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GIGA Focus Global

Not on the "Paris Track": Climate Protection Efforts in Developing Countries

Number: 8 | 12/2016 | ISSN: 1862-3581

In December 2015 world leaders agreed upon a new global climate agreement in an attempt to limit the global temperature increase to 2 degrees Celsius. Despite the general optimism after the Paris agreement and well-intended new commitments during the recent Marrakech conference, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are growing strongly in developing countries, where there is a desire for prosperity. If the dual challenge of reducing GHG emissions and achieving economic development cannot be addressed, the world will fail to meet the desired climate targets.

  • GHG emissions continue to grow, which threatens climate stabilisation. This growth now comes mostly from the developing world, and many developing countries are on a CO2-intensive development path.

  • The Paris agreement will not be more than the sum of its parts. The aggregate climate protection efforts that result from country-level nationally determined contributions (NDCs) are very likely to fall short of the mitigation actions needed for climate stabilisation.

  • There is a lack of concrete actions by a number of developing countries. Domestic climate policy is either inexistent in certain states or the policies implemented are insufficient, as we illustrate with evidence from Indonesia, Mexico, South Africa, and Thailand.

  • The huge gap between the objectives of the Paris agreement and what is happening “on the ground” reflects significant barriers to decarbonising the world’s energy and transport systems. The short-term economic, political, and social costs of reforms are key barriers.

Policy Implications

Developing countries cannot be blamed for their economic development ambitions. To trigger the transformational change required to curb GHG emissions calls for immediate policy responses. International agreements and cooperation need to support emerging middle-income economies with a clear focus on mitigation actions that matter, such as – in particular – taxing carbon through green fiscal reform. At the same time, climate finance for low-income economies should systematically seek to prevent lock-in effects.


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The German Institute for Global and Area Studies (GIGA) – Leibniz-Institut für Globale und Regionale Studien in Hamburg publishes the Focus series on Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and global issues. The GIGA Focus is edited and published by the GIGA. The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the institute. Authors alone are responsible for the content of their articles. GIGA and the authors cannot be held liable for any errors and omissions, or for any consequences arising from the use of the information provided.

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