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 we argue that LDCs should follow low-carbon development paths appropriate to their development needs – if certain conditions are satisfied.

Why? First, tackling many of the market and government failures that stand in the way of low-carbon development would enhance productivity and well-being in LDCs themselves.

Second, if a global deal is eventually achieved, progress will be redirected towards low-carbon technology. For LDCs to share in growth from this source, their growth will have to be ‘green’ too. Third, LDCs offer the world some relatively cheap options for reducing emissions, particularly from agriculture, land use change and deforestation. There are efficiency grounds encouraging LDCs to exploit these options to minimise the global costs of decarbonisation.

However, the global costs of decarbonisation should be shared equitably with the condition that, where reducing greenhouse gas emissions in LDCs entails costs, poor people should not bear these costs. Rich people should pay towards LDC mitigation burdens, on top of any assistance to help LDCs deal with the impacts of climate change.


Bowen, A., and Fankhauser, S. January-March 2011. Low-carbon development for the least developed countries. World Economics, v.12, pp.145-162.

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