Supporting Low Carbon Development: Six country cases

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A year ago I was assigned from a World Bank operations team providing support to countries in Europe and Central Asia on energy, climate mitigation and adaptation to work in a Bank administered trust fund, the Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP), as a thematic coordinator for energy and climate change in this program. One of my roles is to coordinate a program that is providing support to six emerging economies—Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico and South Africa—that are proactively seeking to identify opportunities and related financial, technical and policy requirements to move towards a low carbon growth path.

The program has been underway for two years and individual country studies have been managed by World Bank operational teams. The governments of these countries have initiated country-specific studies to assess their goals and development priorities, in conjunction with greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation opportunities, and examine the additional costs and benefits of lower carbon growth. This requires analysis of various development pathways—policy and investment options that contribute to growth and development objectives while moderating increases in GHG emissions.

ESMAP’s donors have a strong interest in supporting knowledge exchange and transfer in general and we are partnering now with the World Bank Institute on how best we can develop and support a knowledge program around the Low Carbon Growth Country Study Program. We see two valuable knowledge outputs emerging. First, a process to establish low carbon pathways and second, a growing body of knowledge and data, which can be used to help other countries identify low cost opportunities to reduce their GHG emissions. The knowledge generated is broad due to the varied scope and focus of each study that responds to national priorities and spans multiple sectors and issues: land use change and forestry, renewable energy, energy efficiency, transport, policy implementation, financing, macro-economic modeling and capacity building.

Results are also beginning to emerge. Studies confirm opportunities for growth on lower carbon pathways in all six countries and significant GHG reduction potential in: energy efficiency, demand side management, renewable power production, sustainable transport, forestry and cogeneration, among others. Steps are being taken to implement mitigation strategies, but practical problems, capacity limitations, and market and institutional barriers are endemic. Stakeholders spanning multiple sectors of the economy—including the public and private sector, academics and civil society—are central to the study and time spent on engaging key constituents has supported sustainability and a national dialogue on lower carbon development.


On September 10, 2009 we jointly hosted a workshop “Low Carbon Growth Country Studies: Emerging Lessons and Results” with other World Bank colleagues to share emerging lessons from the work in these six countries and to initiate discussion on possible next steps.

The Center for Clean Air Policy, Climate Works Foundation/ Project Catalyst and The UK Department for International Development (DFID) participated in the event, sharing their views on the best ways to extract and share lessons from current activities and direct future efforts to a broader country audience. Gerry Duffy, Senior Adviser on Climate Change, Finance and Middle Income Countries at DFID charged us to “be ambitious… post-Copenhagen” and to “go big into low income countries”’ but saw as one of our challenges “how best to link to adaptation.”

A number of opportunities were identified to streamline and standardize studies collaboratively to facilitate uptake by other countries. We could begin to refine and share tools and methodologies; develop guidance to ensure consistency across studies (e.g. application of discount rates, establishing baselines, understand data needs and sources); identify specific short-term investments and medium-term actions that make economic sense now (e.g. energy efficiency, sustainable transport) and are applicable across countries; and build capacity and share best practices for implementation.

Looking ahead, ESMAP and the World Bank Institute will continue to share experiences and develop knowledge products drawing on the tools, results and lessons generated from these pilot studies to transfer know-how to, and build capacity in, low- and middle-income countries.

The six low carbon growth country studies will be published over the coming months.

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