Technology Transfer for Climate Change

The US-China Clean Energy Research Center’s Intellectual Property Management Framework – A model for the UNFCCC Technology Mechanism?
July 8, 2015, 02:30
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , ,

Joint research and development (R&D) is seen as a major element and panacea for rebuilding trust between countries in the UNFCCC regarding intellectual property and for addressing the difficult issues between emerging economies (read: China) and other developed economies.  The issue is especially fraught between the US and China and yet US-China bilateral cooperation on climate mitigation technology is deep and ongoing, especially through the Clean Energy Research Centre (CERC).

The projects under the CERC are run under national consortia collaborating across borders, so that benefits may be shared across all national actors. Funding for research is purely nationally based (each funds own participants and contributes own funds to joint research), so there is no cross-subsidization unless otherwise agreed. The CERC agreement very clearly outlines the intellectual property framework for managing the research produced under the projects and work plan (See This is controlled by the CERC protocol and the attached IP Annex. (See

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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 (

Continue reading

A Malthusian moment at last?
March 18, 2015, 10:18
Filed under: UNFCCC

In 1798, Thomas Malthus saw an ever rising population and falling agricultural production and concluded that the United Kingdom was on the verge of a demographic catastrophe. It seemed inevitable that there would be mass starvation or at least a permanent state of abject poverty for the vast majority of its population (Malthus, T. R. An essay on the principle of population, London: J. Johnson, in St. Paul’s Churchyard, 1798). Malthus argued that increases in agricultural productivity could not keep pace with population growth and that such growth would always outpace agricultural production. He saw little option but to limit population growth, but saw no (at the time) morally acceptable means of doing so, except to limit welfare transfers to the urban poor.

The fact that 19th century Europe did not see mass starvation and instead had massive increases in agricultural production has been seen as a rebuke to Malthus’ thesis. The key gap in Malthus’ approach was his inability to predict the role that technology would play in increasing agricultural productivity during the industrial revolution. He did not fully foresee the effects of the mechanization of farm production (p2, Johnson, D. Gale, “Population, Food and Knowledge” 90 The American Economic Review 1 (2000)), nor the role that colonialism and the expansion of trade would play in providing new sources and venues for agricultural production. It was a mix of policy and the ingenuity of invention driven by necessity that provided an escape from the demographic trap that was a consequence of Malthus’ analysis. Technology saved the early industrial revolution from the limits imposed by land availability. Accompanied by the transition to fossil fuels and new fertilizers, the resultant new industrial agriculture created newer, cheaper products, better food preservation and a whole host of benefits that increased survivability.

Continue reading

PhD defense and Book now available
October 10, 2014, 07:59
Filed under: UNFCCC


Shabalala-Climate Change, Tech Transfer and IP

On 15 October 16:00 hrs. I will defend my PhD thesis entitled “Climate Change, Technology Transfer and Intellectual Property – Options for Action at the UNFCCC” in the Aula of Maastricht University at the Minderbroedersberg in Maastricht.

The book is available for print-on-demand at and through and and

You can also download a pdf of the book at the link above.

What I’m doing
March 16, 2010, 11:34
Filed under: Uncategorized

This is a blog focused on my work and research on the relationship between Climate Change, Technology and Intellectual Property.  I’ve been an advocate for developing countries and environment for the past 10 years and now I hope to be able to add a new layer to my experience and work on this issue.  Some of you who read this blog will be familiar with my work at CIEL (where I am now Counsellor on Trade and Sustainable Development) and with the Climate Action Network, where  I co-chair the Technology Working Group, and others will be new to it. I am an Assistant Professor of International Economic Law (Intellectual Property) at Maastricht University Faculty of Law teaching Intellectual Property and I am also Visiting Assistant Professor at Case Western Reserve University School of Law. This blog is meant to begin to disseminate some of the results of my research on intellectual property, technology transfer and climate change and to generate discussion on further issues and research and the right policy interventions in the UNFCCC and other climate and technology negotiation venues.
Dyebo Shabalala