This paper employs a three-stage approach to estimate low carbon economy efficiency in the largest twenty CO2
emitting countries from 2000 to 2012. The approach includes the following three stages: (1) use of a data envelopment analysis (DEA) model with undesirable output to estimate the low carbon economy efficiency and calculate the input and output slacks; (2) use of a stochastic frontier approach to eliminate the impacts of external environment variables on these slacks; (3) re-estimation of the efficiency with adjusted inputs and outputs to reflect the capacity of the government to develop a low carbon economy. The results indicate that the low carbon economy efficiency performances in these countries had worsened during the studied period. The performances in the third stage are larger than that in the first stage. Moreover, in general, low carbon economy efficiency in Annex I countries of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is better than that in Non-Annex I countries. However, the gap of the average efficiency score between Annex I and Non-Annex I countries in the first stage is smaller than that in the third stage. It implies that the external environment variables show greater influence on Non-Annex I countries than that on Annex I countries. These external environment variables should be taken into account in the transnational negotiation of the responsibility of promoting CO2
reductions. Most importantly, the developed countries (mostly in Annex I) should help the developing countries (mostly in Non-Annex I) to reduce carbon emission by opening or expanding the trade, such as encouraging the import and export of the energy-saving and sharing emission reduction technology.
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