The Open Climate Policy Database

Open-source.           Collaborative.           Student-created.

 

Created by students from around the world, this work builds on the youth climate movement, and represents one of many first steps in translating the momentum into policy action.

The dataset is a work in progress, and will be updated and added to annually.

The motivation and summarized findings from the multi-country research effort.

A global ranking by country, assessing climate policy effectiveness transparently.

The cornerstone of climate, evaluates progress in de-carbonizing generation.

A globally subsidized industry, evaluates progress in ramping-down fossil fuels.

A systemically under-covered sector, evaluate progress in regulating emissions.

The pre-cursor to effective climate policy, evaluates major gaps in emissions data.

Descriptive methodologies for data collection, sources, and index scores.

 
 

It is unlikely we will reduce our emissions

enough by 2100.

The latest projections for global greenhouse gas emissions show quickly dimming prospects of staying within the temperature limits designated by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the Paris Agreement obligations for Parties to stay well-below 2°C warming, to adequately address anthropogenic climate change. Even with full implementation and enforcement of state Parties’ current Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), we are unlikely to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions at the necessary rate. 

International organizations (IOs) and their leaders are generally incentivized to take a cooperative approach when evaluating NDCs; they therefore have had limited capacity to criticise other Parties’ unambitious plans. Climate scientists are typically focused on emissions measurement and technical solutions, rather than policy evaluation. Some NGOs, including Climate Action Tracker, The Climate Group, and Climate Scorecard, have filled this literature gap in tracking global climate policy, though significant data limitations prevent high granularity in these assessments nor evaluate under-covered sectors. Students are in a unique position, having fewer institutional constraints, to critique under-performing nations. This project hopes to underscore the critical role students can have in driving material climate action and holding large greenhouse gas emitters accountable through research. 

NGOs have constraints. 

 

Students don't have any.

A multi-country effort to change the tide, and engage others.

Through the GSPA, student researchers from Cornell University, the University of Chicago, the University of Edinburgh, and the University of Cambridge worked over the summer and autumn of 2020 to create a database evaluating the climate policy commitments of 193 countries.

The resulting database is an ongoing effort, scheduled to be updated annually as policy and climate commitments (hopefully) change. We also hope to engage students from more universities around the world in future versions.

Read the full summary of our motivation, key findings, and methodology in the project paper.

Are you an undergraduate, graduate, or PhD student from outside the U.S. or U.K.? We need your help.

World Index

 

Our database contributed to a ranking of all 193 member-states of United Nations General Assembly across the four policy domains we examined: (1) energy generation (2) agriculture (3) fossil fuel extraction and (4) emissions data reporting. Other countries were excluded due to data limitations. In some cases, there were ties such that multiple countries ranked the same.

When viewing the above rankings, it is important to consider countries in their relative socioeconomic and development context. Put simply, wealthy countries should be held to a higher standard than less-developed countries. Less-developed nations also have a more limited ability to craft detailed policy or fulfill international mandates due to governmental capacity constraints. Surprised by a particular result? Make sure to navigate to that country's information below:

Energy Generation

 

Key Findings: 

 

Future commitments for renewable energy, although optimistic in themselves, pale in comparison to concurrent projections in fossil-fuel generated power.  Despite developed countries' high-visibility commitments to increase their low carbon energy sources, our data demonstrated that the majority of countries are either concurrently maintaining (100+) or even increasing (60+) their fossil fuel power sourcing. This highlights that the overall energy mix of low-carbon energy sources is changing less than perceived. Less than 25% of states are actively decreasing fossil-fuel power reliance, which is a critical and necessary step in decarbonizing the global economy. 

 

Importantly, increasing renewables does not necessarily mean decreasing overall fossil fuel usage. An increase in renewable usage may simply indicate an increase in energy generation or demand. This highlights the need for increased energy efficiency and stronger portfolio strategies to ensure the percentage of fossil fuel energy production is decreasing, and that renewables are replacing, not adding to, the overall energy mix. Additionally, it is important to acknowledge that some countries’ energy policies still intend on exporting fossil fuels while decarbonizing their domestic consumption. This may result in national emissions reduction with the nation's energy sector, but not the global reduction needed to comply with Paris Agreement obligations. 

