After a tsunami triggered a meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in 2011, the world’s third- and fourth-largest exporters decided on radical changes to their energy policies. Both agreed that a break was needed from the grids of the past. In every other way, the approaches couldn’t have been more different.

Japan shut down its nuclear sector almost immediately and made up most of the difference by burning more coal. Germany announced a slower nuclear phaseout, along with support for the nascent wind and solar industries. Twelve years later, the differences are stark.

In Germany, a renewables boom pushed the zero carbon share of energy generation to 58% last year. Emissions per capita fell 21% relative to their 2010 level, even as real gross domestic product rose about 14% per person.