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Climate change and development are closely intertwined. Poor people in developing countries will feel the impacts first and worst (and already are) because of vulnerable geography and lesser ability to cope with damage from severe weather and rising sea levels. In short, climate change will be awful for everyone but catastrophic for the poor.
Preventing dangerous climate change is critical for promoting global development. And saving tropical forests is essential to doing both. Frances Seymour and Jonah Busch's new book, Why Forests? Why Now?, illustrates how today—more than ever—saving forests is more feasible, affordable, and urgent.
Historically, the responsibility for climate change, though, rested with the rich countries that emitted greenhouse gases unimpeded from the Industrial Revolution on — and become rich by doing so. Now, some of the most quickly developing countries have become major emitter themselves just as all countries are compelled by the common good to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. A major challenge of reaching a global deal on climate change was to find a way for poor countries to continue developing under the planetary carbon limits that rich countries have already pushed too far. That will involve scaling up finance to deploy clean technologies, to adapt to the effects of climate change, and to compensate countries that provide the global public good of reducing emissions, especially by reducing tropical deforestation.
CGD’s research and policy engagement on climate and development has had two aims: to strengthen the intellectual foundation for a viable international accord to come out of the COP 21 in Paris and to provide data, research, and analysis that policymakers and others can act upon even in the absence of an international agreement.
As a major source of greenhouse gas emissions, developed countries have an indisputable responsibility to address global warming. But the developing country argument that, as blameless victims of climate change they should be unfettered by emissions regulations, is wrong. In this working paper, CGD senior fellow David Wheeler and research assistant Kevin Ummel empirically test that assertion and come to a startling conclusion: the South would soon face a climate crisis even if the North and all its emissions had never existed.
Nearly everybody agrees that cutting greenhouse gas emissions to save the planet will require market-based instruments such as carbon taxes or cap-and-trade. But so far there is no reliable source of data to support such a system. In this new working paper, CGD senior fellow David Wheeler, who leads CGD's work on climate change and is the architect of the new CARMA database, argues that the international community should prepare now by establishing an institution to collect, verify and publicly disclose information about CO2 emissions from all global sources. The paper implicitly sets forth the underlying rationale for CARMA, CGD's contribution to such a global effort.
Each year since 2003, the Commitment to Development Index (CDI) has ranked 21 rich countries on their dedication (or not!) to policies that benefit the five billion people living in poor countries. The CDI moves beyond simple comparisons of aid funding and in so doing embodies the mission of CGD, which addresses all government policies that affect poorer countries. This report summarizes the results of this year's Index, discusses key ideas that underpin each component and shows how countries' scores have changed over time.