Technology transfer in UNFCCC: State of play and future challenges

9 June 2014

Ahead of the mid-year June meetings, BioRes talked to Gabriel Blanco, Chair of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)’s Technology Executive Committee (TEC), the policy arm of the international climate treaty’s Technology Mechanism. The TEC has a mission to offer guidance on technological needs, as well as to provide policy and technical analysis on issues related to the development and transfer of technologies for climate mitigation and adaptation. This interview was conducted at the end of May.

How would you assess the progress in the operationalisation of the Technology Mechanism agreed to at the 2010 UNFCCC Conference of the Parties in Cancún, Mexico?
[Gabriel Blanco] My assessment of the progress of the operationalisation of the Technology Mechanism is very satisfactory. Let me say briefly why; the Technology Executive Committee [TEC] has already been delivering results. In a couple of years, we were able to provide key messages to the Conference of the Parties [COP]. We’ve processed and analysed information coming from various sources like the Technology Needs Assessments [TNA], and technology roadmaps or action plans. The TEC has also conducted thematic dialogues and workshops on various topics like technologies for adaptation, research and development, as well as finance. We’ve produced our own brand of TEC briefs and through these were able to deliver key messages in several areas like enabling environments, barriers for technology development and transfer, as well as research, development and demonstration [RD&D], TNA finance etc. So in less than two years, we’ve released quite a range of products.

Regarding the other part of the Technology Mechanism, the Climate Technology Centre and Network [CTCN], it’s been established and the procedures and modalities for its work have been agreed to. The Climate Technology Centre was also able to set up criteria for network membership and with these criteria we’ve already started to bring in institutions from all over the world. Furthermore, the CTCN has established criteria for the requests for assistance from developing countries including criteria for prioritising these requests. And of course now we are working on the details of how the network is going to function in order to respond to these requests coming from parties. We expect the network to be very large; so we need clear, transparent modalities on how it will function. Again, all this has happened in just a year and a half or so.

At its latest TEC meeting held on 5-7 March, in Bonn, Germany, you stressed the importance of building linkages between UNFCCC’s separate financial and technology mechanisms, which is also included in the Technology Executive Committee’s work plan for the next two years. Can you tell us a bit more about this and the issues to be addressed in your future work?
[GB] With regards to the first part of the question, it’s very simple and straightforward. Finance is key to technology transfer. It’s also necessary and fundamental for the work of the CTCN, which is the implementation arm of the Technology Mechanism. Of course the TEC also needs some financial resources to conduct its work as well, but the CTCN is going to be working on the ground, which is why it needs resources. But then the question comes as to how the linkages between the financial and technology mechanisms should be established and I see a role for the TEC here. In my view, the TEC should, and we are starting to work together with the financial mechanism people either in the Green Climate Fund or the Global Environment Facility, explore how the TEC can be involved in financial decision-making processes. For example, we have held meetings with the chairs of these other bodies. And then, there is another crucial aspect to all this, which is the need to create coherence and synergies between all the bodies under the UNFCCC umbrella. As the climate negotiations move forward, some bodies are created as a result of a particular discussion. Sometimes the COP creates a body without looking precisely at the details as to how the new entity will work with the other existing instruments. This is then something that needs to be done afterwards. Now we have the Standing Committee on Finance, the Adaptation Committee, the Technology Mechanism, the Green Climate Fund, all these bodies should work together in a coherent mode. This is critical in my view; otherwise we may overlap in our activities, and duplicate our efforts. This is why the TEC has started to work with the Adaptation Committee, for example. The two bodies conducted a joint workshop on technologies for adaptation on 4 March 2014 and we always have members from the Adaptation Committee sitting in our meetings, and we’ve been invited to participate in their activities as well.

You outlined what the TEC has achieved so far. What sorts of challenges remain to be addressed?
[GB]  I’ve already outlined what the TEC has achieved so far, but let me add one more thing that is very important with regards to addressing future challenges. I consider that we are pioneers in the participation of the “external world”, in the work of the TEC. This is really very unique if you consider other UNFCCC bodies. I am very happy to be chairing a body with this sort of openness. We’ve created a number of taskforces within the TEC to address some of the issues in our work plan, and external experts will join these taskforces to discuss how to move forward, what key messages can be delivered, and so on.

The role of intellectual property has been recurrently raised in UNFCCC discussions on transfer of climate technologies. How might this be addressed by the TEC?
[GB]  First of all let me say that we already delivered key messages on this issue. Our message two years ago in Doha was that intellectual property rights [IPR] issues require analysis on a case-by-case basis. That means we should look at the different sectors, different technologies, and see if there is any problem there with IPR and technology transfer. And vice-versa, if we see that IPR has been an incentive for the development and transfer of technology, we can work on how to replicate the case for other sectors and technologies. We are also due to conduct a workshop in October on national systems of innovation. IPR issues are part of the agenda again for that workshop, which will be open of course to observers and other experts.

Where do you see the role of trade in enabling relevant technology transfer?
[GB]  Trade of course can be important in facilitating technology transfer, but in general this is a more comprehensive process that also involves capacity building, exchange of knowledge and expertise among parties. So under this umbrella called “technology development and transfer,” I see a more comprehensive and profound process where parties can exchange, where trade is a key part of the process, but not the whole thing. Of course there could be some transfer of hardware, that’s important too.

What do you hope to see coming out of Bonn in the area of technology transfer?
[GB]  There are two or three issues in Bonn; we need to approve the joint annual report coming from the TEC and the CTCN. That got stuck in the past COP in Warsaw, Poland for other reasons, not due to the report itself. Another important piece will be the synthesis report on technology needs assessments. I hope parties will be able to see the value in that exercise. The Poznan Strategic and Long-Term Programmes on Technology Transfer are going to be discussed based on a new report from the Global Environment Facility. It seems to be that at some point we need to seriously talk about how to align the Global Environment Facility efforts on technology transfer with the Technology Mechanism. I’d like to be very clear that at this point I see that we’re creating two parallel mechanisms. Its something we need to discuss and address in June and beyond. Finally, on the 2015 climate agreement negotiations, my major concern is that parties should see that the Technology Mechanism should be the institutional arrangement under the new agreement for 2015. I’m very concerned about that. My plea to the parties is to look at what we have done already in less than two years, to enhance the Technology Mechanism, and provide the necessary resources. 

This article is published under
9 June 2014
As the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change ( UNFCCC )’s Climate Technology Centre and Network (CTCN) kicks off its work, BioRes sat down with Heleen de Coninck, Associate Professor at the...
9 June 2014
Emissions trading schemes have mushroomed in various constituencies around the globe in recent years as a way of lowering greenhouse gases from economic activity. The EU has now started negotiating...