United States Checkup

United States—Falling Behind

While under President Obama, the U.S. was on the right track to meeting its nationally determined contributions (NDCs) by 2025, President Trump has already begun the process of reversing many of Obama’s crucial policies. Current projections estimate that at best, the U.S. will see a small increase in GHG emissions from current levels, and at worst, a large increase from current levels that matches the pathway projected prior to the enactment of Obama’s climate change regulations. Climate Advisers hosts a series of projections on its website, which can be found in the “Learn More” links below. The projections separate Obama-era regulations into “highly vulnerable,” “moderately vulnerable,” and “vulnerable,” based on how easily they can be undercut by executive orders or repealed through the Congressional Review Act. Unfortunately, a large proportion of the emissions reductions from Obama’s policies are at risk to be negated with little to no legal protections. Many of these originally projected reductions are based on policies that intended to phase out the use of coal to generate electricity, but the Trump Administration has openly supported reversing these policies in favor of new regulations that expand coal mining and use. As much as 48% of the projected emissions reduction by 2025 could be reversed if coal is promoted as a fuel, rather than phased out, according to an article in Climate Home (see below).

The Trump administration has also withdrawn the US from the Paris Agreement.

According to the Climate Action Tracker, the U.S. is rated “moderate” in its commitments, “meaning that it is not yet consistent with limiting warming to below 2°C, let alone with the Paris Agreement’s stronger 1.5°C limit.” However, the tracker notes, “If the current policy scenario under the Trump Administration were to be codified as an NDC, the rating would drop to ‘inadequate.” In line with this assessment, the Citizens Climate Agreement Campaign rates the US two stars, and notes the inadequacy of its NDCs on the global scale.

The current President had made his position of opposition to renewable energy and GHG emissions reductions very clear. While the trackers referenced above have not shifted to mirror the uncertain political climate, it is unlikely that the US will meet its commitments, and is highly likely that it will begin “backsliding,” even increasing its emissions overall from current and past levels.

The silver lining is that in the US private sector investments in renewables are growing, as is consumer demand for environmentally responsible products. Hopefully, the private sector will be able to make up some of the projected increase in emissions. However, since a major source of emissions is from coal-fired electricity generation, it is not likely that the private sector will be able to make up for all the difference.

Learn More

Climate Advisers’ assessment of risk from pulling out of agreement (includes graphic):
Potential for US to “backslide” on its commitments without pulling out entirely:
Effects on global diplomacy of pulling out of the agreement:
Tillerson endorses action to protect Arctic from climate change:
Advisors want to stay in the agreement to “have a seat at the table,” while others want to pull out entirely:

United Kingdom Checkup

United Kingdom—Standing Still

The Carbon Brief’s report states that in order for the UK to meet its Paris Agreement goal, plans must be drawn up immediately for greenhouse gas removal technologies while simultaneously more work needs to be done to reduce its existing emission levels.

In line with the UK’s 2008 Climate Change Act, 5-yearly ‘carbon budgets’ are drawn up to specify how the UK will reach both it’s target in the Paris Agreement, and the UK’s self-imposed target to cut emissions by 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. However, the ambition that these carbon budgets state have been found to be not ambitious enough to reach the targets specified in the Paris Agreement—a 90% reduction below 1990 levels by 2050 with net zero emissions between 2050 and 2100. Though it must be noted that the Carbon Brief does state that the UK’s goals are very ambitious compared to other countries, and to what is feasible within the limited time frame.

However, there is still the question as to whether the UK is achieving the goals mandated by its own carbon budgets. The release of the government’s emission reduction plan has been delayed by a year, and projected UK emissions are far above what the carbon budgets require. The legal NGO ClientEarth even issued a report stating that the previously released government Carbon Plan in 2011 was in breach of its own act, and that it was not sufficient to meet the targets legally required.

When comparing the UK’s actual emission levels, the carbon budgets and the Paris Agreement goals, it is clear that ‘business as usual’ for the UK will not even nearly ensure the required reductions. To meet them requires immediate and large investment in emission removal technologies, and a ratcheting of ambition for future carbon plans. This must include a reversal of the decision to begin fracking, a reinstating of the subsidies for solar power, and unequivocal support for renewable energy sources and energy efficiency.

Learn More

Carbon Brief: ‘UK needs negative emissions to comply with Paris Climate deal’ October 2016.

