Climate Change and Development: A Bottom-Up Approach to Mitigation for Developing Countries

in Climate Finance
Edited by Richard B. Stewart, Benedict Klingsbury, and Bryce Rudyk

A top-down approach – with internationally specified and binding national targets and timetables – has long been the preferred position of environmental advocates. But bottom-up approaches, such as policy measures to be devised on a country-by-country basis, have also been part of the policy grammar of the climate negotiations. For those who put climate change mitigation first (as opposed to those who seek to preserve sovereignty, or emphasize untrammeled economic growth), a focus on targets and timetables is an article of faith. This article suggests that focusing in the short run on explicit caps (or the implicit caps of climate plans) for developing countries is a misguided policy. It will not produce predictability of future emissions from current baselines, and in the short to medium term may be misguided for environmental reasons. Top-down approaches risk creating counterproductive incentives, such as incentives to set overly high emissions targets or to avoid early action. They may, in practice reduce, rather than increase, the predictability of emissions levels and of emissions reductions against BAU baselines or meaningful targets. The paper argues that strengthening domestic institutions in developing countries is needed for successful low-carbon development.

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