Working Group III: Mitigation

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10.3.3 Technology Transfer

Technology transfer has broadly been discussed in the IPCC Special Report on Technology Transfer (IPCC, 2000a). The report provides a framework for analysis of the complex and multifaceted nature of the technology transfer process, emphasizing the sustainable development perspective. It examines broad trends of technology transfer in recent years, explores the international political context, discusses policy tools for overcoming key barriers and creating enabling environments, and provides an overview of financing and partnerships. The report also includes sectoral perspectives on the transfer of adaptation and mitigation technologies. These perspectives are illustrated by a wide variety of case studies. This section highlights the main findings of the IPCC report, especially those issues related to the role that the main stakeholders must play in the formulation and implementation of policies that facilitate technology transfer. The View of Technology Transfer

The effectiveness of measures to mitigate or adapt to climate change depends to a great extent on technological innovation and the diffusion of technologies. The transfer and/or diffusion of ESTs across and within countries is now considered a major element of global strategies to achieve climate stabilization and support sustainable development. At the same time, it is recognized that transferred technologies must meet the needs and priorities of specific local circumstances.

The term technology transfer is interpreted by some as a one-time transaction that maintains the dependency of the recipient. Some analysts therefore prefer the notion of technology co-operation or technology diffusion, which is seen by them as reflecting a process of technical change brought about by dispersed and uncoordinated decisions over time. Others still may see technology transfer as a two-way learning process that might more appropriately be called technology communication. According to the definition used by IPCC (2000a), “technology transfer encompasses the broad set of processes that cover the flows of knowledge, experience, and equipment for mitigating and adapting to climate change among different stakeholders. These include governments, international organizations, private sector entities, financial institutions, NGOs and research and/or education institutions. It comprises the process of learning to understand, utilize, and replicate the technology, including the capacity to choose it, adapt it to local conditions, and integrate it with indigenous technologies.” Technology transfer will therefore be used as a broad term including all aspects mentioned above.

While technology transfer is now a common feature of all sectors of human activity, some features are unique to the area of climate change, including:

  • scale, both in terms of geography, which may involve all countries of the world, and the number of technologies, which could easily run into the thousands;
  • number of persons that might benefit from the success of these efforts, since the whole world is expected to be the beneficiary; and
  • payback periods for the R&D expenditures, which may be too long to be of interest to the private sector.

These features determine technology transfer activities that could be evaluated at several levels—international, macro- or national, sector-specific, and project-specific levels—and that could follow different pathways according the interactions among the stakeholders involved in the transfer process. Each pathway represents different types of flows of knowledge, moneys, goods, and services among different sets of stakeholders. Each one has very different implications for the learning that occurs and, ultimately, the degree of technology-as-knowledge transfer that takes places beyond the simple hardware transfers.

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