Developing countries pledge bigger climate emissions cuts than world's richest nations

Published: 6th June 2011

A new study for Oxfam reveals that developing countries are pledging to cut their emissions of greenhouse gases by more than developed countries. Oxfam estimates that over 60 per cent of emissions cuts by 2020 are likely to be made by developing countries.

From Monday delegates from 195 countries are gathering in Bonn, Germany to resume negotiations on a global deal to tackle climate change. At last December’s climate conference in Cancun, countries recorded their pledges to cut emissions of greenhouse gases, but making comparisons between them has proved difficult because every country calculates and records their pledges in different ways.

The new analysis by the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), commissioned as part of Oxfam's new global GROW campaign, compares four of the most widely respected studies of these pledges. All the studies show that developing countries have pledged to make bigger cuts in their greenhouse gas emissions than industrialized countries, compared to a business as usual scenario.

Tim Gore, Oxfam’s climate change policy advisor said: All countries need to do their fair share to tackle climate change. Yet rich industrialized countries which are most responsible for the climate crisis are not pulling their weight.

It’s time for governments from Europe to the US to stand up to the fossil fuel lobbyists. Their competitors in developing countries – from China to India and Brazil – have pledged to do more to rein in emissions and start building prosperous low carbon economies. Europe and the US risk being left behind.”

New figures from the forthcoming SEI overview of the pledges show that:

  • China’s total emissions reductions could be nearly double those of the US by 2020
  • The emissions reductions of developing countries could be three times greater than those of the EU by 2020.
  • The emission reductions of China, India, South Africa and Brazil – the BASIC countries – could be slightly greater than the combined efforts of the 7 biggest developed countries – the US, Europe, Japan, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Russia by 2020.

Oxfam’s analysis also shows that the total emissions cuts pledged by all countries are not sufficient to prevent global temperatures rising above the 2 degrees target agreed by governments in Cancun. Global temperature increases of more than 1.5 degrees will have catastrophic consequences for societies across the globe.

Gore said; “In the end, cutting emissions isn’t about who does the most, but whether the total efforts are enough to avoid devastating levels of global warming – we will either sink or swim together. The pledges currently on the table mean we are sinking.”

The new analysis of efforts on emissions cuts comes days after Oxfam published a report “Growing a Better Future” which forecasts that average prices of staple foods such as maize will increase by between 120 and 180 per cent by 2030. Up to half of this increase will be driven by climate change.

Gore said: “We need bolder action to cut emissions and stop climate change driving generations of children into hunger. All countries must step up and deliver their fair share of the emissions reductions needed. Countries must also ensure the most vulnerable get the support they need to adapt. Rocketing food prices signal climate change red alert”.

Oxfam is calling for action on climate change as part of a new global GROW campaign to ensure everyone always has enough to eat.

Read more

GROW – Oxfam's new global campaign

All countries need to do their fair share to tackle climate change. Yet rich industrialized countries which are most responsible for the climate crisis are not pulling their weight.
Tim Gore
Policy Advisor for Oxfam

Notes to editors

Oxfam commissioned the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) to use four of the most well-respected sources of information about the emissions pledges made since Copenhagen to represent the variety of mitigation pledges made by developed and developing countries in terms of their emissions reductions in 2020 below what would have been the case without the policies (a “business-as-usual” baseline).

The four sources are: the UNEP Emissions Gap Report (UNEP, 2010); Frank Jotzo (co-author of the Garnaut Report) (Jotzo, 2010); the McKinsey Climate Desk with additional analysis by SEI (McKinsey, 2011); and Climate Action Tracker (Climate Action Tracker, 2010; 2011). The study will be the basis for a forthcoming SEI overview of the major recent analyses of the pledges

> Download the report: Stockholm Environment Institute Working Paper WP-US-1107: Comparison of Annex 1 and non-Annex 1 pledges under the Cancun Agreements (pdf 800mb)


  • Climate change is already estimated to have increased the amount we spend on food worldwide by $50bn a year1.
  • Oxfam projects world prices of staple food crops will double by 2030, with around 50 per cent of the increase driven by climate change.2
  • Up to 20 per cent more people will be at risk of hunger by 2050 because of climate change. Almost all will be in developing countries, with 65 percent expected to be in Africa.3
  • Countries in sub-Saharan Africa could experience catastrophic declines in yield of 20–30 per cent by 2080, rising as high as 50 per cent in Sudan and Senegal.4


1 Lobell, D. et al. (2011) ‘Climate Trends and Global Crop Production Since 1980,’ Science Express,

2 Oxfam (2011) ‘Growing a Better Future: Food Justice in a Resource-constrained World,’

3 World Food Programme (2009) ‘Climate Change and Hunger: Responding to the Challenge,’

4 Cline, W (2007) ‘Global Warming and Agriculture: Impact estimates by country,’   

Contact information

In Bonn: Tim Gore, Oxfam Climate Change Policy Lead: / 0044 7795 590 067

In the UK: Georgette Ginn, Oxfam Climate Change Media Lead: / 0044 7824 503 108

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