Low-carbon Development

Over one billion people in the developing world still lack access to electricity, and over two billion still rely on fuelwood or charcoal for cooking and heating.

A Datang International Power Generation Co. Ltd. wind farm in Gansu province, China. China has set a target for renewable energy consumption of 40 percent of the market by the year 2050. Credit: Markel Redondo / Panos

Extending access to energy to poor people is a crucial part of the development agenda, as is meeting the energy needs for industry as the economies of developing countries grow. But meeting these needs in a carbon-constrained world is a huge challenge.

Researchers at IDS and in the STEPS Centre are exploring low-carbon development from a number of angles. We particularly focus on the way that policies, politics, institutions and markets shape innovation and investment in, and use of, low-carbon energy.

IDS research on low-carbon development includes:

  • How emerging economies, particularly China and India, pursue transitions from high-carbon to low-carbon development. This research includes the approaches these countries take to investments in renewable energy and to low-carbon innovation. It also examines the influence their emergence has on climate change mitigation, energy security and economic competitiveness, and the implications for other countries. We focus on the impacts both on developed countries and low-income countries, particularly in Africa.
  • Whether and how investment in and use of low-carbon technologies, particularly in low-income countries, can be part of a development model that reduces poverty and transforms livelihoods to make people less vulnerable to climate change.

Business Innovation Facility

The Business Innovation Facility (BIF) aims to catalyse market systems change in order to benefit poor producers, consumers and employees More details

Global Power Shift and Low Carbon Transformation

Two transformations are likely to dominate the first half of the twenty-first century. One is the shift in economic power from the West (North America and Western Europe) to the East (China and the East Asian production system). The second is the transition from a high to low carbon economy. More details

Green Growth Diagnostics for Africa

This project is looking into the heart of the electricity supply crisis in sub-Saharan Africa. More details

Political Economy of Low Carbon Investment in China and India

This project investigates whether and how coalitions of public, private and civic actors influence low carbon investment. More details

Pro-Poor Access to Electricity

This project is part of an accountable grant provided to IDS by DFID to analyse the factors and policies that increase benefits of renewable electricity provision for the poor and support the design of interventions that take these into account More details

Pro-Poor Electricity Provision

This programme will develop and promote evidence-based policy and programme guidance on low carbon energy investments to benefit poor people, especially women and girls. More details

Rent Management: the Heart of Green Industrial Policy

At the heart of green industrial policy is rent management: government creating and withdrawing opportunities for highly profitable investment. This project asks what the key factors are for rent management to succeed. More details

Who Drives Climate Policies in the Rising Powers?

This project is concerned with the political economy analysis of climate change policies. The central question of the project is who drives/obstructs climate change policies in the rising powers, paying special attention to renewable energy policies. More details

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IDS publications on international development research

Investment in Renewable Energy, Fossil Fuel Prices and Policy Implications for Latin America and the Caribbean

Financing for Development 264 (2017)

This paper examines if recent sharp declines in the price of oil and other fossil fuels will discourage private investment in renewable energy, which is key for climate change mitigation. The increase in private renewables investment in the Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) region have been driven by sharp declines in costs alongside supportive policies. More details

Non-IDS publication

Who Drives China's Renewable Energy Policies? Understanding the Role of Industrial Corporations

Environmental Development (2016)

This paper investigates the rise of a policy community in China's renewable energy sectors. More details

Non-IDS publication

Virtuous Circle: How the Circular Economy Can Create Jobs and Save Lives in Low and Middle-income Countries

This short paper – primarily for development policy-makers and practitioners – highlights a significant opportunity to accelerate progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals. More details

Non-IDS publication

Guest Editorial: Comparing Low-carbon Innovation Paths in Asia and Europe

Science and Public Policy 43.4 (2016)

The main objective of this Special Section of Science and Public Policy is to examine whether, how and why low-carbon innovation paths differ between the leading countries in Europe and the rising powers in Asia. More details

Non-IDS publication

Africa and the Export of China's Clean Energy Revolution

Third World Quarterly (2016)

This paper explores the growing involvement of China in the development and transfer of renewable energy technologies in Africa and examines the key drivers and obstacles shaping Chinese renewable energy investments and exports. More details

ER196_FrontCover

A New Era for China’s Renewable Energy Development? External Shocks, Internal Struggles and Policy Changes

IDS Evidence Report 196 (2016)

As the world’s largest greenhouse gas (GHG) polluter, China’s annual emissions accounted for almost 30 per cent of the world’s total emissions in 2014 – more than the United States (15 per cent) and the European Union (10 per cent) combined. More details

ER180_FrontCover

Who Drives Climate-relevant Policies in the Rising Powers?