Turkey Checkup

Turkey—Falling Behind

Turkey’s Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) calls for a 21% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from a business as usual (BAU) level by 2030 with an implementation period that starts in 2021. However, coal-rich Turkey is straying further and further from the path of climate safety1.
Experts have suggested that Turkey could establish carbon markets to achieve its INDC target. Carbon-pricing measures could reduce its projected emissions by 40%. But it seems this recommendation does not resonate with the current government as they intend to continue with the full utilization of domestic fossil fuel resources (mainly coal with low calorific value) until 2023.

There is one thing that seems certain for Turkey: a fair, balanced, and equitable contribution to global efforts requires much progressive political will and a stronger commitment to international law.
Climate Action Tracker and the Citizens Climate Agreement Campaign rank Turkey as “Inadequate”. I do not completely agree with this ranking as private sector actors, the ministry, and international organizations are supporting energy efficiency and renewable energy markets through several projects. In 2015, among more than 30 recipient countries, Turkey got the lions’ share (almost 20%) of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development funding for energy efficiency and renewable energy investments. In addition to EBRD, the government of Turkey has been working closely with other multilateral development banks such as the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the International Finance Corporation in order to tap other sources of climate financing including the Clean Technology Fund1. However, the legal authorities should also force carbon emitters to work on decreasing their carbon emissions. With greater political commitment, Turkey could at least improve its ranking as “Inadequate”.

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Thailand Checkup

Thailand—Falling Behind

Thailand signed the Paris Agreement on April 22, 2016 and ratified the Paris Agreement on September 21, 2016. Even before the Paris Agreement ratification, Thailand became a member of the Kyoto Protocol, which was developed in 1997 and came into force in February 16, 2005. Thailand as a member of non-annex party (group of developing countries) ratified the Kyoto Protocol on August 28, 2002 and made the pledge to reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions from 2008 to 2012 by at least 5 percent below 1990 levels. Thailand also made a commitment under the “Doha Amendment to the Kyoto Protocol”, which is from January 1, 2013 to December 31, 2020 and it aims at meeting an overall emissions reduction target of at least 18 percent below the 1990 levels.

Within the given time period from January 1, 2013 to December 31, 2020; non-annex countries such as Thailand have the option of establishing Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) projects. From the timeframe 2005 to 2020, as an Annex 1 Party’s commitment for the Kyoto Protocol, Thailand was involved in the facilitation of Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) projects (Saiyasitpanich, 2017). The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) mentioned in Article 12 of the Kyoto Protocol will allow developed Annex B countries with an emission reduction or emission limitation commitment to implement an emission-reduction project in developing countries like Thailand. Examples of CDM activities, which are already in-place in Thailand along with other developing countries typically include rural electrification projects using solar panels and the installation of more energy efficient boilers.
Thailand’s pledge in the Kyoto Protocol compliments the pledge made in the Paris Agreement. This is because both the pledges are still active. The facilitation of CDM projects and at least 5 to 18% emissions reductions under the Kyoto Protocol will significantly help in successfully achieving the emissions reduction target of 20% for the Paris Agreement.

Thailand’s Paris Agreement INDC pledge was drafted by The Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning (ONEP) as part of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The implementation of Thailand’s INDC is regularly monitored by the Thai Government and the UNFCCC. Either group can suggest changes to their INDC, which are then made and finalized by ONEP. The government of Thailand is also responsible for formulating plans in the INDC.  For instance, the government intends to make necessary changes to its INDC plans so that the plans adhere to the sustainable development principle. The sustainable development principle is defined as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. The government will play a lead-role towards actual implementation and evaluation of the INDC plans (Saiyasitpanich, 2017). Finally, for establishing the INDC, Thailand has proposed to remain consistent with the Sufficient Economy Philosophy  (Saiyasitpanich, 2017).
Expert analysts suggest that Thailand facing numerous obstacles and still has a long way to go in terms of successfully complying with its Paris Agreement pledge. A clear-cut roadmap to successfully achieving its INDC’s emissions reduction objectives is lacking. This creates a sense of uncertainty about the emission reduction strategies in place to successfully comply with the Paris Agreement. There are other obstacles that might hinder Thailand’s long-term success in complying with the Paris Agreement. For instance, the ineffectiveness of existing climate change policies due to high budgets and the halting of renewable energy infrastructures is resulting in widespread criticism. There are proposed plans about increasing coal usage from 10% to around 25%, which will prevent Thailand from meeting the INDC targets. Other proposed developmental projects are in place under Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, which will likely increase the amount of greenhouse gas emissions in the near future. The “Get Back Forest Policy” has received enormous criticisms by political opponents as well as strong resentment on behalf of indigenous communities as their land rights are being violated where the lands of indigenous communities in forests are being taken away to increase the forest area up to 40% of state territory. Finally, the Government policies with respect to the Paris Agreement have led to large-scale anger on behalf of small-scale marginalized farmers as they feel that they are being neglected. Therefore, in order for Thailand to comply with the Paris Agreement the government’s policies need to be more transparent, inclusive, holistic and bottom-up. The top-down approach, which is currently in place, excludes the voices of different sectors of the society. Only with these change will the government’s policies will be able to gain stronger support from all sectors of society. This in turn will help with the successful implementation of policies that will meet Thailand’s Paris Agreement pledge.

