Tackling climate change and facilitating global development are urgent imperatives that will be incredibly challenging for the world to reconcile. The vast majority of the world’s energy is currently based on hydrocarbons, and nowhere in the world has achieved victory over energy poverty without a mix of fuels, including fossil fuels. The energy transition in developing countries is looking likely to be a gradual one, balancing fossil fuels with investments in clean and renewable energy systems. While the continued use of fossil fuels for energy development may be the most realistic path forward, it means climate goals may not be met. The carbon budget is what it is, and climate change impacts are often harshest in developing countries. Climate change and energy for development may or may not be a zero-sum game, but there is no choice but to try to advance climate and development goals together.