IDS Evidence Report 180 (2016)

The future of human life on our planet is influenced increasingly by what goes on in the rising powers. This report presents a political economy analysis of their policies, comparing China, India, Brazil and South Africa. More details

Non-IDS publication

Innovation Paths in Europe and Asia: Divergence or Convergence?

Science and Public Policy 43.4 (2015)

This paper asks what insights the literature provides on divergence versus convergence of innovation paths in Europe and Asia. More details

ER160_FrontCover

The Political Economy of Low-Carbon Investment: the Role of Coalitions and Alignments of Interest in the Green Transformation in China

IDS Evidence Report 160 (2015)

The primary motivation behind this research is the need to accelerate the supply of renewable energy because of the important role that it plays in mitigating climate change and in fostering sustainable development. More details

Non-IDS publication

Rent Management - The Heart of Green Industrial Policy

New Political Economy (2015)

At the heart of green industrial policy is rent management: government creating and withdrawing opportunities for profitable investment.This paper asks what the key factors are for rent management to succeed. More details

image for non-ids publications

How Does China's Rise Affect the Green Transformation?

Int. J. Technology and Globalisation 8.1 (2015)

The rising powers have become the default movers and shakers in the global economy, including the green economy. This article shows how China has become more powerful in renewable energy and examines the implications for the green transformation. More details

ER132_FrontCover

Who Drives Climate-relevant Policies in Brazil?

IDS Evidence Report 132 (2015)

In this report, the central question of our research is who drives/obstructs climate-relevant policies in Brazil, paying special attention to renewable energy policies, climate policies and politics. More details

Non-IDS publication

Reflections on the Prospects for Pro-Poor Low-Carbon Growth

Eradicating extreme poverty from the face of the earth once and for all is set to be a central goal of the emerging post-2015 development agenda. Without a rapid transition of the world economy to a low-carbon growth path over the next few decades, this ambitious goal will remain elusive. More details

This is the cover for the IDS Report, 'How does the Global Power Shift affect the Low Carbon Transformation?'

How does the Global Power Shift Affect the Low Carbon Transformation?

Report (2014)

Two transformations are likely to dominate the first half of the twenty-first century. One is the shift in economic power from the West (North America and Western Europe) to the East (China and the East Asian production system). The second is the transition from a high to low carbon economy. More details

Non-IDS publication

Enabling Frameworks for Low-Carbon Technology Transfer to Small Emerging Economies: Analysis of Ten Case Studies in Chile

Energy Policy (2013)

Technology transfer is crucial to reduce the carbon intensity of developing countries. Enabling frameworks need to be in place to allow foreign technologies to flow, to be absorbed and to bring about technological change in the recipient country. More details

Non-IDS publication

Low Carbon Development: Key Issues

Low Carbon Development: Key Issues is the first comprehensive textbook to address the interface between international development and climate change in a carbon constrained world. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Social Justice and Low Carbon Development: Key Issues

Low Carbon Development: Key Issues (2013)

Low Carbon Development: Key Issues is the first comprehensive textbook to address the interface between international development and climate change in a carbon constrained world. More details

IDS publications on international development research

From Sustainable Development to the Green Transformation - A Rough Guide

There is increasing realisation in government, civil society and business circles that the global economic system is out of balance with the earth's carrying capacity. Continuing on the same path is not sustainable. More details

IDS publications on international development research

China's Impact on the Global Wind Power Industry

Journal of Current Chinese Affairs 1/2013 (2013)

China's economic rise has transformed the global economy in a number of manufacturing industries. This paper investigates whether China's transformative influence extends to the new green economy. More details

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