Learn More

To learn more about the presentation by Dr. Phirun Saiyasitpanich; and to know more about Thailand’s steps to comply with the Paris Agreement in 2015 please visit
To learn more about the Clean Development Project please visit
To learn more about the National Appropriate Mitigation Action (NAMA) please visit
To learn more about Thailand’s pledge in the Kyoto Protocol please visit
To learn more about Thailand’s INDC please visit
To learn more about the obstacles which might hinder Thailand’s long-term success to comply with the Paris Agreement please visit
To learn more about the Sufficient Economy Philosophy please visit and to learn about the Sufficient Economy in Thailand’s context please visit
To learn more about Thailand’s 11th National Economic and Social Development Plan please visit

Spain Checkup

Spain—Falling Behind

The EU Effort Sharing Emissions Calculator is a method used to implement the EU’s Emission Sharing Regulation, which is intended to help set emission reduction targets for member states. The Calculator uses a points system where points are awarded based on various factors. The countries are then ranked based on the number of points awarded. As of March 2017, only one country ranked lower than Spain, and Spain’s efforts to curb its carbon emissions were given a ranking of “very poor.”

The factors upon which a country is awarded points include a country’s starting point for determining projected 2021-2030 emissions, its stance on the land use loophole and ETS surplus loophole, its system for governing any adopted policies, and its ambition level, which is described as the following: “The ESR must set Europe on a path to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement and hence contain a trajectory to reach at least 95% emission cuts by 2050 supported by, at a minimum, a 45% reduction in non-ETS sectors by 2030.” The Effort Sharing Emissions Calculator provides a rubric that explains how the exact number of points for each category is awarded. The maximum number of points a country can receive is 100 and the lowest possible number is 0. Sweden holds the ranking of first place with 67 points, while Spain has only 9 points. The text below from the Emissions Calculator analysis of Spain illustrates why Spain was awarded the 9 points:

Spain wants to weaken the Commission proposal on the emission reductions starting point by moving the start of the trajectory from 2020 to 2021. This would allow the release of an additional 249 Mt CO2 over the period in the EU as a whole compared to the Commission proposal.  Spain could improve its position by advocating for a starting point that better reflects actual emissions, and by ensuring that countries that do not meet their 2020 targets are not rewarded for underachieving. A limitation on how much surplus can be banked for use in future years would lead to further emission cuts.

Spain has so far pushed for a bigger role for forests in the ESR, above all to help with the difficult task to maintain and enhance the Mediterranean forest sinks. Spain wants to do so by further expanding the categories of forestry offsets that can be used to meet the ESR targets (by including forest management offsets), which would allow more greenhouse gas emissions Spain could improve its position by advocating for reducing or removing the option to use forestry offsets to meet the ESR targets.

Spain is not among the nine countries that in the Commission proposal are allowed to use surplus ETS allowances to meet their ESR targets but seems to support the Commission proposal.  Spain could improve its position by advocating for reducing or removing the option to use surplus ETS allowances
Spain seems to support the Commission proposal for 5-yearly compliance checks. Spain could improve its position by advocating for yearly compliance checks and financial penalties.

Spain accepts its 2030 climate target of 26% emissions reductions, but is not planning to go beyond it, nor does it have a long-term climate target. Spain could improve its position by supporting a higher domestic 2030 target (as its own Parliament recommends) and an ambitious long-term target.
In order to comply with the Paris Agreement, Spain may have to adopt some of the recommendations made above by Carbon Market Watch, including incorporating yearly compliance checks instead of 5-yearly checks, not advocating for the land use loophole, and by using the year 2020 as a starting point instead of the year 2021.

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South Korea Checkup

South Korea—Moving Forward

The Korean Energy Economics Institute (KEEI) conducted a study to evaluate the effectiveness of  Korea’s Target Management System, using a Greenhouse-gas Reduction Efficiency (GRE) index. The policies are The Target Management System and the Emissions Trading Scheme.

