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Low carbon development

This module explores the main issues around climate change mitigation and low carbon development.

Global climate change poses a serious threat to international development efforts. Developing countries -and especially the poor- have historically contributed very little to climate change. However, they are often the most vulnerable to climate change due to their limited resources and limited capacity to adapt to climate change.

At the same time, developed countries and emerging economies are struggling to mitigate emissions that lead to climate change. To mitigate the emissions leading to climate change and achieve human development, there is a need for serious global commitment to low carbon development. Low carbon development is a new development model, which aims to achieve these two goals simultaneously.

This module elaborates the key issues and concepts in the field of climate change mitigation and low carbon development. It discusses how greenhouse gas emissions can be mitigated and how low carbon development can be implemented in policy and practice.

The module also critically discusses some of the global and national challenges; it also addresses policy responses, such as those of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Topics covered

  • Low development and climate change mitigation: origins, concepts and key issues
  • The economics of low carbon development
  • The social dimensions of low carbon development
  • The politics of low carbon development
  • The international policy architecture for low carbon development
  • Technology and innovation for low carbon development
  • Carbon markets
  • Sectoral approaches to low carbon development: Energy, transportation, agriculture and forestry
  • Low carbon development in low and middle income countries, and high income countries
  • International action for low carbon development and climate change mitigation.

Learning outcomes

By completing this module, you will be able to:

  • To understand the links and recognise inter-dependencies between climate change, greenhouse gas emissions and development.
  • To critically discuss the opportunities and barriers to climate change mitigation and low carbon development.
  • To critically discuss the key issues and concepts in the field of climate change mitigation and low carbon development from a theoretical and practical perspective.
  • To understand low carbon pathways and their implications.
  • To be familiar with and interpret national and international policy responses to climate change mitigation and low carbon development


  • a 2 hour written examination worth 50%
  • a 3000 word written assignment worth 40%
  • an online seminar discussion worth 10%

Essential reading

A sample of essential reading:

  • Urban, F. and Nordensvard, J., 2013. Low Carbon Development: Key Issues. Earthscan, Routledge, Oxon.
  • Mulugetta, Y. and Urban, F., 2010. Deliberating on low carbon development. Energy Policy, Vol.38(12):7546-9.
  • Meadowcraft, J., 2011. Engaging with the politics of sustainability transitions. Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions, Vol.1(1):70-75.
  • Baer, P., Athanasiou, T., Kartha, S. and Kemp-Benedict, E., 2009. The Greenhouse Development Rights Framework: the right to development in a climate constrained world. 2nd edition. Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung, Berlin. Available at:
  • The Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, 2014. Better growth, better climate. The New Climate Economy Report. The synthesis report.