The MIT Green Future Index 2022 provides conclusive independent evidence of the Morrison Government’s climate policy failure.
The Index, now in its second edition, “ranks 76 nations and territories on their ability to develop a sustainable, low-carbon future. It measures the degree to which their economies are pivoting towards clean energy, industry, agriculture and society through investment in renewables, innovation and green policy”.
Australia ranks 52nd among the 76 – down from 35th place in 2021 and is placed among the grouping dubbed ‘climate laggards’ which are the 20 countries that are making slow and uneven progress or commitment toward building a green future.
We come behind the UAE, India, Nigeria, Cameroon, Hong Kong, Slovakia, Romania, Thailand, Angola and Saudi Arabia but ahead of the Philippines, Pakistan, Uganda, Kuwait, Egypt and Zambia and , of course, the last 16 which include Qatar, Paraguay, Russia and at dead last Iran.
This ranking may seem to be counter-intuitive but the reality is that the ability to achieve any pivot to a greener future is dependent on a willingness to do so – a willingness absent from Morrison Government policy.
MIT says: “The overall ranking tab shows the performance of the examined economies relative to each other and aggregates scores generated across the following five pillars: Carbon emissions, Green society, Clean innovation and Climate Policy.”
The five pillars are also a very useful set of yardsticks to accurately assess what how well Australia is doing – not according to Morrison rhetoric and promises – but using hard data.
More importantly they are a ready-made policy blueprint which any party which wins the coming election could implement and against which their performance could be evaluated.
The MIT pillars are:
“Pillar 1: Carbon emissions – This pillar measures how effectively countries are curbing carbon dioxide emissions overall, as well as in key sectors. The indicators within this pillar are:
- Total carbon dioxide emissions in 2019, in millions of tons, relative to GDP
- Average annual change in carbon dioxide emissions between 2014 and 2019, both in total, and for each of the industry, transportation, and agriculture sectors.
“Pillar 2: Energy transition – This pillar assesses the contribution and growth rate of renewable energy sources, and now includes nuclear power. The indicators within this pillar are:
- The growth of renewable energy production in gigawatt-hours between 2014 and 2019
- The percentage that energy from renewable sources made up in final energy consumption in 2018
- The growth of nuclear energy production in gigawatt-hours between 2014 and 2019
- The percentage that energy from nuclear generation made up in final energy consumption in 2018
“Pillar 3: Green society – This pillar measures the efforts made by government, industry, and society to promote green practices. The indicators measure:
- The number of LEED-certified green buildings in 2020, per million urban population
- The percentage of solid waste that is recycled as a percentage of total waste managed
- The net change in forestation between 2015 and 2020: an indicator that combines the change in acreage of forested land through naturally regenerated primary growth, and changes through planned afforestation projects
- The stock electric passenger vehicles per million urban population in 2020
“Pillar 4: Clean innovation – This pillar measures the innovation environment for building a low-carbon future, such as the relative penetration of green patents, investment in cross-border clean energy, and investment in food technology. The indicators measure:
- Growth in green intellectual property, measured by the increase in patents registered for sustainable technologies or processes and solutions between 2013 and 2018, relative to GDP • The amount of investment a country received and provided for clean energy efforts between 2014 and 2018, as a percentage of GDP
- The number of food technology (“foodtech”) startups per million of urban population
“Pillar 5: Climate policy – This pillar measures the ambition and effectiveness of climate policy, including carbon financing initiatives, sustainable agriculture policy, and the use of pandemic recovery spending to achieve a green economy. These indicators are a qualitative evaluation of policy action to reach stated climate goals in compliance with the Paris Agreement and Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs)
- A qualitative evaluation of policy and regulatory frameworks to promote carbon capture and sequestration efforts (CCS)
- A qualitative assessment of measures taken by each country to create financial incentives for firms and investors to assign a cost to carbon emissions, through the levying of carbon taxes and the creation of a market for carbon bonds and emissions trading systems
- A qualitative assessment of sustainable agriculture policies, assessing for comprehensiveness and effectiveness of implementation.
- An assessment of the degree to which covid-19 recovery stimulus packages will accelerate decarbonization, resulting in a “pandemic pivot” along two measures: 1.Energy transition impact—Scoring countries by the proportion of stimulus spending directed at new energy initiatives versus fossil fuel projects; and, 2 . Green stimulus initiatives—Scoring countries by the percentage of total stimulus spending allocated to sustainable, low-carbon key public infrastructure projects (such as transport, water, public spaces, and information)
“These pillars are constructed to comprehensively evaluate each country’s green future across two dimensions: the progress they have made on achieving carbon reduction goals and other climate-friendly societal activities, and the ambitions that the country must achieve to maintain a carbon-neutral economy.
“The fifth pillar—climate policy—measures the extent to which investment and policy activities are channelled into green infrastructure initiatives and legislation frameworks. These factors, we believe, collectively provide the primary impetus toward establishing and sustaining a country’s green future, and thus this pillar accounts for 40% of the Index weighting.”
The top 10 countries are (in order) Iceland, Denmark, the Netherlands, UK, Norway, Finland, France Germany, Sweden and South Korea. Iceland’s abundant thermal energy is obviously significant and the British can thank Margaret Thatcher retrospectively who not only was an early warner about climate change but also eliminated the UK coal industry – if for reasons other than climate policy.
The report, in explaining the Australian ranking, noted that Australia declined to sign a pledge to end coal use at the Glasgow world climate talks and was heavily dependent on intensive exports.
And we are not only laggards in climate policy and performance but also in many other areas as shown by our dramatic fall in the Transparency International Corruption Index and the Labor MP, Julian Hill’s, report How Good is Australia?