TWN Info Service on Climate Change (Nov08/01)
10 November 2008
Third World Network

Climate: Chinese premier urges global mechanism to transfer technology
Published in SUNS #6586 dated 10 November 2008

Beijing, 7 Nov (Martin Khor) -- No substantive progress has been made on the transfer of climate-friendly technologies and an international mechanism should be set up to ensure timely access of developing countries to these technologies, said China's Prime Minister Mr. Wen Jiabao today.

Opening a high-level conference on climate change technology development and technology transfer, Wen put forward five proposals for making progress on the global fight against climate change, and elaborated on measures his country had taken to address the problem.

About one thousand people, including Ministers and senior officials of 70 countries, are attending the two-day workshop, organized by the Chinese government (led by the National Development and Reform Commission) and the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

The conference is being held just weeks before a key meeting of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Poznan (Poland) on 1-12 December. This meeting of the Conference of Parties is scheduled to take stock of the several sessions this year and plan for the talks next year, with the aim of reaching a decision at Copenhagen in December 2009.

Also speaking at the opening session held at the Great Hall of the People were UN Under-Secretary General Mr. Sha Zukang and Environment Ministers of Denmark, Netherlands, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Cambodia and other countries.

Wen said that significant progress has been made in developing new and renewable energy technologies and new breakthroughs are imminent in developing key climate change technologies, and wider use of these technologies are vital for building a low-carbon economy.

"Regrettably, no substantive progress has been made in the global sharing of climate change technologies," said the premier. The international community should step up cooperation to develop and transfer these technologies, and establish an operational mechanism so that developing countries can have access to advanced emission-reduction technologies, said Wen. He added that outstanding issues include "organizational structure, fund allocation, institutional guarantee and other core issues."

Wen made four other proposals. First, climate change must be tackled through international cooperation, with the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol as the legal basis. Though efforts were made to comply with them, the result falls far short. Factors such as national realities, development levels, historical responsibilities and per capita emissions need to be taken into full consideration.

Second, climate change must be tackled under the framework of sustainable development. Though climate change is a major environmental issue it is ultimately a development issue, said the premier. Climate change should not be addressed at the cost of development, not should economic growth be blindly pursued in disregard to climate change threats.

Climate change is mainly caused by the accumulated emissions of developed countries, so it is unfair that developing countries have to bear the consequences. The developed countries should change their unsustainable consumption mode, reduce emissions and help developing countries embark on a sustainable development path.

Third, the "common but differentiated responsibility" principle should play a central role in climate talks and must be followed, said Wen. Developed countries must abide by their reduction targets and continue to reduce emissions in the post-2012 period while assisting developing countries in finance, technology and capacity building. They should also give full consideration to the special concerns of developing countries which should also try to reduce emissions to the extent possible.

Fourth, the UN Millennium Goals must be upheld, as without economic progress, it is impossible to tackle climate change. The endeavour to tackle climate change should facilitate rather than frustrate efforts of developing countries to develop, and should narrow rather than widen the wealth gap and technology divide, and uphold rather than undermine fairness, justice and social harmony of the international community.

The prime minister also gave details of China's national measures, including a national climate change programme, an obligatory target to reduce energy intensity per unit of GDP by 20% in five years, transformation of the economic growth pattern, and develop clean and renewable energy.

Other measures he mentioned were reform of pricing, fiscal and tax systems in the energy and resources sector, ecological conservation projects, several laws and regulations, and setting up of a national leading group on climate change headed by himself. He gave data on progress in shitting down coal-fired generators and coal mines and the annual reduction of energy intensity.

Stressing that China is a developing country with relatively low per capita emission, Wen said "we are under multiple pressures to grow the economy, eliminate poverty and slow down greenhouse gas emissions." A considerable portion of its emission comes from subsistence emission needed to guarantee people's livelihoods, and transferred emission from international manufacturers.

He added that developed countries encountered their environmental challenges in phases over 200 years of industrialization, "but we are confronted with the challenges all at the same time. In addition we have to address in a much shorter timeframe the issue of energy conservation and pollution control which has taken developed countries decades to tackle after their economies became highly developed. The difficulties we face are therefore unprecedented.

UN Under-Secretary General Mr. Sha Zukang, speaking on technology transfer, said the questions remained, can we move from recognition of shared interest to action? How do we reckon with tough issues as who should transfer what, to whom and at what price?

He made four main points, that hardware supply is only a visible facet of technology, there should be coverage of mitigation and adaptation (without neglect of the latter), there should be a clear understanding of the status of development of key technologies and major barriers and obstacles to technology transfer should be identified.

On barriers, Sha said energy services from climate-friendly technologies are too costly for developing countries. Other barriers include market conditions, inappropriate fiscal and regulatory policies, lack of information and weak human capacities.

"The legal and regulatory frameworks can promote and enable - or slow - technology transfer," said Sha. "In this respect, views differ sharply on whether prevailing international intellectual property rights protection constitutes barriers to technology transfer and diffusion." He added that the rationale for IPRs is to promote innovation. "But it may be legitimate to ask, has the pendulum swung too far, from protection to protectionism."

Denmark's Environment Minister spoke of the gains to her country from embracing wind technology. Agreeing on the need for a technology mechanism and climate funds under the UNFCCC, she said the developed countries must bear the largest burden, but emerging economies like China must also step up their efforts as most emission increases in future will come from developing countries.

Saying that Mali is not China and Somalia is not Saudi Arabia, she said that actions by countries should be according to their respective capabilities.

The Dutch Environment Minister said it was urgent that a Copenhagen outcome includes a financial architecture, and that the Poznan meeting should make progress on both technology and the financial architecture. On technology, she proposed to identify components of a technology framework, remove barriers, identify technology actions by developing countries and ways to build technology cooperation.

There should also be a solid finance architecture, she said. This should be based on principles of equity (meeting needs of different countries and regions), effectiveness (with predictable and stable financial flows), efficiency (linking finance to country-driven plans) and governance (with solid accountability and balanced representation). All these should be discussed at Poznan, she said.

South Africa's Environment Minister gave an outline of his country's climate policies. He then referred to the Danish Minister's "admonishment" of developing countries and apparent attempt to create new categories of developing countries. Responding to this, he said the developing countries say a "resounding No" to the proposal, and that the Copenhagen meeting (in 2009) is to discuss the Bali Action Plan and not to renegotiate the climate framework, and there should be no new sub categorization of developing countries.