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Climate change and development are closely intertwined. Poor people in developing countries will feel the impacts first and worst (and already are) because of vulnerable geography and lesser ability to cope with damage from severe weather and rising sea levels. In short, climate change will be awful for everyone but catastrophic for the poor.
Preventing dangerous climate change is critical for promoting global development. And saving tropical forests is essential to doing both. Frances Seymour and Jonah Busch's new book, Why Forests? Why Now?, illustrates how today—more than ever—saving forests is more feasible, affordable, and urgent.
Historically, the responsibility for climate change, though, rested with the rich countries that emitted greenhouse gases unimpeded from the Industrial Revolution on — and become rich by doing so. Now, some of the most quickly developing countries have become major emitter themselves just as all countries are compelled by the common good to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. A major challenge of reaching a global deal on climate change was to find a way for poor countries to continue developing under the planetary carbon limits that rich countries have already pushed too far. That will involve scaling up finance to deploy clean technologies, to adapt to the effects of climate change, and to compensate countries that provide the global public good of reducing emissions, especially by reducing tropical deforestation.
CGD’s research and policy engagement on climate and development has had two aims: to strengthen the intellectual foundation for a viable international accord to come out of the COP 21 in Paris and to provide data, research, and analysis that policymakers and others can act upon even in the absence of an international agreement.
President Trump’s recent decision to pull the United States out of the Paris climate agreement—what does it mean for the agreement? For the climate? And for the US? CGD senior fellows Scott Morris, director of CGD’s US Development Policy Initiative, and Jonah Busch, coauthor of the recent book on climate change Why Forests? Why Now?, join this week’s podcast to discuss.
Last Thursday President Trump announced he’d withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement—a shameful act of self-harm. Condemnation has been swift, widespread, and gratifying. But if dangerous climate change is to be prevented then dissenting statements must be backed up with strong climate policies. Fortunately some countries, states, cities, and businesses are already matching words with deeds on climate. Here’s a rundown.
A decision by President Trump to remove the United States from the 2015 Paris climate agreement would be a shameful act of self-harm. The decision would hurt everyone in the world, and poor people most, by making it harder to avoid a future of bigger storms and fires, disappearing coastlines, and tougher crop-growing conditions. But the most severe and immediate harm would be to the United States, which by banishing itself from the community of nations trying to prevent dangerous climate change would irrevocably damage its global standing.
Most discussions of the linkage between forests and poverty—including one last week at the United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF)—focus on how to increase income to poor households from the harvest and sale of forest products. But at least as much attention should be paid to forest destruction as a pathway to the further immiseration of poor people.
The international forest and climate communities have placed high hopes on the potential for compliance carbon markets to generate funding to reduce tropical deforestation through international forest offsets. At a meeting last week in San Francisco on “Navigating the American Carbon World” (NACW) it seemed as if these hopes are likely to be dashed. Or at least not realized in time to save the vast tropical forests in time for them to play a significant role in combatting dangerous climate change.
The Green Climate Fund (GCF) could begin offering results-based payments for protecting and restoring tropical forests as early as July. That’s good news for developing countries, where tropical deforestation can be nearly half of low-cost emission reductions. Yet funding to protect forests remains low and slow, as Frances Seymour and I explain in our book, Why Forests? Why Now? As the GCF moves to enable results-based payments for forests, earlier initiatives offer valuable lessons on two things the GCF should—and can—get right: 1) keep rules simple, and 2) recognize that institutional procedures built for upfront investments may not always be appropriate for results-based payments.
This essay explains how Deliberative Polling works and offers examples of how it has led to unexpected policy successes. It then suggests ways in which the approach could be applied nationally, beginning in the United States, to raise the quality of public debate about climate change, opening the way for independent but possibly coordinated national responses. The brief is designed for potential funders, sponsoring organizations, and partners of various types who are seeking fresh strategies for breaking the political impasse that has so far prevented effective policy responses to reduce the risk of climate runaway disruptions.
Pollution has no respect for party lines. In the US, Republican and Democratic districts may differ in many ways, but when it comes to the carbon emissions heating our planet, the differences are much smaller than you might expect.
Imagine for a moment a world in which rich countries followed through on their rather vague promise at the 2009 climate conference in Copenhagen to mobilize $100 billion per year by 2020 to help developing countries reduce their emissions and cope with climate change. How should that money be spent?
The airwaves have recently been filled with advertisements heralding a plethora of clean energy technologies. GE promoted its smart grid technologies in a Wizard of Oz-themed Super Bowl ad. Vestas, the largest wind turbine manufacturer in the world, has branded itself No. 1 in Modern Energy. Various groups have designed commercials touting the potential of "clean coal," including a GE ad featuring models-turned-miners (tagline: "Harnessing the power of coal is looking more beautiful every day."). And environmental groups have struck back against the branding of coal as "clean" with satirical advertisements (tagline: "Clean coal harnesses the awesome power of the word ‘clean!’". In this maelstrom of marketing, who can say which clean energy technology is best?
My guest on this week’s Wonkcast is Cao Jing, one of China’s leading experts on carbon taxes. A CGD visiting fellow and associate professor of economics at Tsinghua University in Beijing, Jing was recently the subject of a Bloomberg profile. Working in collaboration with others at Harvard University, she is developing a proposal for China to tax carbon emissions. She is also involved with the "New Climate Economy Study" (also called Stern 2, to review economic costs and benefits of tackling climate change) led by former President of Mexico Felipe Calderón and Lord Nicholas Stern, author of the landmark Stern Report on the economics of climate change. Jing recently presented the plan at CGD’s Research in Progress seminar, and I’m delighted that she agreed to join me on the show to discuss it.
Pope Francis has firmly pronounced that climate change is a threat to the world’s poor in a long-awaited encyclical released on Thursday. The Pope is the religious leader of more than one billion Catholics, more than half of whom live in the developing world. But he has addressed the encyclical to “every person who lives on this planet,” Catholic and non-Catholic alike.
Many obstacles to development transcend national borders and therefore cannot be adequately addressed within a single country. These include issues such as drug resistance and other cross-border health risks, financial crises contagion, money laundering, water scarcity, fisheries collapse and, of course, climate change. Economists call efforts to address these problems Global Public Goods (GPGs). Like other public goods, funding for GPGs is chronically in short supply: of $125 billion in annual official development assistance (ODA ) only about $3 billion goes to GPGs.