Climate Change, Technology Transfer and Intellectual Property Rights

Date period
15 October 2008

SummaryEnhanced action on technology development and transfer will be central in enabling the full and effective implementation of the UNFCCC beyond 2012. Yet disagreements remain, particularly on the obstacles to the transfer of climate-related technologies and the types of measures that should be taken to overcome them. Objectives and commitments on transfer of technology exist under the UNFCCC and Kyoto Protocol, as well as in the trade context. The difficulty of their implementation, however, highlights the importance of moving beyond general language to the consideration of concrete problems and solutions.

IP is potentially both an incentive and an obstacle to the transfer of technology. The exact role of IP in the transfer of climate-related technologies remains unclear. No comprehensive study has been conducted on the impact of IP rights in the different categories of climate-related technologies. Nevertheless, there are calls to address the possible adverse effects of IP on the transfer of climate-related technology. The contribution of existing TRIPS flexibilities to climate-related technology transfer could be significant.

Several provisions of the WTO TRIPS Agreement could be used to promote such transfer of technology. Some UNFCCC Parties and other stakeholders are of the view that additional measures should be taken to ensure that IP rules support the climate regime. A number of measures related to IP and other innovation and access to knowledge schemes could also be considered in the context of a post-2012 climate regime. Some of the possibilities already being discussed include financial mechanisms and guidelines on IP protection for publicly-funded technologies. Other emerging topics include prizes as incentives to climate-related innovation, and institutional arrangements for open or collaborative innovation.

This publication was prepared for the seminar on Trade and Climate Change, June 18–20, 2008, in Copenhagen, co-hosted by the Government of Denmark, the German Marshall Fund of the United States and IISD.