Technology Transfer for Climate Change

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.

The technology framework was proposed by the African group in the lead up to the Paris Agreement although with little detail and not much text. It was driven by the belief that the previous framework (inherited from the 7th Conference of the Parties in Marrakech in 4/CP.7) was not effective and is not sufficient to meet the needs of implementing the Paris Agreement.  The Marrakech framework covered five “key themes”: Technology needs & needs assessments (TNAs); Technology information; Enabling environments; Capacity building; Mechanisms for technology transfer. It also created the Expert Group on Technology Transfer (EGTT).

Very clearly, the framework failed to meet the expectations of developing countries.  The EGTT in its own 2006 report noted that the framework had largely failed in its implementation. There was very little progress made with respect to enabling environments, capacity-building for technology transfer, and, especially, mechanisms for technology transfer. In the area of technology needs assessments, where there had been the most progress, significant problems existed. For example, Technology Needs Assessments have been considered to have failed in generating actual technology transfer, the creation of programs and projects and financing of those projects and programs.  Developing countries became wary and weary of doing TNAs without any real prospect of having identified needs met by funding and support.

Significant dissatisfaction with the purely advisory nature of the EGTT and the lack of progress on other elements of the framework led to the demand for a fully-fledged implementation mechanism within the UNFCCC itself. This led to the creation in 2010 at Cancun of the TEC and the CTCN.  However, in the lead up to Paris there was already dissatisfaction with the timidity of the CTCN which has yet to address its implementation mandate, focusing primarily on technical assistance on the design of policies and measures in developing countries.  In addition, the Technology Executive Committee is seen as having largely devolved into a relatively ineffectual talk shop much like the EGTT.  The demand for the new framework in Paris was meant to address the historical and the current failure of UNFCCC technology institutions. After some initial concerns that the African Group was seeking to establish another new mechanism or institution, it became clear in Paris that it was actually aiming at reasserting and expanding the mandate of the current mechanism.

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 on the framework to the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement 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;

The Technology Framework is to be elaborated by the Subsidiary Body on Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) and, if/when completed, adopted by the 2016 COP.  The SBSTA, at the May 2016 Bonn meeting had an exchange of views by countries but actual elaboration was deferred to SBSTA 45 in November 2016, meaning that the framework would not be adopted at the 2016 COP. There was a request for a mapping of technology activities and a call for parties to submit views to be considered in November 2016. The compilation of parties’ initial views was lacking in any detail suggesting that countries had barely begun to consider the issue. Additionally, the proposing countries such as the African group did not provide any draft text or technical brief as a basis for discussion and therefore failed to set the agenda, a mistake they have made before in previous contexts.  This means that the development of the framework will be driven by other countries and by the secretariat. This then begs the question: in the absence of a clear vision from the proposers, what should a new framework cover?  Based on the mandate, I would suggest the following:

  1. Making the TNA process more effective, especially creating fundable projects and programs from TNA reports
    • This would essentially mean that the framework needs to create a process and provide funding for generating projects and programs that can be made ready to apply for funding from the GCF and other financial mechanisms. For this to be effective requires all funding mechanisms to have similar or the same sets of requirements and forms for application and reporting related to these projects to reduce the amount of work required.
    • It may be appropriate to work through the CTCN to assist in generating these projects and programs and to generate funding applications. To that end, the framework should create a formal link between the TNA process and the CTCN.
  2. Increasing and making more effective financing of technology transfer
    • Because the framework does not address commitments on support by countries the framework is limited to addressing such financing through the technology mechanism. A key element of the framework must be the creation of a predictable financing mechanism for both the CTCN. It may be appropriate for the CTCN to be able to apply for support from the GCF and other UNFCCC financing mechanisms.
      • The SBSTA should consider implementing either a system of fundraising cycles for the CTCN with country pledges; or direct commitments and contributions from all capable member states to replenish the CTCN work periodically.
    • More generally, the framework should mandate the CTCN to move more quickly to provide support to countries in applying for financial support from the GCF and/or other UNFCCC financial mechanisms
  3. Assessment of technologies ready for transfer
    • This provision is primarily a narrow approach to assessment in that it seeks to have better information made available to identify which technologies are ready for transfer with “ready for transfer’ largely left undefined. The SBTSA should elaborate on what this is and should provide a mandate to the TEC to carry out such a study. That study should provide information on development stage of a technology, commercialization prospects, current penetration in relevant developing country markets, producers and providers.
    • The SBSTA should identify platforms that can serve to facilitate technology transactions, linking both to domestic technology transfer offices in universities and national research institutions and to platforms such as WIPO Green. The Knowledge management System at the CTCN may be an appropriate place to serve as the relevant link.
    • Finally, while not explicitly envisioned in the wording, the technology framework must address, in the process of assessing technologies for readiness to transfer, environmental and social risks associated with their deployment. The TEC should address this within the context of the study and information it generates about technologies at a higher level; and the CTCN should be mandated to implement technology risk assessment at the project and program level when it assists countries in design and implementation.
  4. Tackling barriers to development and transfer of ESTs
    • To the extent that this address policies and measures to address technology supply, the technology mechanism has little role to play and little capacity to affect the incentives of developed countries to do more. However, given an enhanced mandate to support indigenous capacity, the CTCN and the TEC could work to support South-South R&D collaboration
    • On policies and measures in developing countries the CTCN is doing a good job on providing technical advice. However, there is a need for this advice to be driven and assessed more carefully so that it reflects best available information and practices rather than ideological frameworks. This is true in particular on any advice around innovation and intellectual property policy; R&D policies relating to university and other research; investment policies relating to encouraging knowledge intensive firms to locate domestically; trade policies regarding tariffs on technology imports and other such issues.  Rather than impose specific approaches, the framework should mandate the CTCN to ensure that the policies and measures it provides are driven by current, well researched and data supported, and effective at achieving, as quickly as possible: domestic technology development; technology deployment and distribution; at as low a cost as possible.

Recommended Citation: Dalindyebo Shabalala, “What is the Paris Climate Agreement’s new Technology Framework about?”, Technology Transfer for Climate Change (Jun. 15, 2016, 04:00 PM)


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