TWN Info Service on Climate Change (Jul13/05)
9 July 2013
Third World Network  

UNFCCC Technology Committee debates IPR issue
Published in SUNS #7622 dated 9 July 2013

Kuala Lumpur, 8 Jul (Hilary Chiew) - Members of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change's Technology Executive Committee (TEC) continued to debate whether intellectual property rights (IPRs) were a barrier to the transfer of environmentally sound technologies (ESTs) to developing countries.

Developed country members of the Committee, which included the United States, Ireland, Finland and Poland, were of the view that no evidence has been produced to show that IPRs constituted a barrier to technology transfer in ESTs.

The US questioned why developing country members keep coming back to this issue which divided the TEC members and is based on "false information", adding that not once was there any substantiation of IPRs being a barrier to technology transfer.

Developing country members from China, Iran, Sudan, Argentina and Ecuador as well as Kazakhstan insisted that the issue must continue to be discussed and wanted further work to be done on whether IPRs were a barrier.

The debate over this issue took place at the 6th meeting of the TEC in Bonn, Germany from 26 to 28 June 2013.

Following exchanges between developing and developed country members, the Chair of the TEC, Antonio Pfluger (Germany) concluded that one of the key messages for the meeting of the 19th Conference of Parties in Warsaw (COP19), was that the TEC will call for inputs on IPRs at its 7th meeting, but this issue will only be considered at the 8th meeting next year, so as to give time to organisations to prepare on the matter.

The TEC also addressed the following issues at its meeting: collaboration with other relevant institutional arrangements under and outside the UNFCCC, thematic dialogue on research, development and demonstration of environmentally-sound technologies, technology needs assessments (TNAs), technology roadmaps, and technology briefs.

Members were also given an update on matters relating to the Climate Technology Centre and Network (CTCN).

[The TEC is one of the components of the Technology Mechanism established in Cancun (2010) and is comprised of 20 representatives (9 from developed and 11 from developing countries). The other component of the mechanism is the CTCN. The Chair of the TEC for 2013 is Antonio Pfluger (Germany), while Gabriel Blanco (Argentina) is the Vice-Chair.]

The IPR issue was raised after the UNFCCC secretariat presented a document which compiled and synthesised information provided by 21 developing countries on their TNAs, with particular focus on ‘enabling environment for and barriers to technology development and transfer.'

The secretariat paper showed that barriers in mitigation identified by the countries in order of importance are: appropriate economic and financial incentives and disincentives; insufficient legal and regulatory frameworks; market failure or imperfection; technical barriers; network failures; information awareness; institutional and organisational capacity; human skills; and social, cultural and behavioural barriers.

The most prominent overall adaptation barriers identified by countries were, in order of importance: economic and financial issues; market failure or imperfection; policy, legal and regulatory issues; human skills; information and awareness; technical challenges; institutional and organisational capacity; network failures; and social, cultural and behavioural issues.

The secretariat said IPRs were not noted explicitly but hidden under political and economic barriers.

Seyed Mohammad Sadeghzadeh (Iran) reminded members that Ecuador and China had raised the issue of IPRs being barriers. Acknowledging that IPRs are tools for innovation but in case there are barriers, he said solutions need to be found. He wanted the issue addressed as an agenda item at its next meeting.

Nagmeldin G. ElHassan (Sudan) said there are materials to be considered at the next meeting to enable some recommendations and follow-up work to support the TEC.

Matthew Kennedy (Ireland) said the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) had a workshop on IPRs and circulated the outcome. He asked the secretariat to circulate that report to the TEC and have IRENA in a future meeting to present the report if there is still willingness to talk about IPRs.

Chair Pfluger noted that IRENA is tackling IPRs on a case-by-case and country-by-country basis, which is exactly the way the TEC had suggested to handle it.

Eduardo Noboa (Ecuador) pointed out that the issue of the enabling environment to foster the transfer of technologies assumes the fact that developing countries should continue importing technologies rather than producing them locally.

He said the correct enabler should be to promote research and development (R&D) at the local level.

To this, Pfluger (Germany) and Kunihiko Shimada (Japan) said there were opportunities for joint research and development. Shimada supported inviting IRENA to discuss barriers at the TEC meeting.

Sadeghzadeh (Iran) supported IRENA's participation and reiterated his call for an agenda item on IPRs for the next TEC meeting.

Wang Can (China) pointed out that in the TEC report to the Conference of Parties (COP) last year, while there was a key message on IPRs, there was no conclusion on whether it is a barrier or not.

He reminded members of the mandate from the conclusion at Doha (COP18) for follow-up activities contained in paragraph 35 of the Report on activities and performance of the TEC for 2012.

Given last year's activities, the dialogues and synthesis report where IPRs was clearly highlighted, he asserted that a concrete way forward will be a workshop to discuss case-by-case barriers and members needed to work constructively on the issue.

[Wang was referring to paragraph 35 (g) of the TEC report which reads: Intellectual property rights were identified as an area for which more clarity would be needed on their role in the development and transfer of climate technologies based upon evidence on a case-by-case basis.]

