Least Developed Countries (LDCs) – 46 countries highly vulnerable to economic and environmental shocks — contribute little to global emissions. In 2019 they were responsible for just over 1% of emissions from fossil fuel and industrial processes.

And yet LDCs are taking action. At the UN Secretary General’s Climate Action Summit in 2019, LDCs launched the LDC Group Vision toward a climate-resilient future – which calls for all LDCs to be on climate-resilient development pathways by 2030 and to deliver net zero emissions by 2050.

Guided by this overarching Group vision, individual long-term low greenhouse gas emission development strategies (LT-LEDS or LTS) provide a beneficial space for each LDC government to set out a visionary blueprint for a resilient, decarbonised future, compatible with limiting warming to 1.5°C.

An LTS is essential for guiding near-term ambition and actions, aligning investment with Paris Agreement goals, and taking advantage of synergies between mitigation, development and adaptation needs.

At COP21 in 2015, all governments were invited to submit LTSs by 2020, but few developing countries were able to meet this timeframe. In 2021 at COP26, the Glasgow Climate Pact again urged countries that had not yet done so to bring forward an LTS by COP27. Since the Glasgow session, the UNFCCC Executive Secretary has also communicated directly with governments, urging the communication of new or updated LTSs by November 2022 (COP27).

Progress is being made. As of June 1, 2022, 51 countries have officially submitted an LTS to the UNFCCC Secretariat. This number includes three LDCs: Cambodia, Nepal and Benin. The Gambia also has prepared a 2050 Climate Vision, available on its Government website, and other LDC LTSs are in the preparation phase. The first-ever LTS synthesis report will be prepared by the UNFCCC Secretariat and published by October 2022.

While for many countries, an LTS has as its goal the decarbonisation of carbon-intensive economies, for LDCs the challenge is to develop sustainably along a low-carbon growth path: avoiding the installation and use of carbon-intensive infrastructure, while also protecting valuable ecosystems and planning for increased resilience against climate impacts across all sectors.

An LTS offers significant opportunities for cost savings and development gains for LDCs. The process of developing an LTS can generate a series of co-benefits and opportunities. These include:

  • policy coherence and support for short-and medium-term planning
  • the avoidance of stranded assets, caused by short-term planning
  • planning for climate-resilient infrastructure
  • upskilling and expanding local employment opportunities in renewable energy technologies and in extractive industries
  • new sources of funding support for development
  • greater energy independence and cost savings
  • reduced trade vulnerabilities
  • expanded access to affordable energy
  • enhanced food security
  • enhanced resilience to climate impacts
  • prosperity through new growth models, and
  • improved health outcomes, among many others.

This paper addresses some of the challenges LDCs face in preparing and implementing LTSs, including limited data availability to support economic and socio-economic modelling, human and financial resource constraints and limited institutional capacities. It considers key building blocks of an LTS and identifies the key sectors to be addressed through an LTS, which for most LDCs include the energy sector, the agricultural sector and the land sector. It then highlights some of the important co-benefits that can be derived from LDC preparation and implementation, and outlines some of the resources and support available for preparation and implementation of LTS.

Financial and technical support for LTS development is growing across donor funds, multilateral funds, development banks and intergovernmental initiatives and a number of organisations are now providing their expertise and resources to support the LTS development process.

LTSs are now an essential component of national climate policy architecture. They are also a ticket to greater prosperity for LDCs, due to the many co-benefits that arise from long-term low-emission development planning.