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Paris Agreement: Italy, Brazil, France and Germany take lead as others fall behind

The list of countries making most progress in sticking to the rules laid out in the Paris Agreement has been revealed, although even the greenhouse gas reductions achieved by the front-runners aren’t enough to prevent a 2°C rise in temperatures across the globe.

Of the world’s 20 leading economies, Italy, Brazil, France and Germany are closest to meeting the international targets while Saudi Arabia and the United States trail at the bottom, according to an index released ahead of this week’s G20 summit.

The G20 countries are responsible for 75 per cent of planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions, but are not yet on track to cut those sufficiently to prevent temperatures reaching dangerously high levels, the index compilers said on Thursday.

“It’s time for the world’s richest economies ... to step up their game on climate action,” said Wael Hmaidan, executive director of the Climate Action Network (CAN), which published the index with Germanwatch and the NewClimate Institute.

“If we are to realise the goals of the Paris Agreement we need countries to get down to the business of serious implementation,” he said.

Under the Paris Agreement, individual countries have drawn up targets to cut emissions to help reach the international goal to keep global warming to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels.

But some are making faster progress than others toward that goal.

“Particularly promising are the developments in some of the major emerging economies such as Brazil or India,” said Niklas Höhne, a founding partner of the Berlin-based NewClimate Institute and a professor at Wageningen University in the Netherlands.

Brazil has achieved advances in reducing deforestation, which now need to be maintained, and India is favouring renewables over coal and electric vehicles over gasoline and diesel, Höhne said.

“Both countries are moving in the right direction - yet climate policies and international climate finance need further support,” he said.

The index looks at countries’ 2030 targets for greenhouse gas emissions, renewable energy and total energy use. It also compares what countries have achieved with what needs to happen to keep global warming in check.

“The results illustrate that even if all (G20) countries were as involved as the current frontrunners, efforts would not yet be sufficient to prevent dangerous climate change,” Germanwatch noted.

Climate change is one of the main issues to be discussed at the G20 summit in Hamburg, which starts on Friday.

Talks on achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement are likely to be split, following President Donald Trump’s announcement last month that the United States will withdraw from the global pact. 

Environmental campaigners this week said G20 countries provide nearly four times more public finance each year to support fossil fuels than clean energy.

In a study published on Wednesday, they said fossil fuel financing from G20 governments averaged $71.8 billion per year between 2013 and 2015. Half of all G20 public finance for energy supported oil and gas production alone, they said.

Their report looked at energy projects supported by G20 public finance institutions, including overseas development aid agencies and export credit agencies, and multilateral development banks.

“If other G20 governments are serious about standing up to Trump’s climate denial and meeting their commitments under the Paris Agreement, they need to stop propping up the outdated fossil fuel industry with public money,” said Alex Doukas, a campaigner with Oil Change International and one of the report’s authors.

“The best climate science points to an urgent need to transition to clean energy, but public finance from G20 governments drags us in the opposite direction. We must stop funding fossils and shift these subsidies,” Doukas said.

In February the World Bank said that developing countries are taking the lead in implementing policies designed to enable the switch to sustainable energy by 2030. 

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