Energy Radar


To comparatively evaluate the energy policy of different states, select up to 3 countries in the 'Country' field below:

Country-Level Data


To view each country's energy production and policy commitments in detail, type in the 'Select Country' field below:

Fossil Fuel Extraction

 

Key Findings: 

 

The majority of countries have accelerated fossil fuel extraction rather than slowing it. According to the IEA, fossil subsidies accounted for approximately $320 USD billion in 2019, which is 3 times the 2020 target for the Green Climate Fund. Of these subsidies. Iran, China, Saudi Arabia, and Russia are the top 4 countries spending the most on subsidizing fossil fuels, with Iran’s subsidies totalling over $80 billion USD in 2019. 

 

As of 2020, 36 countries still engage in hydraulic fracking—despite bans in most European countries. Finally, our analysis recognises that COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically slowed oil extraction, yielding much lower active rig counts in July 2020 (when our data was primarily collected). For example, Iran had 0 active rigs despite historically being on the largest producers. However, low activity now forebodes even higher activity in the future as oil-dependent states will try to make up losses.

Extraction Radar


To comparatively evaluate the fossil policy of different states, select up to 3 countries in the 'Country' field below:

Country-Level Data


To view each country's fossil production and policy commitments in detail, type in the 'Select Country' field below:

 

Agriculture

Key Findings: 

 

Agriculture is considered an under-covered sector in climate policy, despite being a concentrated source of gases more powerful than carbon dioxide (e.g. methane and nitrous oxide). Less than half (91) of all countries include agriculture-specific sections in their Nationally Determined Contributions, including the United States. On average, countries have long-term forest management for about only 7% of their forested areas, making these areas vulnerable to deforestation for agricultural purposes. 

 

We found that 4 countries—China, India, Brazil, and the United States—are responsible for almost half of global agricultural emissions. These 4 countries are comparatively carbon-inefficient relative to peer countries, despite their high outputs: China ranks 52nd, India ranks 90th, the U.S. ranks 99th, and Brazil ranks 152nd in carbon efficiency.

Agriculture Radar


To evaluate the agricultural policy of different states, select up to 3 countries in the 'Country' field below:

Country-Level Data


To view each country's energy production and policy commitments in detail, type in the 'Select Country' field below:

 

Emissions Reporting

Key Findings: 

 

Emissions data is infrequent and suffers from substantial margins of error at a country level. The majority of countries fail to report their emissions frequently enough to accurately track climate progress, with 125 countries reporting only every 5 years or longer. 48 countries have not reported since 2000 or earlier and 2 have not reported since 1994. Notably, India has not reported since 2010 and China has not reported since 2014—despite being two of the highest emitting nations worldwide.

 

Some experts suggest that the uncertainties in state-level emission estimates are so profound that compared to the real number, the margin of error can be up to 100%. Several countries have alleged instances of government or government-enabled cheating in their reporting, including: Bolivia, China, Italy, New Zealand, Russia, Poland, and Ukraine. Yet, this list is limited to documented reports and contingent on a relatively free press for accuracy; therefore, the issue may be much more pervasive. 

Emissions Reporting Radar


To compare the emissions data of different states, select up to 3 countries in the 'Country' field below:

 

Methodology & Credits

The index is constructed from raw data by a series of standardisation techniques scaling each score between zero and one. This enables us to compare data from completely different indicators, such as deforestation and community renewables. The scores are weighted and added together to give the final score for each index. Each indicator was weighted on a scale from 1 to 5, 5 representing a highly relevant indicator and 1 representing an indicator that is less relevant or impactful from a climate perspective. The weightings were determined by the five GSPA contributors who had researched the indicator in question. It should be considered that this data was collected in the summer of 2020, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, and therefore some of the data may not entirely reflect countries’ pre-existing business-as-usual consumption trajectories. We intend to update this database annually to smooth such irregularities.

Energy Index

The Energy Index favours countries that not only currently have a low-carbon energy mix, but are also committed to reducing the greatest possible share of high-emitting technologies in their national energy mix in the future. Countries are additionally rewarded for improving social consequences of the energy transition through consistent and equitable national policy.

 

To score countries on their current primary energy supply, we converted raw energy supply data from absolute numbers into percentages, and then multiplied the percentage of each energy source by a given weighting based on the C02-equivalent emissions of the respective source (IPCC AR5 data). To simplify the number of different weightings, we grouped energies into 3 categories (<50g CO2eq, between 50 and 500g, and >500g). The weighting of each category is its mean emission value, and the score of a country is given by the sum of its weighted percentages. Missing values were replaced by zeros. 

