SOAS University of London

Centre for Development, Environment and Policy (CeDEP)

Low Carbon Development (30 credits)

30 credits

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).

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

  • 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


Students are advised to dedicate 15 - 20 hours study time per week for this module.

Scope and syllabus

The module will consist of 13 units:

  1. Low Carbon Development and Climate Change Mitigation: Origins, Concepts and Key Issues
  2. The Economics of Low Carbon Development
  3. The Social Dimensions of Low Carbon Development
  4. The Politics of Low Carbon Development
  5. The International Policy Architecture for Low Carbon Development
  6. Technology and Innovation for Low Carbon Development
  7. Carbon Markets
  8. Sectoral approaches to Low Carbon Development: Energy
  9. Sectoral approaches to Low Carbon Development: Transportation
  10. Sectoral approaches to Low Carbon Development: Agriculture and Forestry
  11. Low Carbon Development in Low and Middle Income Countries
  12. Low Carbon Development in High Income Countries
  13. International Action for Low Carbon Development and Climate Change Mitigation

Method of assessment

This module is assessed by:

  • a 500-word commentary and critical discussion on a key reading, and assessment of the commentaries of two other students (10%)
  • a 3000-word examined assignment (EA), with an element of online interaction and discussion, worth 40%
  • a two-hour written examination worth 50%.

Since the EA is an element of the formal examination process, please note the following:

  • The EA questions and submission date will be available on the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE).
  • The EA is submitted by uploading it to the VLE.
  • The EA is marked by the module tutor and students will receive a percentage mark and feedback.
  • Answers submitted must be entirely the student’s own work and not a product of collaboration.
  • Plagiarism is a breach of regulations. To ensure compliance with the specific University of London regulations, all students are advised to read the guidelines on referencing the work of other people. For more detailed information, see the FAQ on the VLE.

Suggested 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.
  • Byrne, R., Smith, A., Watson, J. and Ockwell, D., 2011. Energy pathways in low-carbon development: from technology transfer to socio-technical transformation, STEPS Working Paper 46. STEPS Centre, Brighton.
  • Khan, M.A., Khan, M.Z., Zaman, K., Naz, L., 2014. Global estimates of energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews , Vol.29(1):336-344.
  • Blom, B., Sunderland, T., Murdiyarso, D., 2010. Getting REDD to work locally: lessons learned from integrated conservation and development projects. Environmental Science & Policy 13(2), 164–72.
  • Watson, J., Byrne, R., Ockwell, D., Stua, M., 2014. Lessons from China: building technological capabilities for low carbon technology transfer and development. Climatic Change, doi: 10.1007/s10584-014-1124-1
  • Helm, D., 2014. The European framework for energy and climate policies. Energy Policy, Vol. 64(1):29-35.
  • Klein, R. J. T., Schipper, E. L. F. and Dessai, S., 2005. Integrating mitigation and adaptation into climate and development policy: three research questions. Environmental Science & Policy, 8(6), 579–88.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules