5 countries managing climate change better than the US

Getty Images

Climate change is a problem that will affect the entire world — and, as the commitments forged through the Paris Agreement demonstrate, it's up to individual countries to step up and do their part.

Despite being the second biggest producer of CO2 gas emissions, the U.S. isn't leading the way when it comes to climate change. America is home to the largest percentage of climate-change deniers in the world, and the productive changes implemented during President Barack Obama's administration are quickly being undone by current President Donald Trump.

But the U.S. isn't the only one lagging behind. The Climate Action Tracker — which has not yet been updated to reflect the regulations set by the Paris Agreement — rates only five countries as having a "sufficient" response to climate change. And none currently rank as "Role Models" in the climate-change fight. Furthermore, a number of major world countries, including Australia, Canada and Russia, currently rank even lower than the U.S. when it comes to climate-change response.

Nevertheless, there are a few countries that are taking real action. Here are five countries who are taking a more aggressive stance against climate change than the United States.

Portugal

Though the European Union's climate response overall is rated "medium" by the CAT, a few of its member countries have taken a much more thorough approach. One such country is Portugal, which is one of six EU countries that has already hit the CO2 emissions target the European Commission set for them to reach by 2030. 

The country's government has implemented a variety of associations and frameworks to address climate change and develop a "low-carbon economy," the London School of Economics noted, including the National Climate Change Program, the Portuguese Carbon Fund and the National Adaptation Climate Change Strategy, which works to raise awareness about climate change and climate research.

A tram runs through Lisbon, Portugal  Wikimedia Commons

Between 2007 and 2011, Portugal — which, LSE notes, has scarce fossil-fuel resources of its own — expanded its renewable energy capacity by 35.3%. In May 2016, Climate Change News reported, the effects of the country's efforts were revealed even further, as the European country was able to run for four full days on 100% renewable energy. 

And the country has ambitious goals, even though it's already hit its 2030 target. By 2020, LSE said the country aims to reduce its primary energy consumption by 25% as well as have 10% of public transportation come from renewable sources. 

Costa Rica

As a small nation lying between the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea, Costa Rica is particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change — and is taking action accordingly. The country's environmental efforts began in the latter half the 20th century, a 2015 article in National Geographic notes, as the country took such steps as imposing a gasoline tax and paying farmers to stop destroying the country's forests.

Though Costa Rica had to walk back a 2007 pledge that it'd be carbon neutral by 2021, National Geographic explains, the country — which gets nearly 70% of its energy from renewable sources — is still promising to be carbon neutral by 2085.

To move toward this goal, National Geographic reported, Costa Rica is working to overhaul its public transportation and bicycle infrastructure, hoping to combat a traffic problem that increases the country's emissions by one-third.

"We live in one of the most beautiful places in the world," Costa Rica resident Giselle Ulate told National Geographic. "We need to protect it."

Ethiopia

A 2016 study revealed Ethiopia might actually be the rare country to reap some benefits from climate change, as the rising tides could make water more available in the country's Blue Nile Basin. But global warming also holds disastrous results for the developing nation: Chronic droughts already sparked a humanitarian crisis in early 2016, Climate Change News reported. And climate change could put the country's agrarian economy and coffee exports — which are projected to be worth $1.6 billion by 2025 — at risk.

The Blue Nile Falls in Ethiopia.  Wikimedia Commons

As a result, Ethiopia is taking the threat of climate change seriously. In 2011, the country established the Climate Resilient Green Economy to address climate change, which is the first such program of its kind in Africa. The CRGE's vision, the Africa Climate Change Resilience Alliance said, is to "build a middle-income climate resilient green economy by 2025 ... through zero net carbon growth." 

The country is working to develop renewable-energy sources by tapping into its vast water resources, Hydropower.org noted, and has been investing in hydropower development projects, which produce energy through water stored in dams. Over 80% of the electricity currently produced in Ethiopia is hydropower energy, Hydropower noted, and the country's vast hydropower infrastructure allows it to supply energy to the surrounding region.

The Gambia

West Africa's smallest country, the Gambia, is making strides when it comes to climate change. The country is one of the few to receive a "sufficient" rating from the Climate Action Tracker, which describes The Gambia as "one of the rare developing countries in the world to propose an ambitious conditional target that would bend its emissions onto a downward trajectory."

The Gambia established the New Renewal Energy Law in 2013, the CAT noted, which enacted a feed-in tariff for renewable energy sources. The law also set up a specific renewable energy fund to promote the use of renewable energy. 

In 2016, the Global Climate Change Alliance reported that the African country validated a national climate policy, which will help The Gambia "mainstream" climate change into the government's developmental planning. 

The GCCA also noted that the organization would help The Gambia with its coastal zone management. Thirty percent of The Gambia is at or below 10 meters below sea level, making it particularly vulnerable to flooding and rising sea levels.

"Given the urgency of these issues, prioritization is key," Darrell Sexstone, officer-in-charge of the EU Delegation in The Gambia said, the GCCA reported. "Fisheries, agriculture, even tourism are all at risk from climate change, and the Gambia's leaders are determined to minimize the impacts wherever they can."

Germany

Small countries aren't the only ones taking on climate change. Germany has become a leader in the fight against climate change, and its goals of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2020 and 95% by 2050 far exceed those set by the E.U. overall.

Germany's climate-change policy is anchored by Energiewende, the country's energy policy that seeks to move away from nuclear and fossil fuels and toward renewable energy sources. The policy, Inside Climate News explained, began in the 1980s as a grassroots movement to stop the use of nuclear power. 

As a result of Energiewende, a 2015 National Geographic article noted, the country got approximately 27% of its energy from renewable sources in 2014, which is three times the amount it received 10 years earlier and more than twice as much as the United States.

But the country's climate-change ambitions haven't been completely successful. The overwhelming demand for renewable energy led the country to eliminate a solar- and wind-power subsidy, the New York Times noted, as well as place limits on the country's additional capacity for renewable energy. In addition, greenhouse gas emissions have still continued to increase in spite of the government's efforts, rising by 1% in 2015.

German protestors call for a swifter transition to renewable energy sources in 2014.  Carsten Koall/Getty Images

Still, Germany remains committed to leading the charge against global warming. In November 2016, shortly after the presidential election cast doubts over the U.S.'s future commitment to curbing climate change, Germany reiterated its strong anti-climate-change position and laid out a plan to become carbon neutral by 2050.

"By 2050, the whole German economy will be fully renewable," State Secretary for the Ministry of Environment Jochen Flasbarth promised, as quoted by Inside Climate News.