3.2 Technology Transfer and International Political Context
The legal, economic and political issues surrounding technology transfer in
general have been around for a long time. Beginning with the establishment of
the United Nations, this topic invariably found its place in every international
agreement that has anything to do with social, economic and environmental issues.
With the release of the report of the World Commission on Environment and Development
in 1987 the subject of sustainable development took centre stage in all of the
international environmental and development initiatives. One major outcome of
the report was the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development
(UNCED) held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. Among other things, the UNCED conference,
also called the Rio "Earth Summit", adopted the "Agenda 21",
an "action plan" for sustainable development.
Chapter 34 of Agenda 21 addressed the issue of technology transfer, and the
United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, signed by many countries
at Rio, contained more specific references in the context of climate change.
These hard-fought instruments were based on the recognition that all countries
needed to take action to achieve sustainable development and to address climate
change, but that developed countries carried the responsibility to lead responses,
and to assist developing countries towards sustainable development.
Consequently, Article 4.1 of the Convention, defining general commitments for
all Parties, is complemented by Articles 4.3-4.5, which establish the financial
responsibilities of countries in Annex II - essentially the OECD countries -
to assist developing countries to meet their obligations under the Convention,to
help particularly vulnerable countries to adapt to climate change, and to aid
these countries with "the transfer of, or access to, environmentally sound
technologies and know-how." Article 4.7 of FCCC underlines this:
"The extent to which developing country Parties will effectively implement
their commitments under the Convention will depend on the effective implementation
by developed country Parties of their commitments under the Convention related
to financial resources and transfer of technology, and will take fully into
account that economic and social development and poverty eradication are the
first and overriding priorities of the developing country Parties".
This reflected a general perception in developing countries that implementing
the Convention commitments could mean reducing one's economic growth. In practice,
certain climate-change-related actions can be beneficial to developing countries.
For example, measures to improve energy efficiency could support their economic
growth, and widen the opportunities for transferring more advanced energy technologies
that could bring multiple benefits, while also limiting their greenhouse gas
emissions (some developing countries are already taking significant steps in
this area, as indicated in Box 3.1, and later in this
|Box 3.1: Legislation for energy efficiency in
|Many developing countries have adopted legislation for energy efficiency.
Korea introduced an Energy Use Rationalisation Law (EURL)* in the 1980s
and has been strengthening its implementation. This EURL was introduced
to overcome energy dependency on foreign oil after the oil crisis, but it
also meets objectives of the climate change convention and has contributed
to reducing the rate of emissions growth. This was possible because it was
motivated by the economic benefit of improving energy efficiency.
In Brazil a series of innovative energy efficiency programs are aimed
toward increasing electricity efficiency. The Brazilian government is
working with the national electric company, Electrobras, in an innovative
program called PROCEL, the National Program for Conservation of Electricity.
PROCEL works with private enterprises to identify and implement options
for reducing waste and saving power through efficient end-use technology.
To date, PROCEL has implemented energy-saving programs involving efficient
motors with adjustable speed drives, improved water pumps and wastewater
systems, efficient refrigerators, and compact fluorescent lightbulbs.
These programs allow Electrobras to defer investments that would produce
greenhouse gas emissions in the future.
A major national program of demand-side management (DSM) has been instituted
in the Thai power sector. Coordinated by a government agency but with
strong support from local utilities and NGOs, this program has reduced
the rate of growth in electricity demand significantly. Consequently,
utilities have deferred power plant construction. One of the most successful
areas of cooperation has been in the lighting sector. The Electricity
Generating Agency of Thailand (EGAT) has worked with local manufacturers
and distribution channels to expand the use of "thin-tube" high
efficiency fluorescent lamps as an alternative to "fat-tube"
conventional lamps. The new tubes reduce power demand, save fuel, decrease
emissions, and, because they can be manufactured in-country, place a smaller
burden on the scarce national reserves of hard currency. In the last four
years, the Thai DSM program has saved 1,063 gigawatt-hours (GWh), allowed
the deferment of 242 Mwe of new power plants, and offset almost 800,000
tons of CO2 in the lighting sector alone.
The full national program (including lighting, refrigeration, air conditioning,
electric motors and commercial building applications) has led to the deferment
of about 300 MWe of new power plants and offset almost 1.2 million tons
*For further details see Chapters 10 and 11
and the Case Studies in this Report.
The UNFCCC recognises that economic and social development and poverty eradication
are the first and overriding priorities of the developing country Parties of
the Convention. All Parties have a right to, and should promote sustainable
development. In implementing measures to address climate change and its adverse
effects, the provision of the necessary financial resources and transfer of
technology to developing countries is essential. Articles 4.3, 4.5, and 4.7
of the UNFCCC embody these commitments.
The UNFCCC also recognises that the climate change issue can be addressed through
emission mitigation measures and adaptation measures. However, adaptation has
played only a marginal part in the reports produced by IPCC so far. This is
reflected on the attention given to adaptation technology development and its
transfer. One view is that adaptation technologies help local people adapt because
of the perceived local impact. Emphasis has therefore been on mitigation technologies
which are seen as contributing to the solution to the global problem of climate
change. All this is reflected in the little attention given to activating the
CoP1 decisions on adaptation (see also Section 4.10 in
Chapter 4 for a further discussion).
The diversity of issues means that attention at all levels of society is relevant.
National Environmental Education Programs emphasise public participation in
the solutions to environmental problems. Just as in the National Innovation
Systems and those of Environmental Impact Evaluation (which also offer possibilities
to involve citizen participation), such programmes can identify and support
actions related to technology transfer/climatic change, referring also to recommendations
of Agenda 21. Article 6 of the Convention specifically addresses the role education,
training and public awareness-raising have in addressing climate change issues.
Internationally, the ISO 14000 series of environmental management standards
can foster a greater ecological conscience in industrial sectors, and with this
enhance the transfer and application of environmentally sound technologies (UN,
1997). In addition, sectoral initiatives and agreements can also be relevant
to technology transfer and global dissemination, particularly for sectors (like
vehicles and electric power generation) in which production of leading technology
is concentrated in relatively few global companies.