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Countdown to Copenhagen: Technology in a Global Climate Agreement

A consensus is emerging on technology transfer in an international climate agreement, though sticking points remain.

Q: What are the key technology issues under discussion at the UNFCCC?

Enhanced international action on technology development and deployment, as outlined in the Bali Action Plan, is an important component of the post-2012 climate negotiations. Key elements include:

  • How an international agreement can incentivize innovation of next generation low-carbon technologies, and accelerate and scale up diffusion of existing technologies to developing countries.

  • Whether the structure of the international regime should include a new technology body or bodies and/or a new technology fund, or should build on existing mechanisms.

  • How to solve divisive intellectual property rights (IPR) issues.

Q: Where are the areas of convergence among country positions?

Areas of emerging consensus among key players are illustrated in the graphic below. Key among these is the emerging framework for measuring, reporting, and verifying of nationally appropriate mitigation actions (NAMAs) by developing countries and support for such actions by developed countries. Many Parties acknowledge the importance of national policy frameworks to facilitate technology diffusion. In WRI’s view, national policies that enhance the enabling environment for private investment should count as NAMAs, as these will facilitate and accelerate technology deployment on a greater scale.

[img_assist|nid=11087|title=Convergence and Divergence in Party Submissions to the UNFCCC on Technology (Click chart to view larger size.)|desc=|link=node|align=center|width=479|height=324]

Q: Where do areas of divergence remain?

As the graphic illustrates, key sticking points include the appropriate design of the institutional structure for technology support and how to address intellectual property rights.

The G77 countries have proposed a new executive body and fund under the UNFCCC to oversee technology transfer. Developed countries tend to generally prefer to negotiate improvements to existing mechanisms and funds, including the Global Environment Facility (GEF). Proposals over IPR also break into two camps. In general, G77 countries view the strong enforcement of IPR as a barrier to access to low-carbon technologies. Developed countries emphasize unfavorable national policy frameworks, including lax IPR enforcement, as a barrier to private investment in such technologies.

Q: What would be a successful outcome on technology in Copenhagen?

Technology may be more important to the post-2012 international agreement than the agreement is to technology deployment. In practice, domestic domestic-level policies and flows of private capital will be the primary driver of technology development and deployment in the years ahead.

However, given this issue’s central importance in the Bali Action Plan, the technology provisions agreed in Copenhagen will have a major bearing on the negotiations’ success. Designed correctly, they may also play an important complementary role in facilitating the adoption of clean technologies around the world.

In particular, agreement on the implementation of, and support for, nationally appropriate mitigation actions by developing countries would provide a significant contribution to facilitating accelerated technology development and deployment. The NAMAs framework will provide incentives for public sector R&D and enhanced domestic policy frameworks, and create a structure for measuring, reporting, and verifying financial and other forms of technology transfer support.

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