The last two decades have witnessed an explosion in the publication of country indexes that measure and rank the relative national policy performances of governments. To illustrate the challenges of using and applying these tools we focus on those four indexes that have been specifically designed in response to the emergence of the relatively new policy area of climate change. We investigate if and how these tools provide information about the evolving landscape of climate policy in the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) countries, widely considered the future battleground of climate policy. We find that even for this relatively narrow area different methodologies exist. Interpreting and applying climate policy indexes across countries therefore requires a solid understanding of underlying objectives and data used for each index. A clear gap is the underrepresentation of adaptation policy in all four indexes. Our investigation concludes with a reflection on how climate policy indexes are currently applied, including business planning. These tools provide informative pointers that can be of use for stakeholders, nevertheless they should not be considered in isolation, but need to be complemented by a broader view on what is driving particular responses to climate change in a country.
Those stakeholders wishing to influence and shape climate policy in these countries need to look beyond theseindexes, to be able to engage at the earliest stages of the policy cycle. Indexes cannot reflect on the dynamics of thepolicy process.
Climate policy indexes can provide input to strategic planning tools. As climate policy is of growing interest to some investors and businesses these tools can assist them in their strategic planning as well as their engagement efforts with governments, particularly when assessing the potential of new or emerging markets.
Climate adaptation policy is clearly underrepresented in the current climate policy indexes. This is an important gap and may be addressed by specific ‘adaptation policy indexes’ in the future.
These tools provide informative pointers that can be of use for stakeholders, but they should be complemented by a broader view on what is driving particular responses to climate change in a country.
Assessing and comparing national public policies certainly has value, but particularly in the area of climate change it is important to also reflect on other forms of governance, beyond the traditional national level, that could drive climate change action. Examples are private sector NGO agreements or city networks.
Those stakeholders who consult and use climate policy indexes need to be aware of underlying technical challenges that get easily overlooked in the quest for benchmarking policies in a simple, quantitative way.