March 25, 2013 11:21 pm

China improves low-carbon competitiveness

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China has leapt into the top five in a ranking of G20 countries that will compete best in a world that restricts greenhouse gas emissions as the momentum for action on climate change shifts from west to east, research shows.

Japan, China and South Korea ranked second, third and fourth respectively in the list, published by Australia’s Climate Institute think tank and partly funded by General Electric , with China putting up 36 wind turbines a day and earning as much from exporting solar panels as it does from shoes. The country was previously at seventh place.

France tops the list, thanks in part to its mostly nuclear electricity sector, while the UK ranks fifth. The US has fallen to 11th from eighth in earlier versions of the ranking, mainly because of a drop in clean energy investment and a falling share of high-tech exports.

Germany, long regarded as a global leader in environmental policy making, slipped out of the top five to number six.

“The centre of gravity of this story is moving away from Europe,” said Lord Nicholas Stern, author of a 2006 UK government report on the economics of climate change.

This was important, he said, because “a great competitive margin in the world is going to be over carbon and energy productivity. Countries that slip behind are going to damage themselves.”

The Climate Institute rankings, first published in 2009, were compiled by Vivid Economics, the London analyst, and measure a range of indicators, from investment in renewable energy to per capita energy consumption and the efficiency of oil refining.

Although this year’s list is based largely on figures from 2010, the latest year for which G20 data are available, they offer an insight into how previously adopted policies are affecting countries’ readiness for a low carbon world.

China’s rise up the ranking was unlikely to be affected by last week’s bankruptcy of the main subsidiary of Suntech Power, one of the country’s star solar panel-makers, according to the Climate Institute’s Erwin Jackson.

“Clean energy investment in China has boosted its score and will continue to,” he said, adding that the failure of one company in the world’s No. 2 economy was unlikely to change the country’s position.

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