Methodological and Technological Issues in Technology Transfer

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4.10.1 Equity and the Technology Transfer issue

The selection of technology for the purposes of transfer may have a serious impact on distribution issues:

Allocation of Emission entitlements
The climate change issue can be explained as the issue of how the rights to use and pollute resources will be shared among countries and people. The allocation of emission entitlements/targets is thus a crucial issue and will have an impact on technology choices. The initial distribution of rights both nationally and internationally may be a major bottleneck to the technology transfer process. Theoretically, a 'fair' allocation of emission allowances to all countries would allow the 'underusers' of such allowances to sell their allowances to 'overusers' of such allowances. Such an instrument would thus provide an incentive to 'overusers' to reduce their emission levels and help to redistribute resources to 'underusers' who generally would be the poorer countries. By allowing the market to function, the cheapest way of reducing the necessary global reductions in emissions can be achieved (UNCTAD, 1995; Agarwal and Narain, 1992). However, the critical issue is how should the initial allocations of emission allowances be undertaken? The recent literature indicates a proliferation of articles that discuss the definition of equity. These include allocation based rules which include, in addition to per capita principles, the principles of equal rights to pollute, the polluter pays principle, the basic needs approach, outcome-based rules such as equal abatement costs, equal percentage net GDP loss, compensation to net losers, etc. (Banuri et al., 1996; Metz, 1999). Both legal precedent and the scientific literature do not point towards an optimum approach. Whatever agreements are made on modalities at the international level and on the decisions about approaches, these are likely to affect the outcomes of technology transfer within countries. The way the allocations of emission allowances are distributed would help to determine the potential for financing technology cooperation between countries (in terms of demand for CDM and JI, for example).

Adaptation versus mitigation

The climate change issue can be addressed through emission limitation measures and adaptation measures. Since available funds are limited, the issue of prioritising technology becomes central. Adaptation technologies tend to help local people adapt and may be seen as a local impact, and, until now the emphasis has been on limitation technologies which are seen as contributing to the solution to the global problem of climate change. Bodansky (1993) explains "adaptation measures generate primarily local benefits, so that developed countries have little incentive to fund adaptation measures". Until recently (see section 4.5), little attention had been given to activating the CoP1 decisions on adaptation and has adaptation played only a marginal part in the reports produced by IPCC. This reflects the limited attention given to adaptation by scientists as well as policy-makers worldwide. In his elaborate review of the Working Group II volume of the IPCC Second Assessment Report, Kates (1997) suggested the reason for this lies in the existence of two distinct schools of thought about climate change, both of which have chosen not to encourage adaptation research and planning.

The "preventionist" school argues that the ongoing increase of atmospheric greenhouse-gas concentrations could be catastrophic, and that drastic action is required to reduce emissions. Preventionists fear that increased emphasis on adaptation will weaken society's willingness to reduce emissions and thus delay or diminish mitigation efforts. The "adaptationist" school, on the other hand, sees no need to focus on neither adaptation nor mitigation. They argue that both natural and human systems have a long history of adapting naturally to changing circumstances and that active adaptation will bring with it high social costs (Kates, 1997).

The increasing awareness of climate change not as a theoretical phenomenon but as a genuine threat has led to the emergence of a third school of thought, which Klein and MacIver (in press) have labelled the "realist" school. The realist school regards climate change as a fact, but acknowledges that impacts are still uncertain. Further, realists appreciate that the planning and implementation of effective adaptation options takes time. Therefore, they understand that a process must be set in motion to consider adaptation as a crucial and realistic response option along with mitigation (e.g., Parry et al., 1998; Pielke, 1998).

The least developing countries, and particularly the small island states, are putting increased emphasis on this side of the issue. Vulnerability indices are being developed, for example, by SPREP and UNEP. Adaptation technologies which involve institutional infrastructures (for example in agriculture, health and human settlement planning) could be integrated with other parts of efforts to alleviate poverty and promote development, but it is not yet clear if there is much joined-up thinking in evidence at the donor level.

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