Jan Burck, how to increase countries’ efforts in climate protection?

Jan Burck, how to increase countries’ efforts in climate protection?

Since 2005, the Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI) has assessed and compared the climate action efforts of 59 countries and the EU on an annual basis, and thus contributed to greater transparency in international climate policy. Its message is getting through: In 2021, the CCPI received around 2,000 mentions in the international media shortly after its publication. The index is one of the most renowned independent monitoring instruments for climate action worldwide. Jan Burck, Senior Advisor for Low-Carbon Strategies and Energy, has been involved in the development of the CCPI from the very beginning.

At the beginning of the new millennial, the climate crisis may have been acknowledged in expert circles, but the general public paid little attention to the issue. How could this be changed? Knowing that rankings are an excellent way to draw public and political attention to shortcomings in society, the idea of a climate performance index was born.

When Germanwatch asked me to develop such an index about twenty years ago, I had no idea how much the ranking would shape my professional career.

From the very beginning, the UN climate negotiations have provided the best political and media platform for the publication of the CCPI. The most famous conference was certainly the one in Paris in 2015. Since then, there has been a binding global agreement to mitigate the climate crisis.

“By comparison to what it could have been, it’s a miracle. By comparison to what it should have been, it’s a disaster.”
– George Monbiot about the Paris Agreement, The Guardian, 12. December 2015

For me, the words of Monbiot summarised very well how incredible it was that an agreement was reached at all, even though the targets and promises made back then were woefully inadequate. The Paris Agreement marks a turning point: since then, concrete targets have been set, by which a country’s performance in climate action can be measured. Since then, the 1.5°C limit has been in place.

The Paris Agreement has sharpened the mandate of the CCPI: we now show the extent to which countries are falling short of their climate action promises and thus provide important information for governments, the media, and NGOs around the globe. To include developments in national climate policies in the ranking, we have developed a global network of more than four hundred experts over the last few years.

What fascinates me most about the CCPI to this day is how much it supports civil society and academic representatives around the world to increase the pressure on politicians. When Australia ranked last in the 2019 climate policy rankings, the former Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison faced heavy criticism in the national and international press. In the last election in June 2022, climate issues played a crucial role, and the new government is now finally pledging that Australia will take climate action seriously. Along with our Australian experts, my colleague Thea Uhlich and I will be monitoring this closely.

Today, the index has become an influential instrument not only for the media, civil society, and politics. It is increasingly being used as a tool to justify climate litigation cases and has also gained importance with regard to the financial market. The CCPI is now accepted as the gold standard for the evaluation of sovereign bonds, and financial market participants who use the CCPI to manage their portfolios frequently contact us.

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