South Korea’s Greenhouse Gas (GHG) and Energy Target Management System, known as “Target Management System,” was implemented between 2012 and 2015. According to this policy, 1,107 companies were under obligations to reduce their GHG emissions as of December 2015. After 2015 firms participating in the Target Management System were asked to participate in Korea’s new Emission Trading Scheme (KETS). KETS is one of the world’s largest cap-and-trade systems.
For its study, KEEI collected a dataset of 251 firms that were under the Target Management System. The data set included each firm’s GHG emissions, energy consumption, sales, tangible assets, and number of workers between 2011 and 2015. Also, KEEI looked at changes in emissions by participating firms in the following sectors: semiconductors, displays, electronics, petrochemicals, iron and steel, shipbuilding, textiles, paper, ceramics, automobiles, power generation, cement, machinery, nonferrous metals, refining, telecommunications, and mining.

After the analysis, KEEI found that the average GRE index was improved in the first year of 2012, and then deteriorated from 2013 to 2014. However, in 2015 when the Emission Trading Scheme was initially implemented, the average GRE index was greatly improved.  Some sectors, such as the refining sectors showed marked improvement, and the average emission levels of the fifteen major industries of South Korea improved compared to 2011. This data suggests that South Korea is moving forward in its efforts to support the Paris Agreement.  Some criticize that South Korea’s target is inadequate, but this study’s findings show that South Korea is doing a good job to comply with its pledge at COP21

Learn More

Korea Energy Economics Institute, “A Positive Research on Greenhouse-gas Reduction Efficiency after Target Management System Implemented” (December 2016)

South Africa Checkup

South Africa—Falling Behind

The South African government has not made much progress in promulgating legislation to tackle carbon emissions. Its most important policy instrument—the carbon tax—has been on the table for a decade. No date is set for its implementation. South Africa’s power utility, Eskom, is the largest CO2 emitter in the country, because it is so coal intensive. Once its latest coal-fired power station (named Medupi) is completed, it will release more carbon than the whole of Kenya.

A prominent scientific research body concluded that South Africa could ‘decarbonize its electricity sector without pain’ as ‘clean and cheap are no longer trade-offs’. However, the Department of Energy has come under criticism for seemingly inflating the costs of renewable energy and their belief that a rapid shift to renewables will collapse the energy grid.

On September 25, 2015, South Africa submitted its INDC, which included a target of reducing GHG emissions to between 398 and 615 MtCO2e, over the period 2025 to 2030. South Africa ratified the Paris Agreement on November 1, 2016. The country’s INDC is consistent with its pledge under the Copenhagen Accord, which proposes emissions reductions below business-as-usual (BAU) levels by 34% in 2020 and 42% in 2025.
Notwithstanding that the South African INDC assumes the finalization of an ‘ambitious, fair, effective and binding’ multilateral agreement under the UNFCCC at COP21, it also highlights that economic and social development and poverty eradication are South Africa’s top priorities. However, South Africa’s commitment could be considered as ‘inadequate’ in reaching the 2°C pathway. Although South Africa is a developing country, it has comparatively high emissions per capita. Consequently, the country’s emissions reduction target should be strengthened.

Because of South Africa’s very slow pace in implementing a domestic carbon tax and aggressively pursuing renewable energy programs, it is ranked as ‘standing still’. There is clearly a lot of work that remains to be done.

Learn More

South Africa’s INDC is available at:
The Climate Action Tracker rankings are available at, accessed 29 March 2017.
See: Sipho Kings ‘Greening the Future 2017: How you can save the world’ at
See David Hallows ‘Death and destruction: What’s left out of energy planning’ at

Saudi Arabia Checkup

Saudi Arabia—Falling Behind

The 2016 Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI) report concludes that Saudi Arabia has made no improvement in its overall ranking in the CCPI and places the country at the bottom of the ranking for lack of significant progress in the country’s exploiting its high potential for renewable energy instead of relying on its oil reserves. However, the report notes that the Kingdom has not blocked the Paris climate agreement.

Climate Action Tracker evaluates Saudi Arabia’s abatement target of reducing emissions by up to 130 MtCO2e in 2030 as stated in its Paris Agreement Pledge and rates this abatement target as  inadequate to make a fair contribution to keep global warming to below a  2 degree Celsius increase. It explains that this pledged abatement rate will result in an 840–1042 MtCO2e excluding LULUCF by 2030, a 70–110% increase above 2010 levels, or a 350–450% increase above 1990 levels which is insufficient to meet a minimum fair contribution to controlling global warming to 2 Celsius let alone the stronger Paris Agreement goal to 1.5 Celsius. It bases this conclusion on the uncertainty around Saudi Arabia’s targeted emissions level and the significant scaling down of its planned policies aimed at diversifying the energy mix and investments in renewable energy resources from 54 GW of renewable and 17 GW of nuclear energy by 2032 to 9.5 GW in 2023 and omitting the reference to nuclear power.

