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.