Diverse and uneven pathways towards transition to low carbon development: The case of diffusion of solar PV technology in China

Michiko Iizuka


Transition towards low carbon development (LCD) is an urgent challenge for the global community. As increased economic activities usually result in more carbon emissions, this challenge is particularly crucial for rapidly growing emerging countries. For these countries, reducing carbon emissions means taking one or more of the following actions: (1) reducing energy intensity; (2) increasing the use of renewable energy; and (3) introducing systemic change. The above actions call for a strong role of policy and government intervention, as observed in the existing literature based on experiences in developed countries. Emerging countries also need to follow the example of advanced countries with regard to LCD; however, the conditions and pathways for emerging countries may differ greatly. This paper reviews the literature that deals with sustainable transition from a systemic perspective to understand existing frameworks and to identify challenges in using them for observing the transition process in developing countries. It looks at the case of Chinese solar PV technology to link theoretical discussion with practice in order to substantiate the arguments.

JEL Classification: Q42, Q55, Q56

Keywords: Sustainable transition, Low carbon development, Renewable energy, Environmental leapfrogging, Solar PV, Developing and Emerging countries, China

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