Jukka Uosukainen (Finland) said the findings in the secretariat's synthesis report are good enough to report to the Parties at the forthcoming COP. On IPRs, he said if we look only through the IPR lens, then you find IPR everywhere, adding that this is a dangerous path.

The evidence, he added, does not find IPR as the major issue. However, he preferred to deal with IPR in this Committee than in the UNFCCC negotiations and was willing to deal with specific cases.

Agreeing with Uosukainen, Griffin Thompson (US) said he did not understand why members keep coming back to this topic that divides members, as there are more important issues. He said this will not get members anywhere especially when they are based on "false information", adding that not once had he heard substantiation of individual case (of IPRs being a barrier).

He said the issue appeared to be one of "rhetoric, ideology and theology".

He praised the secretariat for a brilliant job compiling based on practitioners' experience in a real world and not negotiators' world, urging it to follow that rigour in articulating the issue to enlighten Parties that IPR is not inhibiting massive flow of technology development and transfer.

On deciding agenda items for the next meeting, he urged members to seize on topics that will further the objective of the flow of technology. He did not want "this divisive issue that leads us to a cul-de-sac with no exit".

Krzysztof Klincewicz (Poland) urged members to stick to decisions arrived at the last TEC meeting which concluded with agreement to select specific topics for further discussion. He asked if the three letter word (referring to IPR) is some kind of unidentified flying object (UFO).

Chair Pfluger (Germany) cautioned that members are dealing with only one barrier now and not looking at all barriers.

Sudan and Kazakhstan called upon members to find solutions to minimise and turn the IPR barrier into an incentive.

In response to the US, Wang (China) said members should still work together constructively on this issue taking on board the view that IPRs can be an incentive as well as a barrier. He called for detailed investigation on IPRs by experts and not negotiators, to help narrow the gap in views.

ElHassan (Sudan) said the TEC should not exclude IPR from the discussion and suggested making the paper (compilation and synthesis) public and to invite resources on the issue for the next session.

After a brief discussion with the secretariat, Chair Pfulger (Germany) said the paper will be made public and at the next meeting, invite IRENA and others.

On the key messages for the meeting at COP19, he suggested that the TEC will call for inputs on IPRs at its 7th meeting but that will only be included on the agenda item for the 8th meeting next year, so as to give time to organisations to prepare.

Thompson (US) expressed doubt if another thematic dialogue is needed on enabling environment and barriers. He said it was premature to put out a call on the IPR issue for the 8th TEC meeting. He resisted any call for inputs on IPRs now.

Kennedy (Ireland) and Uosukainen (Finland) also supported the US view.

Sadeghzadeh (Iran) insisted on having the IPR issue on the agenda item for the 7th meeting, as it is an old issue.

Blanco (Argentina) clarified that there is no proposal for another thematic dialogue but instead with the synthesis report of the secretariat and suggestion for IRENA's input (at 7th TEC), that will be enough.

On the issue of IPRs, he said it is clear that the TEC had agreed for evidence on a case-by-case basis and it is good to start the process soonest.

Wang (China) reminded that IPRs has been included in the work programme for this year and if there is no substantial discussion on it at the 7th TEC meeting, it would mean that the TEC has not fulfilled its mandate.

Chair Pfluger (Germany) urged members to get back on the big picture and focus on what is to be delivered and think about formulating the key messages by concentrating on issues which had consensus. Engagement with IRENA is good, but not necessarily a full-fledged thematic dialogue.

Kennedy (Ireland) said for two years now, nothing has been raised (referring to evidence of IPR being a barrier) and he was against going on a ‘fishing trip' with a case-by-case approach.

Albert Binger (Jamaica) supported making the secretariat paper public to get responses and use them to inform future work. He said small countries are primarily importers of technologies and see little chance of developing them.

Citing the acquisition of waste disposal technology in Jamaica, he said after identifying the technology to convert waste to energy, it faced difficulties in negotiating a fair price. He asked if there were any guidelines to value the technologies as a basis for negotiation.

ElHassan (Sudan) welcomed the decision to make the paper public but did not expect IRENA to resolve all the (IPR) problems as it is not a financing body and input from others is needed.

Sadeghzadeh (Iran) said if there is room to improve the paper, then members should not close that window.

In response, the secretariat acknowledged that the preliminary report was limited to 21 country reports out of 32 and is working intensively with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to get the remainder by the end of August.

On inviting IRENA, Kennedy (Ireland) wanted the request to be specific on its findings with regards to energy.

Timothy Sill (Australia) said IRENA's participation must not only focus on IPRs but more broadly on all aspects of TNAs.

Thompson (US) agreed with Ireland and Australia to let IRENA report on the range of issues on which they have expertise and that the TEC is interested in. It should not just focus on IPRs.

The next meeting will be held from 4 to 7 September in Bonn.

Wang (China) reminded members that there be follow-up activities on the issue of ‘enabling environment and barriers' that are unfinished, and this should be continued at the next meeting.

The Chair Pfluger said it was covered under other issues to be taken forward and closed the meeting.