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Low carbon development

Meeting the challenge of providing access to sustainable energy sources
The key question at the heart of the low carbon development agenda is: how can countries achieve development – especially rapid poverty reduction and improved human development outcomes – in ways that do not worsen climate change? One crucial issue is therefore identifying where the synergies lie between reducing carbon emission and reducing poverty, and where there may be trade-offs. These will differ from country to country, and especially between middle income and low income countries. Another is identifying what is politically feasible, and how the bounds of feasibility may be expanded by increasing buy-in to the low carbon development agenda. One way of doing this is to emphasise the co-benefits of greener growth, such as better energy security, new opportunities for jobs and exports, and improvements in health

These tasks are particularly hard because carbon emissions are produced from activities across the whole economy. The energy sector is important in all countries, and deforestation is particularly important for a number of developing countries, including many low income countries where agriculture plays a central role.

Low carbon development is an area where policy is evolving and policy makers are still learning, but where some principles for the use of climate finance are emerging.

This key issues guide highlights a range of central issues on low carbon development and presents the complex nature of this agenda. The sections below discuss three important issues:
  • Frameworks for guiding low carbon development
  • Low carbon energy
  • Low carbon land management, including avoiding deforestation
Key resource: Low-carbon development for the least developed countries
M. Carpenter / Panos Pictures
This paper argues that least developed countries (LDCs) are greatly threatened by human induced climate change, because their dependence on rain-fed agriculture and forestry as sources of employment and income make them vulnerable to climatic changes and variability. Many LDCs are already subject to climatic stress due to their location in the tropics and other areas subject to a high incidence of weather-related shocks. The paper notes that the most important source of greenhouse gas emissions in LDCs is land use change, in particular deforestation. Halting deforestation is, thus, a key priority for low carbon development.

Low carbon development frameworks

Low carbon development involves balancing two objectives: reducing poverty and reducing carbon emissions (against business-as-usual growth). At a basic level this means finding ways of reducing emissions that are cost-effective. More . . .

Low carbon energy

Energy plays a key role in development, and there is an urgent need to expand the access that poor people have to modern forms of energy, including electricity. But at the same time, energy is the single largest source of carbon emissions. More . . .

Land management and avoiding deforestation

Deforestation is a significant source of carbon emissions in a few large tropical rainforest nations (for example D.R. Congo and Indonesia) and in low income countries, where it arises because of agriculture. Taking effective steps to avoid deforestation is complex. More . . .

Image credits: ACap | Claudio Schwartz | NTU - Brackenhurst | Arne Hoel/World Bank.

Latest Documents

Review of low carbon growth studies and a framework for implementation for developing countries
Energy Sector Management Assistance Programme [World Bank / UNDP] 2009
This document is a review of the low carbon growth studies conducted in six emerging economies: Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico and South Africa. These countries, with the help of the Energy Sector Management Assistance Progra...
Literature review on the economics of climate change to assess low carbon growth options for developing countries
S. Pye; P. Watkiss; M. Savage / Stockholm Environment Institute 2010
This literature review assesses the extent to which developing countries can make the transition towards low or lower patterns of growth. It explores the potential impacts of climate change on economic growth and the investment needs ...
How to limit deforestation through the design and implementation of REDD policies
M. Kanninen; D. Murdiyarso; F. Seymour / Center for International Forestry Research 2007
This paper provides a brief overview of the current knowledge and data on deforestation rates, research on the causes of deforestation and forest degradation and relevant policy options. It highlights issues of particular relevance to...
How can expansion of farmland be sustainable
K. Deininger; D. Byerlee; J. Lindsay / World Bank 2011
This paper analyses issues that affect the role of agriculture as a source of economic development, rural livelihoods and environmental services. Using experiences of land expansion in Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, Eastern Eu...
Analysis of a prototype REDD project aimed at reducing carbon emissions at a sub-national level
A. Densham; R. Czebiniak; D. Kessler; R. Skar / Greenpeace International 2009
This paper examines the Noel Kempff Climate Action Project (NKCAP) as a prototype for future sub-national projects to reduce emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD). It evaluates the ability of the project to deliver on cl...
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