UNFCCC Technology Executive Committee seeks more "clarity" on IPRs

22 November 2012

The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) body charged with climate change technology policy decided to include intellectual property rights (IPRs) in its key messages to the Conference of the Parties (COP 18), at its meeting in September. This is the first formal mention of the controversial subject since the Technology Executive Committee's (TEC) inception even though IPRs have been recurrently raised in its discussions on the development and transfer of climate change technologies.

The TEC, along with the Climate Technology Centre and Network (CTCN), are the two components of the UNFCCC Technology Mechanism agreed upon at the 2010 Conference of the Parties (COP 16) in Cancun, Mexico. The Mechanism's main objective is to accelerate development and transfer of climate change technologies in support of climate mitigation and adaptation. The TEC is now faced with implementing its 2012-2013 work plan which was approved last February.

Though developing countries have often stressed the need for a better understanding on how IPRs impact technology transfer, many developed countries have argued that the UNFCCC is not the right forum to address these issues. Suggested alternatives include the World Trade Organization or the World Intellectual Property Organization. IPRs were conspicuously absent from the COP 16 Cancun and COP 17 Durban outcomes.

"IPRs were identified as an area for which more clarity would be needed on their role in the development and transfer of climate technologies, based upon evidence on a case-by-case basis," was one of the seven key messages to transmit to COP 18 under the heading of "enabling environments and barriers to technology development and transfer." Other messages addressed research, capacity-building, the need for integrative approaches, engaging the private sector, strengthening national innovation and the facilitation of private and public sector investment.

ICTSD, the publisher of BioRes, has been urging the TEC to discuss IPRs from an evidence-based perspective.

The TEC continued its debate on enabling environments and barriers to technology development and transfer, which first began its discussions at the last TEC meeting in May. Panellists voiced their opinions on how best to include IPRs into the climate change agenda, particularly in a way that supports developing countries.

Ana Pueyo Velasco, from the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex, reportedly noted that UNFCCC instruments have not yet delivered sufficient technology transfer, due in part to a lack of structures in place to facilitate private investment and an overly-simplistic approach to complex developing countries.

Panellist Dalindyebo Shabalala, of the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) and Climate Action Network International, reportedly urged the TEC to encourage platforms for IPRs transfer and called for lower costs of access to existing adaptation technology.

UNFCCC negotiators will meet next in Doha, Qatar from 26 November to 7 December for COP 18.

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