Methodological and Technological Issues in Technology Transfer

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3.4.1 Follow-up to the Convention commitments on Technology Transfer

The first Conference of the Parties in Decision 13/CP.1 (UNFCCC, 1995) requested the Convention secretariat to prepare an itemised progress report on concrete measures taken by the Annex II Parties to fulfill their commitments related to the transfer of environmentally sound technologies and of the know-how necessary to mitigate and facilitate adequate adaptation to climate change. It also urged Parties listed in Annex II to include this information in their national communications in order to enable the Convention secretariat to compile, analyse, and submit the documents to each session of the Conference of the Parties.

Box 3.4 outlines the subsequent development of these issues in successive meetings of the SBSTA. It was evident from early discussions in SBSTA and the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI) that while information from Annex II Parties is vital, the Parties recognised the complementarity of the roles of public and private sectors with technology transfer. From here on the emphasis was not just on Annex II Parties, but on urging all Parties to improve the enabling environment for private sector participation, and to support and promote the development of endogenous capacities and appropriate technology relevant to the objectives of the Convention (UNFCCC, 1996d). The work programme of the secretariat, in addition to its work on the technology inventory database, included collecting information on: technology information centres; technology information needs; adaptation technology; terms of transfer of technology and know-how; and also private sector technology transfer. COP2 took note of the progress made in implementing Decision 13/CP.1 by reviewing the Convention secretariat's documents on the subject, and expressed its concern at the slow progress in obtaining relevant information on this matter (Decision 7/CP.1 (UNFCCC, 1996e). The Decision also requested Annex II Parties to submit information so as to help Parties make informed decisions.

Box 3.4: Development of reporting and analysis of technology transfer under the UNFCCC
The secretariat, after reviewing information from 21 Annex II Parties in the aftermath of CoP1, organised information around multilateral, bilateral, and private sector cooperation (UNFCCC, 1996c). It found that four parties did not report on activities related to transfer of technology (most of these communications were submitted prior to the CoP1 decision). The secretariat found that the Annex II Parties submitted their communications as per the guidelines, which did not require the kind of detail sought by Decision 13/CP.1. Additionally, the secretariat's document points out that the part dealing with technology transfer could easily be subject to different interpretations by the Parties. The in-depth review process revealed that much more information is available than has been provided in the communications, leading the secretariat to the conclusion that a comprehensive picture of technology transfer activities was not available at that stage.

The secretariat prepared a report on the basis of 31 responses received to its request for information and supplied the same to the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) (UNFCCC, 1996a). It was difficult for the secretariat to draw specific conclusions based on these responses. There was, however, a feeling that if more time were to be available to the Parties and intergovernmental organisations, the many other valuable reports and information sources could be reviewed to help with the development of a long-term work programme. In response to a decision by SBSTA at its second session, Annex II Parties submitted information on technology inventory databases (UNFCCC, 1996 a and b)*.

The subsidiary bodies at their fourth and fifth sessions noted the progress made by the secretariat, and requested it to intensify and accelerate its efforts, and at the same time noted that the information provided by Annex II Parties differed considerably in format, comprehensiveness and level of detail. They urged the completion of an itemised progress report by its seventh session on access to, and the transfer of, environmentally sound technology, based on the national communications (UNFCCC, 1997a). By the time they met for the sixth session, the scope of work by the secretariat was enlarged to include specifically work with the World Bank, OECD, and the possibility of establishing intergovernmental technical advisory panels (ITAPs) at its seventh session. Moreover, there was support shown for the secretariat's plans to prepare reports on the role of the private sector, and on barriers and enabling activities of governments related to the transfer of technology.

The secretariat in preparation for the seventh session of the subsidiary bodies commissioned a number of papers and presented the key findings in its progress report on the topic (UNFCCC, 1997c). While the summaries are helpful in identifying the relative roles of different types of technologies and centres and networks, one should look elsewhere to find the results of the review of national communications of Annex II Parties (UNFCCC, 1997b). Reviewing these documents the SBSTA/SBI joint working group took note of the need for better information with respect to finance and transfer of technology, and agreed to consider at its ninth session what, if any, additions and/or amendments to the revised guidelines for the preparation of national communications by Annex II Parties would be required.

Decision 9/CP.3 (UNFCCC, 1998a) requested the secretariat to continue its work, consult with the Global Environment Facility and other relevant international organisations on international technology information centres and exploring the possibilities of funding the same. It urges Parties to create an enabling environment for the private sector to play its due role, as well as improve the reporting by Annex II Parties in their national communications.

