Technology Transfer for Climate Change


Climate Action Network – New Submission on Technology Framework at UNFCCC

The Climate Action Network just put out a submission on the development of the new technology framework at the UNFCCC.  It’s available here: http://climatenetwork.org/sites/default/files/can_technology_framework_submission_march_2017.pdf

In the Paris Agreement parties agreed that a new Technology Framework was needed to consolidate the current work and provide further guidance to the technology institutions and parties of the UNFCCC.  Specifically, the Decision adopting the Paris Agreement (1/CP.21) states:

  1. Requests the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice to initiate, at its forty-fourth session (May 2016), the elaboration of the technology framework established under Article 10, paragraph 4, of the Agreement and to report on its findings to the Conference of the Parties, with a view to the Conference of the Parties making a recommendation […] for consideration and adoption at its first session, taking into consideration that the framework should facilitate, inter alia: (a) The undertaking and updating of technology needs assessments, as well as the enhanced implementation of their results, particularly technology action plans and project ideas, through the preparation of bankable projects; (b) The provision of enhanced financial and technical support for the implementation of the results of the technology needs assessments; (c) The assessment of technologies that are ready for transfer; (d) The enhancement of enabling environments for and the addressing of barriers to the development and transfer of socially and environmentally sound technologies;

as always, the work of the SBSTA has been delayed, and nothing was adopted at the 2016 Marrakesh COP.  I hope and believe that it will be adopted at the 2017 COP and parties have made submissions (available at: http://bit.ly/2ef7DCL) on what they think should be involved, as have NGO observers.  Setting aside my real worry that by failing to put forward a proposal text themselves, the African group that first proposed this has left themselves at the mercy of the secretariat and the snowballing of input gathering, I think CAN has put forward a really strong contribution to the thinking about technology at the UNFCCC.

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Which climate technologies do we need to have developed and diffused?
August 26, 2016, 11:55
Filed under: Definitions, Paris2015, R&D

As we begin to move into the implementation phase of the Paris Climate Agreement, it seems appropriate to revisit and assess some questions relating to intellectual property and climate change.  This is especially important because choices will need to be made on which technologies are effective, which pose the most risks and which will be funded by the Green Climate Fund and other financial mechanisms of the UNFCCC.

Any discussion of whether intellectual property forms a barrier to technology transfer has to define the scope of technologies that are being discussed.  One of the most obvious failings in the debate is that most of it is largely limited to mitigation technologies, and a very small set of mitigation technologies at that. Adaptation is rarely addressed.  I argue that when properly taken into account, the scope of technologies implicates the entire system for technology regulation and thus the most important level for that, the intellectual property framework.  To get to that answer we need to take two intermediate steps: first, identify the nature and type of technologies implicated by the global need; second, identify what empirical evidence we have about the scale of patenting and licensing of these technologies.

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What is the Paris Climate Agreement’s new Technology Framework about?

In the Paris Agreement countries agreed that a new Technology Framework was needed. Specifically, the Agreement states:

Article 10(4) – A technology framework is hereby established to provide overarching guidance to the work of the Technology Mechanism in promoting and facilitating enhanced action on technology development and transfer in order to support the implementation of this Agreement, in pursuit of the long-term vision referred to in paragraph 1 of this Article.

The framework is only directed at the current Technology Mechanism (The Technology Executive Committee (TEC) and the Climate Technology Centre and Network (CTCN)). It does not address countries’ individual responsibilities to provide financial or technology support and does not reference or impact Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), which are the primary ways in which country commitments under Paris are articulated. This means that the framework is the only real substantive outcome on technology from the Paris Agreement. As has happened before, all the text on financial support for technology and on intellectual property dropped out. The pattern of developing countries settling for institutional tinkering over substantive commitments on technology continued in Paris.

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Can we negotiate IP in the Paris 2015 Climate Negotiations?
December 1, 2015, 15:59
Filed under: TRIPS, UNFCCC, WTO

The UNFCCC and its relationship to the WTO is a special case of the broader relationship between trade and the environment. Generally, this has been addressed from the viewpoint of the trading system and the extent to which the trading system needs to adjust to accommodate environmental needs.  In the climate negotiations, a lot of emphasis has been placed on the UNFCCC and any agreement not interfering with trade issues, or not addressing trade rules.  This has been extended to the issue of intellectual property, a relative latecomer to the range of trade rules.  Thus, the argument goes, intellectual property is a trade issue which the UNFCCC and subsequent protocols should not address, as they properly should be addressed in trade venues. I don’t intend to reiterate the arguments counter to this proposition. (For that see Chapter 7 of my book[1].) I just want to address the specific issue of whether there are rules in the UNFCCC itself that prevent countries from addressing IP in the UNFCCC or in the pursuit of implementing their obligations under the UNFCCC.