It seems that the extent to which Saudi Arabia is able to implement its proposed domestic emission reduction programs is dependent on the revenues it receives from its oil production. However, increased oil revenues means increased oil exports that will result in increased CO2 emissions in other countries.

Learn More

Burck, Jan, Franziska Marten, and Christoph Bals. 2016. Climate Change Performance Index, 2017 results. Germanwatch and Climate Action Network (CAN).
The Intended Nationally Determined Contribution of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia under the UNFCCC
Climate Action Tracker

Russia Checkup

Russia—Falling Behind

Russia is one of the countries with the largest carbon footprints due to its size but it has not yet ratified the Paris Agreement. However, an Action Plan for Improvement of State GHG Emission Regulation and Preparation for Ratification of the Paris Agreement was finally approved on November 3, 2016. A model for state regulation of GHG emissions is planned for release in December 2017.

In the past several years the Russian Federation has released several important state plans related to climate change, including  the Strategy for Environmental Safety of the RF from 2017 to 2025 (adopted on 19.04.2017) and a draft Energy Strategy of the RF for the period by 2035.

The Strategy for Environmental Safety prioritizes meeting the need for adaptation and mitigation of negative climate change consequences for the environment as one of Russia’s main tasks. However, a focus on the consequences of GHG emissions rather than on preventive actions, diminishes the country’s responsibility in respect to its GHG emissions reduction. The Strategy for Environmental Safety identifies tools for implementation of the state environmental safety policy that include naming the regulation of carbon emissions and preparation of a low-carbon and sustainable Long-term Economy Development Strategy. At the moment there is no further information on the possible practical steps to implement these suggestions.

The draft Energy Strategy aims at decreasing the negative impact from exploration, production, transportation, and use of energy resources on the environment, climate and public health.
The Russian Federation submitted its 2030 INDC on March 31, 2015, proposing to reduce emissions 25% to 30% below 1990 levels by 2030. Another long-term Russian emission reduction target was announced at the L’Aquila G8 Summit in 2009. It aimed  at cutting GHG emissions by at least 50% below 1990 levels by 2050.

Climate Tracker estimates that the target emissions levels that Russia’s INDC entails are 3.2 to 3.3 GtCO2e in 2030 (8–13% below 1990 levels, excluding LULUCF). These levels were calculated using the most recent projected emissions for the LULUCF sector in 2030 (Ministry of Natural Resources and Ecology of the Russian Federation, 2015). The main assumption for this calculation is that Russia will use a net–net approach to account for the LULUCF sector, which would allow for much higher emissions in the target year compared to a situation in which the target excluded LULUCF emissions. This assumption arises from the INDC statement, according to which the 2030 target “is subject to the maximum possible accounting of the absorbing capacity of forests” (UNFCCC, 2015). This adds considerable uncertainty to the 2030 target emissions levels. Greater transparency around the accounting rules for the LULUCF sector in the INDC submission would enable us to calculate a more precise estimate of the emissions level (excluding LULUCF) in 2030 required for Russia to achieve its INDC target.

Learn More

Report on implementation of the RF’s Climate Doctrine for the period by 2020
Key provisions of the Energy Strategy
Review of the Strategy of Environmental Safety
Climate Tracker Analysis

Nigeria Checkup

Nigeria—Moving Forward

Nigeria has made some progress with respect to the Paris Agreement. It signed the agreement in September 2016 and ratified it in March 2017, and thus committed to reducing its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The country has instituted policy initiatives that are relevant to climate change including its adoption in 2013 of a National Policy on Climate Change. Measures that are necessary to achieve the country’s commitments include ending gas flaring, increasing the contribution of renewable energy sources to electricity supply, improving energy efficiency, and supporting climate smart agriculture and restoration.

Nigeria has pledged to reduce unconditionally by 2030 its GHG emissions by 20%, and conditionally by 45% compared to business as usual levels of 900 MtCO2e. The identified measures would contribute substantially to honoring the agreement. By ratifying the accord, initiating climate relevant policies, and setting up a coordinating unit for climate action, Nigeria is taking forward steps towards meeting its GHG commitments.

Learn More

A summary of Nigeria’s approach to climate change is available at:
The status of Nigeria’s ratification of the Paris Agreement is available at:
More information on Nigeria’s contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions is available at:’s%20INDC_271115.pdf