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Low-Carbon Technology Development and Transfer

The fight against climate change will not be won without a revolution in the use of existing low-carbon technology and a tidal wave of new inventions.

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Technology is critical for human development and progress. The fight against climate change will not be won without a revolution in the use of existing low-carbon technology and a tidal wave of new inventions. Yet the importance of doing that, especially in healing the rifts in international climate negotiations, is not yet being recognized.

Technologies, of all types, developed in one jurisdiction are regularly transferred to another but there is a long and largely unhappy history to the debate concerning technology transfer from developed to developing countries. This has been evident in climate negotiations. The challenge for an international negotiation in which technology transfer is an existing legal obligation on the part of developed countries is how such a process can best facilitate, support and enable strong domestic policies. For many developing countries building indigenous capacity to innovate, manufacture and export is as important as buying in equipment and skills.

Finance has a crucial role. It is perhaps through the financing agenda that the negotiations can make the most difference to the development and transfer of low-carbon technology by helping to support developing countries to meet the cost of low-carbon technology policies and minimize the potential trade-offs, such as increased taxation, changes in energy tariffs and regulation, all of which will increase costs ultimately levied on the taxpayer or consumer.

Intellectual property law, or IP, can also act as a barrier and measures to encourage companies to use or relinquish IP—and in some circumstances to use the flexibility already available through the World Trade Organization’s TRIPs agreement—may be necessary. Yet IP is central to innovation and important to vertical transfer as it provides competitive advantage to technology developers.

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