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[JINAN] Many strategies for sustainable development can also cut the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by developing countries, says a report released on Monday (5 December).

This would mean that Southern nations do not have to compromise their economic growth to tackle climate change.

Growing in the Greenhouse was prepared by the World Resources Institute (WRI), and presented on Monday at the 11th Conference of Parties to the Kyoto Protocol in Montreal, Canada.

The authors explored an approach to climate change policy for developing countries that puts those nations' development priorities first.

Most developing countries, including the three biggest emitters — Brazil, China and India — have said that they cannot sacrifice their social and economic development goals in order to reduce their emissions.

But the WRI believes that development targets such as energy security, providing electricity to entire populations, and improving urban transportation can go hand-in-hand with a cleaner atmosphere.

It calls the solutions 'Sustainable Development Policies and Measures', or SD-PAMs.

"The chief advantage of SD-PAMs," says the report, "is that they align the interests of climate protection with those of policy goals that have a higher priority for developing country policy makers."

To demonstrate the potential of the new measures, the authors looked at four case studies: Brazil, China, India and South Africa.

Brazil, a country that has used ethanol as a 'biofuel' for about 30 years (see Brazil & climate change: country profile), is a good example of the potential to pursue development while reducing emissions.

Although Brazil's biofuel policy was not initially created to reduce climate change, the report estimates that the country not only saved US$100 billion on its oil imports, but also reduced its carbon dioxide emissions by about 574 million tonnes since 1975 — equivalent to ten per cent of the country's emissions during that period.

"Some 20 other countries might also find the Brazilian model attractive," says the report.

In China, a country that has seen a large increase in the number of car owners, the authors suggest introducing more efficient engines, and encouraging people to buy smaller vehicles, and use public transport.

These measures would reduce the country's oil consumption and improve urban infrastructure, as well as reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.

The report's recommendations are harder to apply to South Africa.

South Africa's primary development challenge is to supply electricity to its entire population. Most of the country's fuel comes from coal, which produces substantial carbon dioxide emissions.

Although the authors suggest some ways of supplying electricity while reducing emissions, they admit that most methods will be costly. They conclude that the South African example illustrates one of the limitations of their approach.

David Victor, director of Program on Energy and Sustainable Development at Stanford University in United States told SciDev.Net that SD-PAM is a "good concept", but adds that it will take some time for it to be adopted.