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Low-carbon economic growth possibilities

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This World Bank research focuses on economic drivers of greenhouse gas emission and the implications of policies and measures for mitigating emissions.

Contact: Govinda Timilsina,

 Research focus  |  Research outputs 


Currently, developing countries do not have any mandatory obligations to reduce their GHG emissions. However, without their participation, it is unlikely that global GHG concentrations can be limited to the level required to avert climate change.

The main concern of the developing countries is that any binding obligations to cut their GHG emissions would be costly in terms of their economic development, but it may be possible to substantially reduce developing countries’ GHG emissions without curtailing their expected economic growth because these countries possess a large number low-cost GHG mitigation options.

Such a low carbon economic development would produce a win-win situation where the economic growth of developing countries is maintained, or even enhanced, and GHG emissions are also reduced. However, there is a complete lack of knowledge on the extent to which a developing country could pursue a low carbon growth strategy, in other words, how much a developing country could reduce its GHG emissions without sacrificing its economic growth.

Our research aims to investigate GHG mitigation options that do not curtail expected economic growth in developing countries and their distributional consequences (e.g., income inequality and poverty).

Research outputs

"Atmospheric Stabilization of CO2 Emissions: Near-term Reductions and Intensity-based Targets," G.R. Timilsina, Energy Policy 36(6): 1927-36, 2008. (Based World Bank Policy Research Working Paper 4352, 2007. )

This study analyzes CO2 emissions reduction targets for various countries and geopolitical regions by the year 2030 in order to stabilize atmospheric concentrations of CO2 at the level of 450 ppm (550 ppm including non CO2 greenhouse gases). It also determines CO2 intensity cuts that would be needed in those countries and regions if the emission reductions were achieved through intensity-based targets while assuming no effect on forecasted economic growth. Considering that the stabilization of CO2 concentrations at 450 ppm requires the global trend of CO2 emissions to reverse before 2030, this study develops two scenarios: reversing the global CO2 trend in (i) 2020 and (ii) 2025. The study shows that global CO2 emissions would be 42 percent above the 1990 level in 2030 if the increasing trend of global CO2 emissions is reversed by 2020. If reversing the trend is delayed by 5 years, the 2030 global CO2 emissions would be 52 percent higher than the 1990 level. The study also finds that to achieve these targets while maintaining assumed economic growth, the global average CO2 intensity would require a 68 percent drop from the 1990 level or a 60 percent drop from the 2004 level by 2030.

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