Climate Technology Centre and Network, Paris2015, Technology Executive Committee, UNFCCC

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.

I believe we can to point to specific patterns  from previous experiences in these negotiations that appear to be repeating themselves: 1) Substantive commitments are likely to be limited to TNAs unless developing countries hold firm to the developed country commitments on finance and policies and measures in the decision text; 2) The institutional changes and the development of the technology framework will be proposed as a trade-off for developing countries to give up demands for technology support and policies in the Agreement and in the decision text.  This places a premium on the mandate of the transitional   to design the framework to be adopted by the CMA.

With that in mind what does the text provide for that mandate? There is little beyond the establishment of TNAs in Option 2, and little guidance on what the nature and quality of outcomes of the IPC should entail. There is little or no specificity on the existing technology institutions.  The mandate must address the following key elements if the framework is to be a worthwhile bargain for giving up substantive commitments. The IPC must:

  1. Recommend mechanisms for ensuring predictable stable financing for the current Technology Mechanism –  the Climate Technology Centre and Network (CTCN) and the Technology Executive Committee (TEC).
  2. Mandate the TEC to develop standards for social and environmental impact assessment to be adopted by the technology institutions and the Green Climate Fund (GCF).
  3. Develop categories of technology implementation projects that developing countries can request from the CTCN, with appropriate financing. Mandate the CTCN to assist with design, direct financing and assistance in seeking funding, implementation and evaluation. The mandate should address types of R&D projects; types of technology demonstration projects; types of technology diffusion projects. This should be framed by needs in R&D, demonstration and diffusion specific to groups of developing countries.
  4. Develop a set of policies and measures to be taken by developed countries to take that would be recognized as meeting their technology commitments under Convention article 4.1(c), 4.3 and 4.5
  5. Recommend a matching mechanism for the financial support of technology components of developing country Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs); and technology portfolios identified in TNAs.
  6. Mandating the CTCN and TEC to develop platforms, appropriately financed, for technology transactions, including publicly available and licensed technologies

We can all hope that Paris will produce real substantive commitments on technology transfer and that history will not repeat itself by substituting weak institutional outcomes for real progress. We have to set ourselves up for the possibility that we will get institutional design instead but we cannot settle for a bad bargain that does not strengthen and make those institutions more effective.


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