Methodological and Technological Issues in Technology Transfer

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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 Report).

Box 3.1: Legislation for energy efficiency in developing countries
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 of CO2.

*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.

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