The latest draft of the Technology Framework (SBSTA48.IN.i5_v08May) being negotiated as part of the implementation of the Paris Agreement has been out since the end of the May 2018 Bonn SBSTA and SBI meetings. The Framework should have been concluded at the end of the first year of implementation of the Paris Agreement, but, along with the delay in agreeing Paris rules, the Technology Framework has also been delayed. However, the COP24 in Katowice, Poland in December 2018 is meant to be the conclusion of the process and should lead to adoption of the Framework. Although it is now somewhat of a political orphan, the Technology Framework was originally put forward by the African Group and was the main technology outcome from the Paris Agreement. This document is what substituted for significant original language addressing financing, intellectual property, and pushing technology transfer implementation by the Technology Mechanism. As has happened before, the proposal did not present a full negotiating text and thus left the details of the Technology Framework to be addressed after the adoption of the Paris Agreement. This turned it into a Secretariat and SBSTA Chair driven process. We are now at a point in the process where the document should have been well developed but it remains at a stage where little is agreed and only some elements have been discussed. A version with some annotated comments by me can be found here: SBSTA48_IN__i5_v08May: and an original can be found here: https://unfccc.int/process-and-meetings/conferences/bonn-climate-change-conference-april-2018/sessions/sbsta-48#eq-9
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.
My Book Chapter on Climate Change, Human Rights, and Technology Transfer in New Technologies for Human Rights Law and Practice edited by Molly Land and Jay Aronson in now available Open Access! The whole book is available Open Access as well, with great contributions by many authors. The book is a unique contribution that defines a new intersection of human rights and technology.
My chapter reviews the broad strategy to link human rights and climate change,
focusing specifically on how well the strategy works to strengthen obligations on
developed countries to transfer technology that can reduce or mitigate the effects of
increased carbon emissions. I argue that the state-centered “development” approach that has dominated both economic development and climate discourse to date has failed to provide a sufficient foundation for realistically addressing the issue of technology transfer.
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:
- 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.
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 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.) 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.
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.