A new study by the British conultancy, Maplecroft, rating 183 countries on their CO2 emissions from energy use, has identified United Arab Emirates, Australia, USA, Canada, Netherlands and Saudi Arabia (in that order) as the six nations with the worst performance in relation to CO2 pollution.

The index is calculated by evaluating countries’ annual CO2 emissions from energy use, CO2 emissions per capita, and cumulative CO2 emissions from 1900 to 2006 to provide a complete picture of a country’s CO2 polluting record.

The poor performance of the UAE and Saudi Arabia reflects their near 100% reliance on fossil fuels and their use of energy intensive desalination plants to produce drinking water.

According to Maplecroft’s Head of Maps and Indices, Fiona Place, the index has particular significance for business. “As the world moves towards a low carbon economy, more rigorous environmental policies may leave companies exposed to costly operating expenses and new investment requirements … Energy intensive sectors, such as the extractive sector and logistics, will be particularly vulnerable, but all areas of business need to monitor the associated risks” she said.

The world’s largest overall emitter of CO2, China, ranks 26th on the index – its per capita emissions are less than one-fifth of that in Australia. Nevertheless, China’s president, Hu Juntao, has responded to his country’s growing emissions with an ambitious call to cut emissions per unit of economic output by 40-45% of 2005 levels by 2020.