We analyze the interaction of climate and development policy that has taken place since the early 1990s. Increasing dissatisfaction about the results of traditional development cooperation and the appeal of climate policy as a new policy field led to a rapid reorientation of aid flows. At the turn of the century, over 7% of aid flows were spent on greenhouse gas emissions mitigation. However, the contribution of emissions mitigation projects to the central development objective of poverty reduction as specified in the Millennium Development Goals is limited and other project types are likely to be much more effective. Adaptation to climate change can be expected to have higher synergies with poverty alleviation than mitigation, primarily through its impact on health, the conservation of arable land and the protection against natural disasters. An analysis of the Clean Development Mechanism shows that projects addressing the poor directly are very rare; even small renewable energy projects in rural areas tend to benefit rich farmers and the urban population. Use of development aid for CDM projects and / or their preparation via capacity building is thus clearly not warranted. We further analyze whether the use of development aid for climate policy could be justified as a countermeasure against the emission increase related to successful development itself. However, countries that are achieving an improvement of human development from a low level are unlikely to increase their energy consumption substantially. Only at a level where the middle class expands rapidly, energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions soar. Thus targeting middle class energy consumption by appliance efficiency standards and public transport-friendly urban planning are the most effective measures to address developing country emissions. Rural renewable energy provision in poor countries has a much higher impact on poverty, but a much lower impact on greenhouse gas emissions. We conclude that while there are valid reasons for long-term collaboration with emerging economies on greenhouse gas mitigation, there should be a separate budget line for such activities to avoid “obfuscation” of a decline of resources aimed at poverty alleviation. Nevertheless, mitigation will remain attractive for donors because it ensures quick disbursements and relatively simple measures of success. Moreover, mitigation activities in developing countries provide politicians in industrialized countries with a welcome strategy to divert the attention of their constituencies from the lack of success in reducing greenhouse gas emissions domestically.