GHG emissions peaking and the pace of distribution of climate technologies

Shubha Ghosh at Syracuse University School of Law was a wonderful host for a symposium on April 25th on Technology & Policy Responses to Climate Disruption.  The agenda is available here. Video of the Symposium is available here:

I presented on Panel 2 on Policy Responses and, as has come to be the case, I tended to play the role of Cassandra, which may be getting me a bit of a reputation I suspect. In many ways, the presentation struggles with a core issue I also struggled with in my 2014 PhD and Book: what model of technology transactions and distribution (including intellectual property) should we adopt if we accept that we must peak global CO2 emissions within the next few years or, gods forbid, in the past year or two. I argue that current models for technology distribution are not up to the challenge and that scenarios for addressing climate change use far too optimistic projections for technology deployment.  I think the second part of my claim needs significantly more work and analysis of the economic models and scenarios, work which I am looking forward to doing, although it may end up beyond my grasp.  I think the first part of my claim is stronger because we have better information of CO2 peaking dates and on current distributions of climate technologies. On the next few blog posts and over the next month I’ll be re-examining the current data and basis for CO2 peaking dates and current distribution of technologies.  As a baseline, I’ll revisit below, what I had to say in my PhD 4 years ago.

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Defining Technology Transfer in the Climate Context

As a starting point we should be clear that we mean international technology transfer, as in the flow of technological goods and knowledge across borders. Despite there being broad agreement as to the positive impact technology transfer can have, there is no universally recognized or legally enforceable definition as to what technology transfer is or what form it must take.

Within the realm of trade agreements, the closest definition was the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) Draft International Code of Conduct on the Transfer of Technology which defined it as “the transfer of systematic knowledge for the manufacture of a product, for the application of a process or for the rendering of a service and does not extend to the transactions involving the mere sale or mere lease of goods.” (Article 1.2,UNCTAD Draft International Code of Conduct on the Transfer of Technology) The full definition also includes:

(a) The assignment, sale and licensing of all forms of industrial property, except for trademarks, service marks and trade names when they are not part of transfer of technology transactions;

(b) The provision of know-how and technical expertise in the form of feasibility studies, plans, diagrams, models, instructions, guides, formulae, basic or detailed engineering designs, specifications and equipment for training, services involving technical advisory and managerial personnel, and personnel training;

(c) The provision of technological knowledge necessary for the installation, operation and functioning of plant and equipment, and turnkey projects;

(d) The provision of technological knowledge necessary to acquire, install and use machinery, equipment, intermediate goods and/or raw materials which have been acquired by purchase, lease or other means;

(e) The provision of technological contents of industrial and technical cooperation arrangements.

The draft code was never adopted but the definition of technology transfer that it generated remains one of the first and most influential iterations at a multinational level of what technology transfer means.

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