National policy assessment

The Climate Action Tracker project (CAT) assesses, amongst other things, the likelihood of a country to meet its stated climate pledge with the policies it has actually put in place.

For a more detailed understanding of the quality and coverage of a country’s climate-related policies, the CAT sometimes appraises a government’s policy package, measuring it against an ‘ideal’ low carbon policy package.

To date, the CAT has undertaken two detailed national policy assessments for two countries: Mexico and Australia.


The basis of the analysis is the collection of data and information on policy and its effectiveness. Information and data gathering is organised along the segments shown in the figure. The evaluation produces a qualitative assessment for the long and medium term, but also supports the quantification of policy impact, which results in emissions pathways for implemented and planned policies.

For the calculation of emissions pathways we use a simple and transparent spreadsheet-based bookkeeping tool. On the basis of a business-as-usual scenario we calculate the impact of already implemented policies as well as of planned policies to 2030. These scenarios provide the basis for assessing progress towards 2020 pledges and the overall trend towards 2030.

The low carbon vision

Based on the review of various low-carbon scenarios1, we developed a framework vision of a low carbon future. This constitutes the benchmark for the Climate Action Tracker. The common major features of the scenarios are as follows:

To make this happen, fundamental changes in all sectors are needed. Policies need to be evaluated against how far they are able to trigger these fundamental changes. No single instrument can achieve this. It is essential to combine single policy measures into a coherent package both within each policy area, as well as between the different areas.

Our approach does not require an explicit representation of these elements of the low-carbon vision in policies and measures. Rather, we use the method to assess how far a given country has progressed in implementing a comprehensive and economy-wide integrated set of instruments that facilitate this development.

In other words, the policy packages need to form a coherent and consistent strategy to achieve a long-term low-carbon future, eliminate barriers to implementation and enhance incentives for stakeholders and sectors to ultimately make an economy-wide transition.

From vision to policies

At the heart of the analysis is the definition of a ‘low carbon policy package’ that contains the policies necessary to reach a low carbon economy.

We look at both positive and negative aspects of policy, i.e. those that support the low carbon goal and those that are barriers and need to be removed.

We measure how effective a policy package is by looking at whether we can prove the direct relationship between the political influence on the actors (e.g. taxes, regulations, incentives) and the policy’s intended effect (reaching of target e.g. through sectoral change).

We only evaluate policy packages, i.e. all policies relevant within a segment, and not individual policies or measures. Often only the combination of a range of measures creates the desired impact.

The packages are designed to reflect the desired effect of policy instruments. We do not prescribe the use of specific policy tools and some will have an effect on a range of segments, like tax incentives or carbon trading mechanisms.

For a more detailed description see the methodology report accompanying the country assessment reports.


1 e.g. “The Energy report: 100% renewable Energy in 2050” (WWF 2011); “World Energy Outlook 2010“ (International Energy Agency (IEA) 2010e) and “Energy technology perspectives 2010” (International Energy Agency (IEA) ; The Economics of Low Stabilization: Model Comparison of Mitigation Strategies and Costs" (Edenhofer 2011); “Energy [r]evolution: a Sustainable Global Energy Outlook” (Greenpeace International and European Renewable Energy Council 2008)