In preparation for the eighth session of the subsidiary bodies, the secretariat produced another progress report (UNFCCC, 1998b). While this report touched on all of the various aspects of prior decisions, i.e. technology-information needs survey, adaptation technology, centres and networks, it could not say anything more on actions within Annex II, since any comment on this issue will need to come from a review of national communications and a review of available communications was already carried out earlier on.

*: Software packages include: IIASA's CO2 Technology Data Bank, the World Bank's Greenhouse Gas Assessment Methodology, Germany's Instruments for Reduction Strategies of Greenhouse Gases, and the Netherland's Information System on Conservation and Application of Resources Using a Sector Approach. Reports include: IEA's Comparing Energy Technologies, the World Bank's The Case for Solar Investments, and USEPA's A Guide for Methane Mitigation Projects, Gas-to-Energy at Landfills and Open Dumps.

At Buenos Aires, Decision 4/CP.4 (UNFCCC, 1999a) recommended a series of practical steps to promote, facilitate and finance the transfer of, and access to, environmentally sound technologies and know-how. It outlined the importance of supporting the development and enhancement of endogenous capacities and technologies of developing country Parties, and identified areas where assistance in facilitating the transfer of environmentally sound technologies and know-how is required. It is addressed to all of the Parties in light of various provisions of the Convention (Articles 4.1, 4.3, 4.5, 4.7, 4.8, 4.9 and Articles 9.2, 11.1, 11.5). It asked Annex II Parties to provide a list of environmentally sound technologies and know-how related to adaptation to and mitigation of climate change that are publicly owned, and to report in their national communications steps taken to implement Article 4.5 of the Convention. It asked non-Annex I Parties to submit their prioritised technology needs. It invites all Parties and interested actors to identify projects and programmes that can serve as models for improving the diffusion and implementation of clean technologies under the Convention.

This survey illustrates the fact that technology transfer has been on the agenda of every session of SBSTA. Despite all of the discussions within and various papers produced by the secretariat, there has been limited progress on determining what constitutes technology transfer, the roles of the governments and private sector, and how compliance with Article 4.5 should be measured. As a note by the secretariat (UNFCCC, 1998c) pointed out, reaching agreement on these issues is of fundamental importance. It is vital that there be simple and agreed upon criteria for measuring whether Annex II Parties have met their commitments; the guidelines for national communications should clearly identify formats for reporting financial information (as an indication of the amount of technology transferred). In other words, as the secretariat pointed out, developing and reaching an agreement on what constitutes "success" might be an important issue for the Parties to consider.

Outside of formal discussions within UNFCCC, other initiatives on technology transfer are notable. Stemming from initiatives by Japan and Germany, the Climate Technology Initiative (CTI) was developed through the International Energy Agency (IEA). The CTI is still in evolution, but its activities include a variety of voluntary actions by IEA member states: setting up national advice and technological development plans; offering prizes for technological development; enhancing markets for emerging technologies; and promoting collaboration between states on technology research and development. In addition, the CTI has also established regional seminars on climate change related technology, and has worked in collaboration with the SBSTA.

In 1997, the IEA announced that it would increase its work with the CTI and seek new collaboration with existing bodies like the ISO. A new Global Remedy for the Environment and Energy Use (GREEN) initiative was also established, aiming to enhance the use of climate change mitigating technology in ODA and private investment.

However, the impacts of these official attempts to generate technology transfer are as yet unclear, and in terms of total investment are relatively limited compared with mainstream investment flows. Other complementary approaches have thus also been proposed. P. du Pont et al. (1997) highlight that industrialised countries, at the same time as calling for stronger action in developing countries, frequently export to them second-hand equipment that is old, inefficient and polluting. Citing examples from vehicles, and from the pulp and paper industry, they note that facilities (cars or industrial plants) are exported that are essentially obsolete and no longer meet standards in industrialised countries. They suggest that such exports should be discouraged, for example, by using a tax credit in developed countries to accelerate equipment renewal (perhaps granted only if the obsolete technology is not exported) or by "negative emission credits" for export of second-hand technologies that increase greenhouse gas emissions compared with state-of-the-art technology (du Pont. et. al., 1997). Procedures requiring "prior informed consent" from recipient countries, analogous to those in the international agreements on hazardous wastes and chemicals, might offer a "softer" alternative.

Overall, the need to better engage the private sector and to harness private investment, and much learning since the UNFCCC (including experience with AIJ projects summarised elsewhere in this Report), has implied rethinking the ways in which the UNFCCC has approached technology transfer. This has become clearer in the Kyoto Protocol and subsequent decisions.

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