COP23: Europe’s climate leaders and laggards revealed


8 November 2017


COP23 Host Germany is Europe’s worst offender on climate, according to the European Climate Leadership Report 2017, Measuring the Metrics that Matter published today in Bonn, Germany at COP23 by the NGO Energy for Humanity.

The new report ranks European countries on their climate leadership using official Eurostat data and exclusive data from

The key findings are:

    1. Germany’s much-vaunted “Energiewende” programme has made things worse for the climate by shutting down carbon free nuclear capacity and locking in the dependency on coal burning for decades, despite hundreds of billions in investments and subsidy-schemes. In terms of absolute greenhouse gas emissions, Germany is by far the largest emitter in Europe (EU-28 plus EFTA plus Turkey). Germany alone emits 18 per cent of total emissionsGermany is not decarbonising as fast as other large emitters (14th of 23 countries analysed). Furthermore, by exporting electricity generated by fossil fuels, Germany is significantly increasing the CO2-intensity of neighbouring countries’ electricity consumption.
    2. Climate leaders are countries with hydro-power resources and strong policies to support nuclear energy, alongside renewables. These countries include Switzerland (hydro and nuclear), Norway (hydro) and Sweden (hydro and nuclear). In contrast, antinuclear Austria backs up its hydro capacity with fossil fuels, driving down its overall climate performance.
    3. Countries that have pragmatic yet ambitious climate and energy policies, such as the UK, are driving down their emissions. The UK has achieved the largest absolute reduction in GHG emissions in Europe from 2010-2015. Some Eastern Europe countries like Poland, Slovakia and Czech Republic, have also decreased their high emissions levels significantly in the recent years while growing their economies.
    4. For the first time, the data accounts for cross-border flows of carbon emissions. Importing dirty electricity impacts the carbon intensity of electricity consumption in some countries. The report strongly recommends that policy makers take imports and exports into account.
    5. A high percentage of installed new renewable capacity does not guarantee low CO2 emissions.


“Germany does not deserve its reputation as a climate leader”, EFH Executive Director Kirsty Gogan said. “France, however, with this week’s timely decision to not force accelerated shut-downs on its nuclear fleet, is bound to stay on top as one of the most decarbonized nations, while Germany falls further behind.

“The UK has demonstrated that real climate progress is possible with a policy that supports all low carbon sources including renewables and nuclear.”

“Our analysis shows that true leadership on climate comes from countries like UK, Sweden and Switzerland, where energy policy has supported the transition to low carbon economies. By contrast, promoting a green vision where renewables alone can power the future will lock in long-term dependency on fossil fuels.” says Wolfgang Denk, one of the authors and European Director of EFH.

“This is the first report that includes cross-border flows of electricity and its emissions”, says Rauli Partanen, one of the authors and an independent energy analyst. “Our data paints a picture that is very different from the usual reports that for example concentrate on renewable energy capacity additions. We found out that those are poor proxies for actual climate leadership and progress,”

The European Climate leadership 2017 report proposes 3 new metrics to measure climate leadership:

  • Total GHG emissions per GDP in 2010 as baseline (leader: Switzerland)
  • Absolute GHG reductions from 2010 to 2015 for measuring recent net progress (leader: UK)
  • Average annual decarbonisation rate from 2010 to 2015 measuring how fast countries are “greening” their economy (leader: Poland)

The report can be found here.



Climate leaders are countries that combine three elements: a low carbon intensity of electricity supply, a rapid reduction in their absolute level of emissions, and the maintenance of high levels of GDP.

Countries which are leading the way in carbon emissions per GDP are those that have chosen to expand the provision of low-carbon electricity and those with good hydro-power resources.

Countries with strong reliance on coal are in the bottom half of the climate leadership ranking. In terms of absolute emissions, the COP23 host Germany is actually a very poor performer. The decision to shut dow its nuclear plants prematurely means Germany has to keep its massive fleet of lignite and hard coal power plants on the grid far into the future. Germany is already failing its 2020 emission reduction targets, and there is currently no indication that it will do much better in the future. Far from advancing decarbonisation, the antinuclear “Energiewende” has locked Germany into long-term carbon dependency.

On the other hand, the U.K. serves as a strong example where carbon reduction is mandated by law. Recent climate policy actions have started to work, and most recently the country has pledged to shut down its coal burning fleet by 2025; new coal plants can only be built if they are equipped with carbon capture and storage technology.

For further information and statements, contact the authors:
Kirsty Gogan,, +44 79 52 54 53 55

Wolfgang Denk,, +41 79 571 39 64, currently in Bonn at COP23
Rauli Partanen,, currently in Bonn at COP23


Notes to Editors

  1. Energy for Humanity is a non-profit organisation, funded by philanthropic donations, advocating for climate action and energy access.
  2. Energy for Humanity used Tomorrow’s Electricity Map Pro in order to gather data & visualisations for this report.
  3. Germany emits 18.3% of total GHG emissions of EU, EFTA and Turkey, which is why their strategy matters so much for net reductions. The GHG emissions as a function of GDP is measured with metrics 1 and 3.
  4. Download the European Climate Leadership Report 2017 here.