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Climate Change Information Sheet 29
Global cooperation on technology

Climate change is a global problem that requires a global solution. Developed countries account for the largest part of historical and current greenhouse gas emissions. However, while per-capita emissions in developed countries are likely to stabilize (at well above the world average), the developing countries’ annual emissions continue to rise steadily and are expected to equal those of developed countries sometime in the early part of this century.

Developing countries will need access to climate-friendly technologies if they are to limit emissions from their growing economies. Such technologies are essential to establishing a low-emissions industrial infrastructure. Under the Climate Change Convention, the richest countries (essentially the OECD members) agree to "take all practical steps to promote, facilitate, and finance, as appropriate, the transfer of, or access to, environmentally-sound technologies and know-how to other Parties, particularly developing country Parties, to enable them to implement the Convention."

Technology can be transferred through several different channels. The traditional channel has been bilateral and multilateral development assistance in the form of export credits, insurance, and other trade support. Incorporating climate change considerations into the programmes of national development offices and multilateral development banks would also greatly increase the transfer of low-emissions technologies. The Climate Change Convention has opened up a new channel via the government-funded Global Environment Facility (GEF). In addition, the Kyoto Protocol establishes a Joint Implementation mechanism and a Clean Development Mechanism to attract private and public sector funds for transferring technology and know-how to, respectively, countries with economies in transition and developing countries.

The GEF has a critical role to play in the co-development and transfer of advanced technologies. The GEF supports both the development and demonstration of technologies that can improve economic efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions while promoting sustainable development in developing and transition countries. GEF projects can be used to demonstrate the technological feasibility and cost-effectiveness of renewable energy technologies and energy efficiency options. In these cases, the GEF pays the added cost of introducing a climate-friendly technology in place of a more polluting one.

Joint Implementation has been conceived as one way of channeling new funds into climate change activities. JI could promote the co-development of advanced technologies and their transfer from one developed country to another. In practice, JI will normally be carried out through partnerships between investing companies in highly industrialized countries and counterparts in countries making the transition to a market economy. The investing partner may provide most of the required technology and financial capital while the host-country partner may provide the site, the principal staff, and the organization needed to launch and sustain the project.

The Clean Development Mechanism aims to help developing countries achieve sustainable development and contribute to the Convention’s goals. It will be guided by the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol, supervised by an executive board, and based on voluntary participation. Project activities will result in "certified emissions reductions" that developed countries can use to meet their own binding emissions targets. These projects can involve private or public entities and must have measurable and long-term affects on the host country’s emissions. Energy efficiency, renewable energy, and forest sink projects can qualify, but developed countries are to refrain from using nuclear facilities in the CDM.

Technology transfer must be accompanied by capacity building. The delivery of new hardware alone rarely leads to "real, measurable and long-term environmental benefits" in the host country. In many cases it is absolutely essential to strengthen existing local institutions. This includes building managerial and technical skills and transferring the know-how for operating and replicating new technological systems on a sustainable basis. Without such preparation, advanced technologies may fail to penetrate the market. Capacity building also has a role to play in ensuring that new technologies are, in the words of the Convention, "compatible with and supportive of national environment and development priorities and strategies, [and] contribute to cost-effectiveness in achieving global benefits."

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