Working Group III: Mitigation

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The transfer of environmentally sound technologies from developed to developing countries has come to be seen as a major element of the global strategies to achieve sustainable development and climate change mitigation. Article 4.5 and other relevant provisions of the UNFCCC (UNFCCC, 1992) clearly define the nature and scope of the technology transfer, which includes environmentally sound and economically viable technologies and know-how conducive to mitigating and adapting to climate change. Technology transfer implemented through the financial mechanism of the UNFCCC is to be “on a grant or concessional basis”, on non-commercial terms. The Parties included in Annex II “shall take all practicable steps to promote, facilitate and finance, as appropriate, the transfer of, or access to, environmentally sound technologies and know-how to other Parties, particularly developing country Parties, to enable them to implement the provisions of the Convention.” Article 10, paragraph (c) of the Kyoto Protocol (UNFCCC, 1997) reiterated that all Parties shall: “co-operate in the promotion of effective modalities for the development, application and diffusion of, and take all practicable steps to promote, facilitate and finance, as appropriate, the transfer of, or access to, environmentally sound technologies, know-how, practices and processes pertinent to climate change, in particular to developing countries, including the formulation of polices and programmes for the effective transfer of environmentally sound technologies that are publicly owned or in the public domain and the creation of an enabling environment for the private sector, to promote and enhance the transfer of, and access to, environmentally sound technologies.”

Three conditions have to be fulfilled for an effective transfer of technologies. First, the technology holder country must be willing to transfer the technology. Second, the technology must fit into the demand of the recipient country. Third, the transfer must be made at reasonable cost to the recipient. The IPCC Special Report on Technology Transfer (IPCC, 2000) identifies various important barriers that could impede environmental technology transfer, such as:

  • lack of data, information, and knowledge, especially on “emerging” technologies;
  • inadequate vision about and understanding of local needs and demands; and
  • high transaction costs.

Some analysts argue with respect to the third item that the technology should be provided on favourable terms and therefore on non-commercial conditions, strictly separated from traditional technology transfers, and supported by government funding.

In fact, Agenda 21 (UN, 1992) states that “governments and international organizations should promote effective modalities for the access and transfer of environmentally sustainable technologies (ESTs) by means of activities, including the formulation of policies and programmes for the effective transfer of ESTs that are publicly owned or in the public domain.” The major role of the government could be to supply EST research and develop funds to transfer publicly owned technology to developing countries. In this regard, the Commission on Sustainable Development, at its fifth session, concluded that: “a proportion of technology is held or owned by Governments and public institutions or results from publicly-funded research and development activities. The Government’s control and influence over the technological knowledge produced in publicly-funded research and development institutions opens up a potential for the generation of publicly-owned technologies that could be made accessible to developing countries, and could be an important means for Governments to catalyze private sector technology transfer.” In all countries the role of publicly funded R&D in the development of ESTs is significant. Through both policy and public funding, the public sector continues to be an important driver in the development of ESTs.

An additional role of the government is to make the legal provisions for the transfer of ESTs (including checking on abuse of restrictive business practices (Raekwon, 1997)). Good governance creates an enabling environment for private sector technology transfer within and across national boundaries. Although many ESTs are in common use and could be diffused through commercial channels, their spread is hampered by risks such as those arising from weak legal protection and inadequate regulation in developed and developing countries. However, many technologies that can mitigate emissions or contribute to adaptation to climate change have not yet been commercialized. Beyond an enabling environment, it will take extra efforts to enhance the transfer of those ESTs (IPCC, 2000). It should also be recognized that the effective transfer of ESTs requires substantial upgrading of the technological capacities in the developing countries (TERI, 1997) (see also Chapters 5 and 10).

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