Reconsidering development by reflecting on climate change

  • Harald Winkler
  • Anya Boyd
  • Marta Torres Gunfaus
  • Stefan Raubenheimer
Original Paper


Reconsidering development by reflecting on climate change means rethinking development goals, more than pursuing climate targets. Much analysis in the development–climate literature has framed development as a co-benefit, while the objective has been climate stabilization. This misses the point that development drives emissions, not vice versa. A different approach must address low-emission technologies, but also the high-emission parts of ‘development’. Politically, climate change must be understood as a development problem. In this conception, a key task for climate policy is to explore different development paths, with the difference in emissions being a result. Development goals need to be represented as explicit objectives, both in analytical modelling and as political goals. Methods that treat climate policy as a self-control mechanism in the development system, or back-cast from development goals, need to be improved. The article further considers levers to change development paths, considering lessons on how to influence change in complex systems. The obsession of the existing economic order is with economic growth and development; what needs to be considered is the quality of development and what it means to live well. A social contract for low-carbon development requires the rich to pay for mitigation, use less, and assist the poor; lift the poor out of poverty; and change the aspirations of the middle class. Such a contract requires thinking beyond short-term political and economic time frames, with much longer-term thinking and vision.


Development Climate change Theory of change Poverty Social contract 



Balance of embodied emissions from trade




Global circulation models


Gross domestic product


Greenhouse gases


Integrated assessment models


Instituto de Hidrología, Meteorología y Estudios Ambientales


Long-Term Mitigation Scenarios


Mitigation Action Plans and Scenarios


Millennium Consumption Goals


Millennium Development Goals


National Development Plan


Representative Concentration Pathways


Special Report on Emissions Scenarios


Shared Socio-economic Pathways


United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Harald Winkler
    • 1
  • Anya Boyd
    • 1
  • Marta Torres Gunfaus
    • 1
  • Stefan Raubenheimer
    • 2
  1. 1.Energy Research CentreUniversity of Cape TownRondeboschSouth Africa
  2. 2.SouthSouthNorthCape TownSouth Africa

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