here, with the Netherlands and Poland ranking below average”, says Jan Burck, Team Leader for German and European Climate Policy at Germanwatch.
“Also, the emission trends in some countries benefitted from the economic crisis entailing a decrease of emissions for a short time. But there is no time to lean back.”
Wendel Trio, Director of CAN Europe, adds: “As long as the European Union stalls on raising its own climate target to minus 30 percent by 2020, the positions of EU countries as frontrunners are at stake.
Having met their Kyoto targets already, a move to a more ambitious target would send a strong signal for the Doha negotiations as well.”
The two biggest emitters, the US and China, are still ranking comparably low.
“The United States climbed up in this year’s Index, but partly due to decreased emissions through the economic crisis and the massive exploration of shale gas”, said Jan Burck, adding: “The indirect emissions of shale gas are not taken into account in this Index, as only energy and forest emissions are included.
With a shift towards renewables and more efficiency, the US could climb up even more.
China’s emissions level has risen, but as the massive investments in renewable energies are expected to show an effect shortly, its emissions trend could slow down in the near future and lead to better results.”
This year’s host country Qatar did not make it onto the list. “Qatar’s emissions are even worse than that of the last ranked country on our list, Saudi Arabia.
Including them in our ranking would have distorted the ranking of all other countries.
We hope that Qatar will use the opportunity of the climate summit to pledge both emissions cuts and financial support for mitigation and adaptation in developing countries in the coming years,” Wendel Trio reveals.
The climate change performance is measured via fifteen different indicators that are combined into one single composite indicator.
They are classified into four categories – ‘emissions’, ‘efficiency’, ‘renewable energies’ and ‘climate policy’.
The first three of these indicators each evaluate the current level of the respective indicators as well as the recent development.
Together, these composite indicators form a differentiated picture of the climate change performance of each country.
Portugal’s excellent performance comes after it revealed that 2011 was one of the seven hottest years on record.
According to a 2011 Weather Bulletin published by Portugal’s Met Office, the months that most contributed towards 2011 making its mark were April, October, May, June and September, which registered variations of +4.90ºC, +4.73ºC, +3.91ºC, +1.58ºC and +1.22ºC respectively, above the overriding benchmark which is calculated based on figures from 1971-2000.
It was stressed that the maximum air temperatures recorded in the months of May and October 2011 were the hottest on record since 1971.
Minimum temperatures registered in April and May were also well above average.
It was also highlighted that in the past 18 years the average annual temperatures have consistently been higher than the 1971-2000 benchmark average, with the sole exception being 2008.
Throughout 2011 and 2012 other relevant weather-related phenomena was documented, such as three devastating tornadoes, persistently strong winds and flash floods.