A new study on the green economics of countries around the globe indicates that Australia is lagging badly behind the rest of its international peers, ranking at the bottom of the list on two key indicators as well as posting a poor score overall.
According to Dual Citizen’s 2014 Global Green Economy Index, Australia is now ranked last in the areas of green political leadership and climate change out of the 60 countries assessed, a dramatic decline that coincides with the Coalition government assuming office.
The country’s bottom ranking for green political leadership is particularly dismal given that Australia took second place for this rating in the 2012 index, and 10th for overall green economic performance.
The primary reason for the plunge in Australia’s green rating is the Abbott government’s seemingly indifferent attitude toward environmental issues – and climate change in particular, which has amply been demonstrated by a winding back of green policies since the Coalition took over the leadership reins.
“Australia has seen a sharp decline since the change of government,” said Jeremy Tamanini, chief executive of Duel Citizen, a Washington-based consultancy. “Its head of state has a negative association with the green economy concept.”
Coalition policies construed as hostile to green economics have included a repeal of the carbon price; concerted efforts to undermine the renewable energy target – a policy which was supported at its inception by the Coalition and whose uncertain fate has left much of the industry at a standstill; the abolition of the Climate Commission and attempts to abolish the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the Renewable Energy Agency.
Other Coalition policies and measures seen as inimical to environmental progress include the retention of lavish subsidies to fossil fuel companies in the form of the diesel fuel rebate and tax-payer funds for oil, coal and gas projects; a proposal to dredge parts of the Great Barrier Reef to abet the development of the Abbot Point coal terminal, and efforts to have the United Nations de-list 74,000 hectares of World Heritage listed forest in Tasmania.
The Dual Citizen report also took Australia’s political leaders to task for “unconstructive behaviour in international forums” and associated “negative media coverage,” resulting in its bottom ranking for political leadership on green economics.
According to the report, Australia serves as a “rare case” of a country whose renown for green economics is unwarranted by actual performance – a status it shares with Japan, the Netherlands and the United States.
In terms of overall green economic performance, Australia is now ranked 37th on the list, putting it behind a slew of developing countries including Brazil, Kenya, the Philippines, Rwanda and Zambia.
Australia did log impressive scores in certain sub-areas however, coming in second for environmental and natural capital, as well as 18th for investment and innovation.
Dual Citizen assessed the green economics of the countries on the list using a broad range of data sources, including Cornell University, Yale University, the international INSEAD business school and the International Energy Agency.
Perception scores for the countries are particularly telling, given that they were derived from a global survey of over 1000 members of the green and sustainability sectors.
The top three performers on the list were Sweden, Norway and Costa Rica, while in terms of international reputation and perception Germany, Denmark and Sweden were at the front of the pack.