Overcoming the Impasse on Intellectual Property and Climate Change at the UNFCCC: A Way Forward

Brief
Date period
1 December 2011

SummaryWhile global climate change negotiations have made some progress in the area of technology transfer, as reflected in the agreement in Cancun to establish a Technology Mechanism under the UNFCCC, intellectual property has remained a divisive issue. Not only has no agreement been reached in this area, but even the path to a constructive and meaningful discussion seems elusive. In this policy brief, the authors seek to untangle the issues that lie behind this impasse. The policy brief addresses three aspects that have been recurrently raised in the discussion: the relevance of the parallel with access to medicines, the dual role of intellectual property rights (IPRs) as an incentive to innovation and as an element that impacts on technology transfer and dissemination, and the lessons to be drawn from available empirical evidence. The authors suggest a number of principles and parameters for technical and expert-level discussion, under the UNFCCC framework, that delineate a middle ground upon which future work on the IPR-related aspects of climate change technologies can proceed.