TWN Info Service on Climate Change (Nov08/03)
11 November 2008
Third World Network

Climate: Beijing conference urges overcoming of technology barriers
Published in SUNS #6587 dated 11 November 2008

Beijing, 8 Nov (Martin Khor) -- There are many difficulties in transferring climate change technologies and an effective international mechanism should be the core of the solution to technology transfer, according to the conclusions of a high-level conference on climate change held on 7-8 November in Beijing.

At the conference's closing ceremony, a Chair's Summary of conclusions was presented by Mr. Xie Zhenhua, the Vice Chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), the country's top economic policy-making body.

The Chair's summary gave the perspective of the organisers of the outcome of the conference. Another document, the Beijing Declaration, which was co-drafted by representatives of various government delegations, was a factual account with little substantive content.

The Beijing High-level Conference on Climate Change: Technology Development and Technology Transfer was organised by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs and the Chinese government (with the NDRC taking the lead role).

The conference was attended by over 700 participants, including Ministers and officials, scholars, representatives of companies and NGOs, from 70 countries.

Following an opening session, which was addressed by the Chinese prime minister Mr. Wen Jiaboa, the environment Ministers of several countries (including Holland, Denmark, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Argentina) and the heads of UN agencies (the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, the UNFCCC and UNIDO), participants divided into three thematic roundtables.

The three parallel tracks discussed (1) the status of technology transfer, obstacles and best practices; (2) mechanisms for overcoming barriers and obstacles to technology transfer; and (3) roles and potential collaboration of the public and private sectors for technology transfer.

According to the Chair's Summary, participants noted that difficulties remain in international cooperation on promoting technology development and transfer.

There is a lack of "effective policy guidance and incentives, necessary financial supports, as well as fair and effective institutional arrangements for such cooperation. Meanwhile, there is also a need to balance the IPR protection and needs in fighting climate change."

The Chair's Summary added: "It was believed that establishing an effective international mechanism is at the core of a solution to technology transfer. It was noted with appreciation that initiatives proposed by China to establish an international mechanism for technology transfer, which includes the establishment of related organizational structure, financial and performance and monitoring mechanisms supporting technology transfer under the Convention.

"It was believed that initiatives like this contribute to achieving agreed outcomes in negotiations on technology development and transfer.

"It was emphasized that the governments of developed countries should unremittingly take a leading role in promoting technology development and transfer through necessary fiscal and tax measures and enhanced policy guidance and incentives."

According to the Summary: "Public finance of developed countries should be the main financial source of the mechanism for technology transfer. Meanwhile, it is believed that the roles of market and private sector in promoting technology transfer shall be given great importance and fully leveraged."

In an earlier part, the Summary stated that "it was recognized that climate change is a severe challenge confronting the international community today, and threatens the survival of mankind and development of every country. All countries should work together to confront the challenge of climate change.

"It was highlighted that the Convention and its Kyoto Protocol constitute a legal basis and framework for addressing climate change, that all parties should, in accordance with the principle of "common but differentiated responsibilities", pro-actively promote the full, effective and sustained implementation of the Convention and its Kyoto Protocol in the context of sustainable development.

"It was underlined that the role of the technology development and technology transfer is fundamental and critical in effectively combating climate chance.

"Technology innovation is indispensable for solving the problem of climate change: transfer and large-scale deployment of existing technology is a sine qua non for developing countries to effectively combat climate change and avoid the lock-in effect.

"It was affirmed that the capacity of developing countries in technology development and deployment is weak, resulting in great demand for the transfer of climate-friendly technologies.

"The international community should promote international cooperation on technology transfer under the Convention in accordance with the decisions of the Bali Roadmap, so as to enable developing countries to have access to climate-friendly technologies, which is the key to improving the capacity of developing countries to address climate change.

"It was proposed that each country should bear in mind the common interests of mankind, go beyond narrow mindset of interests, promote the establishment of a fair and effective international mechanism for technology development and transfer with a view to enhance global capacity of combating climate change, so as to concretely promote technology transfer and make human civilization better serve the common interests of the globe."

Earlier, the Co-Chairs of the three roundtables also presented their reports. In the report of Track A (status of technology, technology transfer, obstacles to technology transfer and best practices), the Co-Chair listed the following as barriers to technology transfer:

-- High incremental costs, lack of funds and funding channels.

-- Low capacity of developing countries in absorbing, developing and deploying environmentally sound technologies.

-- License fees are too high, and additional conditions for technology transfer.

-- Insufficient transfer of knowhow and the technology for manufacturing key components.

-- No substantial technology transfer through the Clean Development Mechanism.

-- Technology owners have no will for technology transfer.

-- Concerns about intellectual property rights.

-- International climate policies are excessively market-based.

On a proposed framework for new technology mechanisms, the Co-Chair said that governments should get more involved in technology development and transfer, and institutional arrangements should be set up for bilateral and multilateral cooperation.

A portfolio should be compiled of policy instruments and mechanisms, of both domestic policies and international mechanisms.

There should also be a mechanism encouraging renewable energy technologies and innovation. An adaptation safety net for poor countries should also be set up. Technology-oriented agreements should be flexible and there should be partnerships on R&D and on large demonstration projects.

The Co-Chairs for Track B (on mechanisms for overcoming barriers and obstacles to technology transfer) said that many developing countries have taken deep national actions whose contributions must be recognised.

In many cases, business as usual methods led to technology diffusion but in many other cases the speed of diffusion of important climate technologies is too slow and this needs to be accelerated.

The speed of technology transfer depends on national policies in both the supplier and receiving countries. There are many reasons for further acceleration of technology diffusion, as there are a lot of barriers and the present speed of diffusion cannot meet the needs.

IPRs can be a barrier in some cases while not being a barrier in other cases. Patent laws are complex and business strategies are also complex, thus there is need for further studies on the relation between IPRs and technology transfer.

The group also recognised the need for an institutional mechanism for technology and for funding that operate under the UNFCCC.