The U.S. is the world’s biggest spender on clean energy efforts, yet only Norway and Finland are living up to a pledge to double public investments needed for a transition to cleaner energy, a survey found. 

The U.S. spent $6.8 billion last year on clean energy research, development and demonstration, according to the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation study released last week. Norway, Finland, Japan and the U.S. are making the largest contributions, relative to the size of their economies, according to the survey of the EU and 24 countries.

Australia, Italy and the Netherlands rank the lowest of developed countries in the survey.

The nations in the survey are part of Mission Innovation, a four-year-old clean energy initiative that promised to double investment in energy innovation in parallel with the 2015 Paris Agreement. The ITIF study considered how well signatories have followed through on their commitments and what measures they’ve taken to lessen the impact of climate change. 

Norway and Finland are the only nations that invest as much as experts recommend in public clean energy RD&D (roughly 0.6%-0.8% of GDP), according to the report, authored by ITIF public policy analysts Colin Cunliff and David M. Hart. With the third-highest level of spending, Japan has seen a particularly strong upward trend in spending. 

The U.S. remains a leader in many areas of energy innovation, despite announcing its intention to leave the Paris Agreement. Its contributions to basic energy science research are larger than all countries in the survey combined.

Most countries are falling short of their goals, and all could do more, the study concluded. Countries will have to increase their efforts because without significant energy innovation it will be almost impossible to meet global climate emission goals. 

  • Seven countries in the Mission Innovation Group — China, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Indonesia, India, Mexico, and South Korea — subsidized fossil fuel use by $171 billion in 2018. The 24 nations in the group and EU spent just $22.7 billion on clean energy.
  • Most countries target clean energy with their public investments. Mexico, China, Australia, Norway, Italy, and Canada spend at least a sixth of their investments on fossil fuel programs.
  • Despite joining the Paris Agreement and the Mission Innovation initiative, nine countries — South Korea, France, Italy, Netherlands, Australia, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and Finland, and the EU — invest less in absolute terms than they did in 2015.

Karma Takeaway: Despite signing on to the Mission Initiative, most advanced countries are falling short of pledges. They will be accountable based on clean air, not hot air.