Germany's Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel addresses the UN Climate Change Conference Wednesday knowing Germany ranks fifth in a list of greenhouse gas emitting countries who do the most to fight global warming.
Germany is a world leader in renewable energy
The index ranks 56 countries that are part of the Kyoto Protocol or that contribute at least one per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. The calculations by the Bonn-based environmental group Germanwatch took into account emissions levels, emissions trends and climate policy.
Sweden, Britain and Denmark topped the rankings. But, Christoph Bals, the director of Germanwatch, said the current efforts by the top scorers are not enough to effectively curb and reverse global warming. Even Sweden is like a one-eyed king among the blind, he said.
The United States -- the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases -- ranked at 53, with only China, Malaysia and Saudi Arabia doing worse.
What happens after 2012?
Sigmar Gabriel is in Nairobi for the Climate Change Conference
The index's release came as the world's environment ministers gathered in the Kenyan capital Nairobi for the decisive phase of the UN Climate Change Conference.
The ministers are under pressure to develop a framework to replace the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.
The German delegation at the conference, which finishes on Friday, is led by Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel.
Germany's emissions on the rise
Before leaving for Nairobi, Gabriel said that based on preliminary data, Germany's carbon dioxide emissions actually rose in 2003 and 2004. He said this was due to increases in emissions from power plants and industry, even though they had promised to cut those emissions.
"That means we will have to tighten the screws even further," Gabriel said.
WWF says Germany's Frimmersdorf coal-fired power plant is the second worst climate polluter in Europe.
Under the Kyoto Protocol, Germany is committed to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 21 percent from 1990 to 2012. Much of Germany's initial advances toward the target are due to the collapse of former East Germany's heavily polluting industry.
"We'll have to take tougher measures," Gabriel said. "Despite their requirements to cut CO2 emissions, power plants and the industry actually increased those. Evidently, they exported more power or older power plants were used."
"If we don't reach our targets, then it will be difficult to convince the developing and newly industrialized countries to agree to a post-Kyoto protocol," he said.
Gabriel also stressed the need to help developing countries adapt to climate change because they weren't responsible for the greenhouse gas emissions causing the problems. The situation in Africa "is dramatic", he said.
US wakes up to climate change
But Gabriel said he saw welcome signals from the United States, even before last week's elections where the Democrats gained control of both houses.
Californian Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger introduced the first US cap on greenhouse gases
"The political climate in the United States on climate change has improved," he said. "It's interesting that a Republican governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, bucked the trend and won. Others are now saying 'We have to do more'."
The US, which produces around a quarter of the world's greenhouse gases, has refused to sign the Kyoto Protocol. The treaty obliges 39 of the world's most industrialized countries, which emit the lion's share of greenhouse gases, to cut emissions to combat global warming.