Climate change

Low Carbon Development

Developing strategies to reduce poverty without worsening climate change.

Harnessing Nature, Tommy Clark Flickr | CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 
Edited by Tracy Zussman

One of the key questions at the heart of the development agenda concerns how countries can achieve poverty reduction and improved human development outcomes in ways that do not worsen climate change. The answer lies in identifying where the synergies and possible trade-offs are between reducing carbon emission and reducing poverty and then working out which of these are politically and economically feasible. Simple right?

Well... not quite. For one thing these synergies differ greatly from country to country - especially between middle income and low income countries - and their feasibility will be tied to the extent to which those countries buy-in to the low carbon development agenda.

Carbon emissions are produced from activities across the whole economy but the relative importance of different sectors for economic growth and poverty reduction varies enormously between countries. The energy sector is likely to be important in every country, but the relative importance of other sectors like agriculture, transport and waste management will need to be weighed up against the potential benefits of greener growth - better energy security, new opportunities for jobs and exports, improvements in health etc. In addition, the links between climate change adaptation and opportunities for building resilience and reducing vulnerabilities to climate change should also be considered.

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Alan Stanley 

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Low Emissions Development Strategy (LEDS)

Governments need to be able to assess these complex synergies and trade-offs as rigorously as possible in order to make decisions and implement appropriate actions. In the jargon of low carbon development this analysis and planning process is called a Low Emissions Development Strategy (LEDS).

Because of the wide variation in what different countries will need from LEDS there is no universal formula or set of tools for producing them. However several agencies have initiatives that support the development of LEDS in various ways. These include UNDP, EU, the World Bank's ESMAP programme, CDKN, ClimaSouth, LEDS Global Partnership (LEDS GP) and various bilateral donors.

Green Growth: A New Model for Sustainable Development in Asia

Asia LEDS Partnership presents Green Growth: A New Model for Sustainable Development in Asia

Continue reading: Key elements of strategies


Low Carbon Development Key issues
Routledge, 2013
Low Carbon Development: Key Issues is the first comprehensive textbook to address the interface between international development and climate change in a carbon constrained world.It discusses the key conceptual, empirical and policy-related issues of low carbon development and takes an international and interdisciplinary approach to the subject by drawing on insights from across the natural sciences and social sciences whilst embedding the discussion in a global context.
Planning for a low carbon future: lessons learned from seven country studies
Energy Sector Management Assistance Programme [World Bank / UNDP], 2012
Developing countries are faced with the dual challenge of reducing poverty while improving management of natural capital and mitigating the emission of greenhouse gases (GHG) and local pollutants. The challenge is particularly acute for large, rapidly growing economies, such as India, China and Brazil. In 2007 the Energy Sector Management Program (ESMAP) and the World Bank began to provide support to countries to develop long-term frameworks for reducing GHG emissions in a way that is compatible with economic growth objectives. This report presents lessons learned from seven country studies.
Low-carbon development for the least developed countries
London School of Economics, 2011
The contribution of the least developed countries (LDCs) to the greenhouse gas problem is very small. LDCs accounted for just over 4% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 2005 and only 0.3% of cumulative carbon dioxide emissions from energy (World Resources Institute, 2010).  Despite this the authors argue that LDCs should follow low-carbon development paths appropriate to their development needs – if certain conditions are satisfied.Why?
Low-Emission Development Strategies (LEDS): technical institutional and policy lessons
OECD Development Centre, 2010
Mitigation and adaptation climate change policy cuts across all sectors of the economy and broader national priorities, such as poverty alleviation, sustainable development and economic growth. This paper outlines the evolution of the low-emission development strategies (LEDS) concept in the climate policy discourse and explores the existing strategies, action plans and documents.

Key elements of strategies

Learning from the development of LEDS to date suggests that strategy processes are likely to need to include a number of key elements. Firstly they require a well defined vision that reflects the particular country context and development goals. They will then need to gather data to understand the current situation with respect to greenhouse gas emissions and the socio-economic and environmental context. This data then provides a baseline from which planners can model future scenarios for  the medium to long term, analyse the costs and benefits of different options and, ultimately, prioritise the most appropriate and beneficial policies and measures.

Elements of effective LEDS ClimaSouth 2015.jpg

Elements of effective LEDS, ClimaSouth 2015

Elements of effective LEDS, ClimaSouth 2015

Source: Low-Emission Development Strategy (LEDS) Handbook no.5, ClimaSouth, 2015

For the strategy to succeed will require the buy-in of a wide range of stakeholders from government ministries, local government, the private sector, civil society and the general public so a detailed mapping of who needs to be involved and some creative thinking about how to engage with those groups, from the very beginning of the process, is important.

The resulting strategy needs to integrate well with other national or local government development plans and provide sector specific actions that take account of both the technical capacity and financial resources required. These should be presented clearly showing how priorities were determined in a transparent and inclusive manner.

Continue reading: Back to introduction


Low-Emission Development Strategy (LEDS) Handbook no.5
ClimaSouth, 2015
This handbook reflects the content presented, and the discussions held, during the ClimaSouth LEDS Seminar held in Marrakech, on 16-17 April 2015. The handbook is intended as an introduction to the concept of Low-Emission Development Strategies (LEDS). It discusses steps towards developing such strategies, highlighting that low-emission development paths can achieve sustainable development, turning challenges into opportunities for national economies.
Low Carbon Development Strategies: A primer on framing nationally appropriate mitigation actions (NAMAs) in Developing Countries
UNEP Risø Centre on Energy, Climate and Sustainable Development, 2011
UNEP and UNEP Risø Centre are engaged in providing financial and technical support to a number of countries working on Low Carbon Development Strategies (LCDS) and piloting Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMAs).
Financing Pathways for Low Emissions and Climate Resilient Development
Climate and Development Knowledge Network, 2014
Shifting the global economy onto a 2°C trajectory implies a rapid shift of existing investment patterns and far reaching transformation in technology, infrastructure and practises, including the adoption of new financing and business models. A key challenge for developing countries is how to develop a national climate agenda that is fully integrated with development objectives so that the new paradigm balances social, economic and environmental objectives.
Preparing low-emission climate-resilient development strategies
United Nations Development Programme, 2011
This report is an Executive Summary of a series of manuals and guidebooks in support of low-emission climate-resilient development strategy (LECRDS). The manuals and guidebooks draw upon the experience and information generated by UNDP’s support for climate change adaptation and mitigation projects and National Communications to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).