 

For the future installed capacity indicator, a score of 1 is given to a country’s commitment to reduce the share of a fossil energy, 0 for increasing, and 0.5 for no commitment or staying the same. The values are reversed for low-carbon energies (with solar, wind, and tidal/wave energies grouped as one). The weighting for each energy source is its share in the energy supply mix. Therefore, a currently coal-dependent country that has committed to reduce coal in the future will still receive a high score. The carbon capture capacity scores were simply based on annual captured carbon values in Mtpa.

 

Finally, with regards to the social impact indicators, having a relevant policy present receives a score of 1, having the intention to create a policy receives 0.5, and the absence of policy receives 0.

Extraction Index

The total number of active onshore and offshore drilling sites is pulled from the International Rig Count, 2020 using the most recent data from July 2020, found in row 471. For  countries not explicitly listed in the count, data was found through country level documents and alternative searches.  A future improvement on this database would be to calculate change over time; for example, having 2010 total number of active drilling sites subtracted from the 2019 total number of active drilling sites, divided by the 2010 total number of active drilling sites. For countries where researchers could not locate the necessary data, the input was set to 0. On the back end of data manipulation, NA’s were changed to 0’s.

Agriculture Index

The justification behind the agriculture weightings, giving higher values to the agricultural efficiency and forestry columns, was that these results give a better indication of the state of agriculture within a country than simply commitments. Moreover, the inclusion of forestry in an agricultural index reflects the importance of both sustainable forestry in preventing climate change and agriculture as a key cause of deforestation. This approach partially  accounts for the low coverage of climate policy over agriculture and the pervasive policy exemptions that cover the industry.

 

Regarding missing data, the predominant approach was that absence of data indicated an absence of effort. For example, if our researchers were unable to find information on green agricultural subsidies in a country, then it was assumed that the country had no green agricultural subsidies.

Emissions Reporting

The two main criteria for the Emissions Reporting Index are reporting quality and quantity. These characteristics are weighted equally, each accounting for 50% of the total score. Reporting quality is then determined by the frequency of reporting (50%) and the presence/absence of evidence of misreporting (50%). For the frequency categories, of 1-2 years, 3-5 years, >5 years, and never, the assigned scores are 100, 75, 50, and 0, respectively. For the misreporting column, a country receives 100 points if there is no publicly available evidence that a country has misreported their emissions, otherwise they receive no points. 

 

The quantity component of the index is made up of a list of seven gases/ gas types (CO2, CH4, N2O, HFCs, PFCs, SF6, NF3). Carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O) are given slightly lower weightings (⅗) because they are typically reported by all countries, while the other gases are weighted (5/5) each--as these gases serve to differentiate between countries that report all gases and those that report the bare minimum. It is important to note that only a small number of countries produce products using fluorinated gases (HFCs, PFCs, SF6, NF3), though most still import the same products. 100 points are assigned to any gas that has been reported, is reported to not occur in the country, or is reported in aggregate with other gases. Zero points are given to countries that do not provide data. 
 

The tables below illustrate the methodology in numerical terms:

Questions? Clarifications? Feedback?

Questions & Feedback

Methodology Overview

Project Organizers

Credits

Project Leaders

Researchers

 Zarek Drozda

(Chicago)

Adam Ó Conghaile

(Cambridge)

George Baxendale

Olivia Daly

Thomas Hasson

May-May Wattanawanitchakorn

Stella Linardi

Vanessa Olguin

Sachi Rai

Magda Smith

Kendall Chappell

Adriana Obeso

Adam Ramgoolie

(adv) Atakan Baltaci

Callum McGrath

Irina Petrovic

Isabelle Rayner

Lila Sakata

Represented Places

Hong Kong

Scotland

Serbia

Nina Pusic

(Edinburgh)

Chiara Oppo

(Edinburgh)

Kristy Lam

(Chicago)

Collin Kane

(Cornell)

Working Group Contributors

Isabelle Rayner

(Writer)

Callum McGrath

(Data Visualization)

Magda Smith

(Editor)

George Baxendale

(Data Analysis)

United Kingdom

Thailand

Scoping and Development

Katherine Trafford

(Edinburgh)

Ben Rhydderch

(Cambridge)

Ashni Verma

(Cornell)

Ruby Rorty

(Chicago)

Republic of Ireland

Singapore

United States

Read the full summary of our motivation, key findings, and methodology in the project paper.

Are you an undergraduate, graduate, or PhD student from outside the U.S. or U.K.? We need your help.

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