Methodological and Technological Issues in Technology Transfer

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3.7 Solid Waste Management and Wastewater Treatment

Methane is generated from solid waste and wastewater through anaerobic decomposition. Together, solid waste and wastewater disposal and treatment represent about 20 percent of human-induced methane emissions. Emissions are expected to grow in the future, with the largest increases coming from developing countries. Methane emissions can be reduced in many ways, including reducing waste generation (source reduction), diverting waste away from disposal sites (i.e., through composting, recycling, or incineration), recovering methane generated from the waste, or ensuring that waste does not decompose in an anaerobic environment. In general, any technique or technology that reduces methane generation or converts methane into carbon dioxide through combustion will reduce greenhouse gases. The most effective mitigation approaches are those that either reduce overall methane generation (because methane collection efficiencies rarely approach 100%) or ensure that the combusted methane is substituted for fossil-based energy.

Extensive technology transfer aimed at improving waste management is underway both within and between countries, although most activities have been, and will likely continue to be, domestic in nature. In many regions, large investments are still required to provide adequate waste management services. In the past, the climate-related impacts of waste management choices were not routinely considered. Mitigation technologies can be readily deployed in this sector, however, and provide benefits beyond the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, such as reduced landfill space requirements or additional energy generation through methane recovery.

Governments play a predominant role for technology transfer in the waste management sector , with several levels of government (from the national to the municipal level) participating. Key government priorities include the establishing of appropriate policy and regulatory frameworks, supporting the expansion of private sector participation, participating in technical assistance and capacity building activities, particularly with community groups, and in some cases providing incentives to catalyse desirable actions.

Historically, the private sector (including both domestic and multinational firms, as well as more informal local enterprises) and community-based organisations have been somewhat limited participants in government-driven technology transfer. The private sector has an increasingly important role, however, because meeting future waste management needs depends on expanded private investment. Private sector driven pathways are already used routinely for some types of investments (such as methane recovery at landfills), and efforts are underway to expand private sector participation across the full range of waste management services and technologies. The involvement of community organisations is also increasing as the link between community support and project sustainability has become clear. Soliciting local input and providing local training are two ways of ensuring sustainability. In many areas, locally developed and implemented projects are also being used to quickly address serious local concerns.

Technology transfer of waste management systems between countries will be confronted with many barriers, including limited financing, especially for South-South financing, limited institutional capabilities, jurisdictional complexity and lack of clear regulatory and investment frameworks and an overemphasis on projects at the expense of capacity building activities.

Mitigation projects can be successfully integrated into larger waste management efforts provided they are able to meet the needs and priorities of end-users, decision-makers, and financial supporters. However, mitigation projects may confront additional barriers, including:

  • Lack of familiarity with the potential to reduce methane generation or capture the methane emissions associated with waste management;
  • Unwillingness or inability to commit additional human or financial resources to investigating and addressing the climactic implications of the waste management project; and
  • Additional institutional complexity when new groups, representing issues such as energy generation or by-product marketing, are incorporated into the project.

Key issues for technology transfer in solid waste management and waste water treatment
The review of the waste management sector in the Report reveals several key findings. This sector can contribute to greenhouse gas mitigation in ways that are economically viable and meet many social priorities. Already, extensive technology transfer is underway, and it will continue due to the continuing need to provide and improve waste management services for the world's population. In this sector it is important that projects emphasise the deployment of locally appropriate technologies, and minimise the development of conventional large, integrated waste management systems (with their attendant financial, institutional and technical requirements) in situations where lower cost, simpler alternative waste management technologies can be used.

Policy and Regulatory Development
Bilateral or multilateral regulatory or policy development assistance can be very useful to countries seeking to develop an appropriate framework for waste management. Given the importance of the regulatory/policy framework for international private sector investment, private firms should be encouraged to participate in such bilateral activities. When considering technology transfer between countries aimed at improving regulatory or policy frameworks, it is important to recognise differences between host and donor countries, and to ensure that the proper solutions are developed.

Innovative Financing Approaches
The private sector can participate in technology transfer in the waste management sector by serving as the developer of bilateral or multilateral funded projects or through direct investment. Private sector opportunities for direct investment are emerging, however, and many countries are increasingly seeking private participation in waste projects.

Technology transfer aimed at assisting government agencies, particularly at the municipal level, to privatise or otherwise encourage private participation may be useful. Especially in developing countries, however, the structure and function of the existing waste management system is likely to be very different from the norm in developed countries. If these differences are not recognised and addressed, attempts to emulate developed country models can fail.

Capacity Building
Many bilateral technical assistance and capacity building activities are already underway in the waste management sector. The Report discusses several types of technology transfer for capacity building within countries, and many of the same approaches can be used between countries. Some areas of capacity building may be particularly appropriate for bilateral activities, including:

  • Training to facilitate public participation;
  • Training in financial management;
  • Training in alternative technologies;
  • Training in formulating business plans.

Existing and future capacity building activities in the waste management area can be readily expanded to facilitate the transfer of mitigation technologies. Activities could include increased emphasis on the climate impacts of various technologies as part of basic technical assistance programmes, developing specific decision tools and information for assessing climate impacts, and working with government counterparts on how to encourage mitigation technologies using a menu of voluntary, regulatory and incentive-based programmes. Expanded involvement of local and regional government officials from both donor and host countries would be beneficial, given their role in project development and implementation. Given the still emerging understanding of these issues, technical assistance activities in all directions (North-North, North-South, South-North, and South-South) are likely to be useful.

The Kyoto Protocol will likely provide important incentives for expanded activities between governments to develop mitigation projects. Provisions related to both the Clean Development Mechanism and emissions trading could encourage expanded bilateral investments in projects in exchange for emission reduction units.

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