Methodological and Technological Issues in Technology Transfer

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4.10.2 Problems associated with equity

Dealing with equity related issues is not always easy. Clearly if the key goal is to reduce GHG emissions, then selecting cost-effective technologies to reduce the most emissions with the least possible costs is a key issue. However, as illustrated above, such cost-effective and politically viable technology transfer may negatively affect some communities within a society. The challenge for the international community is to try and make these trade-offs in such a way that it also reduces existing imbalances in the society. This becomes even more complicated when one realises that empowering poor people, women and the generally neglected classes, does not immediately lead to a reduction of GHG emissions, but instead to an increase of the emissions as people move out of the poverty trap. This is why a key question is: whose development should technology transfer foster? Clearly, since there is a shortage of resources, the trade-off between environment and social issues is not an easy one.

However, the implementation of technology transfer has been hampered because of four reasons (Junne, cited in Gupta, 1997). First, the low GHG emitting "leap-frog technologies" are produced in few countries (USA, Japan and Germany), and technology transfer schemes facilitating transfer of the best technologies would lead to a North-North transfer of financial resources which few other developed countries would find acceptable. Second, in identifying the low GHG emitting technologies, new conflicts may arise. For example, if France were to promote the expansion of nuclear technology, and other countries with advanced coal technologies may support the promotion of clean coal technology. Third, cost-effectiveness arguments may lead to the transfer of technologies to the most polluting countries which may also be the rapidly industrialising countries with comparatively high growth rates, leading to a South-South inequity by helping those who need the help least at the cost of helping those who need it most. Fourth, ultimately, "leap-frog technologies" aim to assist developing countries develop quickly, a goal that industrialised countries may also not entirely support.

The domestic equity aspects of technology transfer, though central to the debates on appropriate technologies in the 1970s, have not really influenced the climate change technology transfer discussions since then. However, there is a good case to be made for learning from past mistakes and ensuring that technology transfer under the climate change regime enhances the sustainable development of the importing countries.

Finally, one way forward is to specifically recognise that there are different stakeholders in a society and build assessment mechanisms to test for what could be described as 'best social practices'. Such an approach would recognise that whilst the market determines technology adoption, markets in developing countries are very imperfect and tend to exclude social concerns. In order to better evaluate these concerns, the technology can be assessed for its impacts on intended users. Conversely, technology could be selected as matched to previously
identified needs. Experiences from different social contexts could in time lead to general guidelines on 'best social practices' being formulated.

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