Denmark, the United Kingdom, and Canada lead the world when it comes to implementing measures to mitigate climate change, according to new research published earlier this month at the UN climate change conference, COP24, currently underway in Katowice, Poland, which assessed 25 countries that account for 80% of the world’s population.
The new report, Energy Revolution: A Global Outlook, was conducted by researchers from Imperial College London and E4tech, facilitated by Imperial Consultants and commissioned by Drax Group, and analyzed several global decarbonization scenarios to identify five critical technologies and measures that are consistently relied upon to limit climate change to below 2°C. The researchers also compiled international datasets to investigate progress being made by countries around the world.
The five performance metrics identified by the researchers against which they measured their 25 countries were:
- Clean power
- Fossil fuels
- Uptake and sales of electric vehicles
- Capacity for carbon storage
- Energy efficiency of households, buildings and transport
Across the five areas as a whole, Denmark is leading the way, followed closely by the United Kingdom in second place and Canada close behind in third.
“We researched how the world is progressing on uptake of the five key technologies and measures needed to limit climate change to 2 degrees Celsius,” explained Imperial’s Dr Iain Staffell. “This reveals Denmark, UK and Canada to be world leading.
“Progress across these five areas is very mixed. Great strides are being made in cleaning up global electricity generation, and renewable capacity is increasing rapidly all around the world. Electric vehicles are also rapidly taking off, but still have only reached a 5% share of new cars sold in two countries. Improving the efficiency of our homes and industries needs urgent effort. Significant investment in Carbon Capture and Storage will also be needed if it is to contribute to limiting climate change, as only 6 countries are currently demonstrating this technology at scale.” — Staffell
However, when you break it down, metric by metric, the specifics look a little different, and the United Kingdom especially suffers from not having any large-scale carbon capture facilities, which the researchers identify as being critical to achieving climate targets.
In terms of the use of clean power and the related carbon content of electricity, Norway and Sweden are well ahead of the competition, with Canada in 6th, the United Kingdom in 8th spot, Denmark in 12th. The breakdown of top countries is actually quite telling and speaks volumes about the need to make use of abundant clean resources. For example, Scandinavia (which accounts for 3 of the top 12 countries), France, and New Zealand all have abundant hydro resources and/or nuclear power, resulting in almost zero-carbon grids.
Conversely, China, Australia, Indonesia, India, Poland, and South Africa account for the bottom six places due to their reliance on coal, which ensures their electricity contains up to twice the global average amount of CO2.
Similarly telling, this time of the role of strong policy, is the change in some countries’ carbon content of their electricity. Specifically, the UK and Denmark are almost double the third-place United States, with the UK having decarbonized its power sector much faster than any other country in the world. In fact, the carbon intensity of the UK’s electricity sector has more than halved in the last decade, due to the rapid phase-out of coal power and the rapid rise of renewable energy.
“This confirms the UK’s position as a world leader in decarbonising the economy – phasing out coal as we move to a greener, cleaner energy system with record levels of energy from renewables,” said the UK’s Energy and Clean Growth Minister Claire Perry. “We have also led the way in transitioning to low emission vehicles and today one in five electric vehicles sold in Europe is manufactured here in the UK.
“But we’re determined to do more to reduce our emissions. That’s why last week we published plans for the UK’s first carbon capture, usage and storage project to be operational in the mid-2020s with the ambition of potentially rolling out this cutting-edge technology at scale in 2030s.”
However, one area where the UK has fallen behind is its lack of large-scale carbon capture storage (CCS) — a technology deemed by the researchers in most of their scenarios as required to ensure temperatures stay below 2°C of warming. In fact, uptake of CCS has been slow around the world, and as can be seen below limited to only a few countries.
There are in fact only 18 operating CCS facilities around the globe, concentrated in six countries with a total storage capacity of 32 MtCO2 each year. Five more facilities are currently under construction in three countries which, when operational, will have a total storage capacity of 7 MtCO2 per annum.
The full report, including greater detail on fossil fuels, uptake of electric vehicles, and energy efficiency, is available here.