Methodological and Technological Issues in Technology Transfer

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Executive Summary

This chapter assesses the current state of knowledge on technology transfer for coastal adaptation to climate change. It aims to inform coastal managers, planners, scientists and other interested actors of the process of technology transfer in coastal zones and of its importance when seeking to reduce coastal vulnerability to climate change. It identifies barriers to technology transfer as well as enabling policies, programmes and measures to overcome these barriers.

The five key messages of this chapter are as follows:

  • Adaptation to climate change in coastal zones is becoming increasingly important and many proven technologies are available for coastal adaptation. Existing coastal technologies that have been used to deal with climate variability in coastal zones can also be applied to adapt to climate change. A range of opportunities exists for the application of both hard and soft technologies to complement economic, legal and institutional options. Available and effective technologies include traditional, indigenous, non-western technologies. They also include technologies to develop and exchange knowledge and information. Given that many technologies are available, extra efforts in technology transfer should focus on promoting and adjusting existing technologies, rather than on the development of new technologies.
  • Effective adaptation to climate change needs to consider the numerous non-climate stresses in coastal zones and be consistent with existing policy criteria and development objectives. Adaptation in coastal zones must strike a balance between current pressures resulting from climate variability and unsustainable development, and anticipated impacts of climate change and associated sea-level rise. Adaptation technologies are best implemented as part of a broader, integrated coastal-management framework that recognises immediate and longer-term sectoral needs. Win-win situations could be established when coastal-adaptation technologies also provide benefits unrelated to climate change.
  • Successful coastal adaptation depends on many local factors and cannot be simply transferred to other vulnerable areas. The purpose of technology application in coastal zones is to reduce risks and to increase adaptive capacity. The effectiveness of a particular technology depends on local circumstances, including the biophysical setting and economic, institutional, legal and socio-cultural conditions. Protection is not a feasible option for all coastlines. In many, particularly lesser developed places, retreat and accommodate strategies will be most effective. Local expertise is essential to identify and design appropriate coastal-adaptation technologies, as well as to implement, operate and maintain these.
  • Pathways of technology transfer in coastal zones are predominantly driven by government interests. The strongest and most direct incentives to adapt to climate change in coastal zones are with the public sector, although particularly tourism and marine transportation represent important private-sector interests. The private sector is typically not the stakeholder that drives technology transfer for coastal adaptation, because benefits are small or uncertain, and action is expected from the government to protect private-sector interests. In developing countries, the private sector is generally a less significant economic force, so again governments are expected to lead the way in coastal adaptation. In government-initiated coastal technology transfer, the private sector is often involved in the planning, design and implementation of adaptation technologies.
  • Technology transfer in coastal zones faces a number of important barriers. A refocus of institutions and funding priorities may be required to overcome these barriers. Many barriers to effective technology transfer are site-specific and require site-specific solutions. Four major general barriers exist: (i) lack of data, information and knowledge to identify adaptation needs and appropriate technologies, (ii) lack of local capacity and consequent dependence of customers on suppliers of technology for operation, maintenance and duplication, (iii) disconnected organisational and institutional relationships between relevant actors and (iv) access to financial means. Overcoming these barriers does not require setting up new institutions. Instead, existing activities and institutions need to be refocused to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of coastal technology transfer. Additionally, regional collaboration and a redirection of funds to support appropriate coastal adaptation to climate change are required.

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