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Tech in Paris 2015: Institutional tinkering instead of real substance

Looking at technology in the Paris Agreement its difficult to avoid a deep sense of déjà vu, all over again. As in Cancun, Durban, all the way back to the Buenos Aires Plan of Action, the technology text and decision seems doomed to be reduced to more tinkering with the design of technology institutions rather than substantive commitments on technology support, policies and measures. In the Paris negotiating text, all substantive commitments, including on intellectual property, that had been included in the Geneva text have all but disappeared, reduced to generally vague mentions in optional paragraphs 7.4 and 7.5.  The proposed decision text focuses primarily on the never-ending saga of technology needs assessments and only in paragraph 50 provides for specific commitments by developed countries on intellectual property (IPRs), and financial support.  However, the largest amount of technology text and energy is aimed at the establishment of a new technology framework which is to be developed by the new Intergovernmental Preparatory Committee (IPC) and adopted by the CMA at its first session.  The details of what this framework will entail remain unclear but are likely to be drawn from the 4CP/7 framework on technology needs assessment; technology information; enabling environments; capacity building; mechanisms for technology transfer. History shows that the only elements of that framework that led to implementation were the TNAs. Technology Information remained largely a failure under TT:CLEAR and enabling environments in developed countries were never addressed and remained a subject of contention. Mechanisms for technology transfer were reduced to the Expert group on technology Transfer (EGTT) talk shop, and the less said about capacity building the better.  Any new framework must not only improve on this less than stellar record but must provide for specificity on activities to be taken by key stakeholders: the developing countries; the developing countries; and the technology institutions – the CTCN and the TEC.

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To whom do we need to transfer climate technologies? Part 1 cont’d – Emerging economies as R&D and production centres – China and India
October 1, 2015, 03:00
Filed under: Emerging Economies, R&D | Tags: , , ,

Like China, India is heavily dependent on fossil fuels for electricity production, as well as heating and transport. Its fuel mix is dominated by oil and coal with significant shares from natural gas and nuclear power. India has also seen a rapid increase in its energy demand, although not on the scale or speed of China. India’s emissions need to peak by 2030, (under a 2 degree scenario), largely through rapid deployment of renewables, nuclear and biofuels. Also crucial will be deployment of best available technologies to enable greater energy use efficiency in industry. As with China, the IEA Energy technology Perspectives note that peaking in 2030 may not be achievable without widespread adoption of CCS in power generation and industry.

India has also taken advantage of opportunities to become a significant player in clean technologies. Indian companies have acquired technology through licensing, through joint ventures, as well as some direct acquisitions. Between 2005 and 2008, Indian exports of renewable technology increased 464% while imports increased by 172%.

India is also the home base of one of the most successful global wind technology manufacturers, Suzlon Energy Ltd. Lewis notes that Suzlon has focused on acquisition of technology by strategically acquiring whole companies, rather than licensing. In part this circumvents the established firms, but relies on significant in-house absorptive capacity.  Suzlon’s export oriented approach also made acquisition of advanced technology and access to markets crucial. This meant that Suzlon could not follow an imitation model, as its products would have been blocked from access to developed country markets where the technologies were protected.  Neither could it rely solely on a licensing model since the terms of licenses from any of the established firms would contain limitations such as geographic restrictions.  This also necessitated creating significant in-house R&D capacity to further develop the technology acquired from smaller second tier firms (Lewis).

India is a major hub for pharmaceutical and agrochemicals production and has in recent years begun to move from generic industries into major originator R&D.  Building on its high export performance, especially to developing countries, Indian firms have been using that capital to cooperate in R&D, acquire firms, and create joint ventures, in order to participate in the lucrative developed country markets for new chemical entities and biological medicines. This role for India as a crucial supplier of affordable medicines has been a large part of the structural debate about how TRIPS might limit access to medicines by forcing Indian firms to provide domestic protection for pharmaceuticals thus limiting their capacity to produce generics for export to meet the need for products in developing countries.

What does this imply?

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To whom do we need to transfer climate technologies? Part 1 – Emerging economies as R&D and production centres – China and India
September 28, 2015, 03:00
Filed under: R&D | Tags: , ,

One of the major issues that is key to thinking about IP, technology and climate change is that there is a geographic structure to the technology need. The majority of developing countries are where the need for existing technologies for energy access and thus low emissions technologies is most evident, and in terms of adaptation where the most severe impacts of technology are held. This means that the flows and access to technology reflects the broader imbalance of technology access in the development framework. However, the emerging economies, especially India and China have an important and special role to play in the generation and dissemination of climate technologies.

The past two decades have seen increasing growth in the role that middle income countries, especially upper middle income countries such as Brazil, India, and China play in international technology flows. Data from 2001 shows that upper middle income countries presented the highest growth arena for high technology exports from the OECD.

Emerging economies are increasingly major players in renewable energy technology investments with Brazil, India and China comprising over 90% of the 72 billion invested in developing countries (just a shade more than that invested in the OECD. See UNEP, Towards a Green Economy: Pathways to Sustainable Development and Poverty Eradication, 2011).

The picture of the role of the emerging economies in the new climate technology structure is fundamental to assessing how intellectual property may be a barrier to technology transfer.  If these countries are to engage in large scale replication and distribution of the relevant technologies to other developing countries, then we have to be concerned about anything that places a restriction on their ability to:

  • Function as research and development and production centers for climate technologies
  • Function as export and distribution centers for climate technologies

In the next couple of posts I look at the role of China and India as research and development centers

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