Technology Transfer for Climate Change

Climate Action Network – New Submission on Technology Framework at UNFCCC

The Climate Action Network just put out a submission on the development of the new technology framework at the UNFCCC.  It’s available here:

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:

  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 […] 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: 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.

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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.

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Can we negotiate IP in the Paris 2015 Climate Negotiations?
December 1, 2015, 15:59
Filed under: TRIPS, UNFCCC, WTO

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[1].) 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.

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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.

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What do we mean when we say Intellectual property is (or is not) a barrier to technology transfer?
June 29, 2015, 03:00
Filed under: UNFCCC

One of the key questions in technology transfer and climate change is whether intellectual property presents a barrier to technology transfer to address climate change.  In some minds the issue has already been settled by studies showing that patenting of the relevant climate technologies is low or non-existent in low-income developing countries, or that where patents do exist, there appear to be few or no reports of patents being a problem. (see chapter 3 of my PhD in the first post on this blog).  The problem is that viewing the issue as primarily an empirical one ignores the underlying nature of the problem of technology transfer in terms of scale, timing, and targets.  I argue that you cannot empirically assess the nature or extent to which IP may be a barrier until you properly define the goal of technology transfer: getting the right technologies to the right countries at the right time.

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Defining Technology Transfer in the Climate Context
June 24, 2015, 13:59
Filed under: Agenda 21, Definitions, IPCC, TRIPS, UNCTAD, UNFCCC, WTO

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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Thoughts on GCPC 2015 – Club Goods and Technology Transfer
May 29, 2015, 13:56
Filed under: UNFCCC | Tags: , , , ,

The UNFCCC has one of the most effective mechanisms for assessing and integrating academic research into its processes – the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).  The controversy over the existence, scale and impact of the climate problem meant that an ostensibly non-partisan, non-political mechanism was needed to assess the best available data and research.  The IPCC presents an unprecedented consensus about what counts as appropriate and useful scientific research that should be fed into the policy process and what should stand outside it.  To a significant extent, it is this filtering process that has generally kept the crazies and the methodologically unsound out of the UNFCCC negotiating process.

The IPCC however, has a problem. In its 5 year cycle of assessments it does not really allow for dynamic consideration of new research, especially research aimed at assessing the effectiveness of policies implemented by, through, and in service of the existing UNFCCC agreements and institutions.  The IPCC is not in a position to, nor does it have a mandate to, assess the research on the extent to which the UNFCCC agreements and institutions are meeting their stated goals of mitigation, adaptation, technology transfer and financial support. The prime example of this is the concern about the design of a new market mechanism given the issues raised about how effective the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) has been.  Some of these concerns have been driven by academic research but most of it has been by countries raising problems at a political level and by the mechanisms within the UNFCCC itself such as the Subsidiary Body on implementation (SBI) and the Subsidiary Body on Scientific and Technical Advice (SBSTA).  Neither of those last two bodies have ever lived up to the hope that they would be pathways for research to be integrated into UNFCCC negotiations and implementation processes. The members of the SBI and SBSTA have largely remained political actors and what few products that they have published have been methodologically weak, limited in scope and overly reliant on work by the secretariat and consultants. This fundamental weakness is combined with a failure to focus on academic research generated and distributed by researchers in developing countries where implementation of the UNFCCC goals is taking place. There is a serious problem of how to ensure that the right, relevant research feeds into the UNFCCC processes and institutions and is reflected in the negotiating outcomes.  Given the weakness of the formal mechanisms, what remains are those such as side-events, contributions and statements from the Research NGOs group (RINGOs) and the participation of policymakers themselves in academic conferences.  Given that most academic conferences can be mind-numbing exercises in niche-building which is rarely policy-relevant. I was really excited to attend and rapporteur at the Global Climate Policy Conference 2015 (GCPC2015), held in Delhi 30 April – May 1.  If you want to read the presentations see here ( and to see the framework project in which the conference took place, led by Climate Strategies and the Stanley Foundation, see (

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