From: Elizabeth A. Kennedy, Associated Press
Published November 14, 2006 12:00 AM

Sweden Tops Climate Change Efforts, U.S. Near Bottom, Environmentalists Say

NAIROBI, Kenya — Sweden, Britain and Denmark are doing the most to protect against climate change, but their efforts are not nearly enough, according to a report released Monday by environmental groups.


The United States -- the world's biggest emitter of greenhouse gases -- ranked at 53, with only China, Malaysia and Saudi Arabia doing worse.


"We don't have any winners, we only have countries that are better compared to others," said Matthias Duwe of the Climate Action Network-Europe, which released the data at the U.N. climate conference. "We don't have big shining stars."


The index ranks 56 countries that were part of a 1992 climate treaty or that contribute at least 1 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions. The countries make up 90 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions.


The calculations by the environmental group Germanwatch took into account emissions levels, emissions trends and climate policy.


About one-quarter of the energy consumed in Sweden in 2003 came from renewable sources -- more than four times as much as the European Union average of 6 percent. In Stockholm, one-quarter of city buses run on ethanol or biogas.


The country with the worst ranking was Saudi Arabia, the world's largest oil exporter. Duwe said the kingdom's policies generally block attempts to reduce greenhouse gases.


"If you try to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, you will also reduce oil consumption," Duwe said. "So Saudi oil will be in less demand."


Christoph Bals, political director of Germanwatch, said policy had an enormous effect on the rankings. The U.S. could move up 30 spots if its policies were akin to Britain's, he said.


The United States and Australia are the only major industrialized countries to reject the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which calls for mandatory cuts in greenhouse gases.


The Bush administration's policy on climate change focuses on voluntary emissions cuts by industry and long-term development of clean-energy technology. In rejecting the Kyoto Protocol's mandatory caps on greenhouse gas emissions, President Bush said they would hamstring the U.S. economy and complained that poorer countries also should have been covered.


"The president has made dealing with climate change a priority for this administration (and) will continue to," White House spokesman Tony Snow said Monday.


When asked about the rankings, Kristen A. Hellmer, a spokeswoman for the White House Council on Environmental Quality, said there were many different ways to measure environmental progress.


"The U.S. has seen one of the smallest increases -- 1.3 percent from 2000-2004 -- in greenhouse gas emissions (of) any major world economy," she said in a statement e-mailed to The Associated Press.


"This compares favorably with Europe's more than 2 percent increase during the same time period," she added. "At the same time, the U.S. successfully met the needs of a growing population and grew the economy nearly 10 percent, and the U.S. is exceeding the president's goal to reduce greenhouse gas intensity 18 percent by 2012."


Climate Action Network is a group of more than 300 non-governmental organizations working to stem climate change. Germanwatch is a non-profit group that focuses on issues such as trade and environment.


Scientists blame the past century's 1-degree rise in average global temperatures at least in part on the accumulation of carbon dioxide, methane and other heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere -- byproducts of power plants, automobiles and other fossil fuel-burning sources.


Some climate conference participants said Democratic victories in U.S. midterm elections were a good sign for environmental issues.


"The U.S. elections are clearly good news for strong U.S. action on global warming," said Jeremy Symons of the National Wildlife Federation. He said new leadership will "break the conspiracy of silence and denial" on environmental issues.


Source: Associated Press


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