Let Them Eat Carbon

The push for the World Bank and others to link their investments to addressing climate concerns stems from a fear that, unless developing countries take action to decarbonize now, their economic growth will lead to vast emissions that will derail all global efforts to limit climate change. This approach, which treats low- and middle-income countries as a monolith, is unhelpful to the conversation about climate change.

To understand better where emissions are concentrated and how to address them, we projected carbon dioxide emissions to 2035—the point at which observers believe they will level off in most countries due to technological advances and accumulating wealth—under some simple assumptions. Emissions from the world’s poorest 64 countries, those which get IDA loans, will remain very low for decades to come, even if their economies grow rapidly and without action to reduce emissions.

Pressuring low- and lower-middle-income countries to replace plans for gas power with solar or wind energy will have limited climate benefits compared to replacing coal generation in richer countries. It is just more efficient—and just—to focus on climate mitigation where emissions are high, and on poverty reduction where poverty is high. And given that there is no sign of an increase in aid spending, especially in the poorest countries, rich countries must not cannibalize development aid or reinvent the development finance architecture

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