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lead.jpg (22302 bytes)    Volume 3 
   Number 4
   28 October 1998 

CLIMATE CHANGE AND TECHNOLOGY TRANSFER
Wanna Tanunchaiwatana
Office of Environmental Policy and Planning of Thailand


Introduction

We all recognize that climate change is a real threat to humankind. The diplomatic complexity posed by the climate problem must be resolved in the manner that is equitable and fair to all, taking into account historic, current and future emissions of all greenhouse gases. Global efforts to combat climate change should be guided by the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities. Only through international cooperation will global environmental challenges be effectively addressed. Developing countries therefore look to the international community for technological cooperation and financial assistance and for a rigorous implementation of important global undertakings that will make all our lives, and the lives of our children, more secure.

The success of the implementation of the Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Kyoto Protocol requires that developed countries take a leading role in reducing domestic greenhouse gas emissions and in providing financial assistance and facilitating technology transfer to developing countries. It is vital that they fulfill their responsibilities and we urge them to do so to the best of their abilities. In addition, international cooperation must be complemented by regional cooperation, and regional organizations also have a role to play. We thus would also stress the importance of finding strengthened mechanisms for regional cooperation in particular the mechanism to facilitate international cooperation in the transfer of environmentally sound technology.

Technology transfer within the Framework Convention on Climate Change provides both opportunities and incentives for international cooperation. The industrialized countries should provide incentives to assist and encourage developing countries in taking actions: "The extent to which developing country parties will effectively implement their commitments under the Convention will depend on the effective implementation by developed country parties of their commitments under the Convention related to financial resources and transfer of technology" (Article 4.7).

National Development Priorities of Developing Countries and Climate Change

Developing countries have specific concerns and needs that should be given special attention in any global effort for the protection of environment. Developing countries feel that the need for poverty alleviation is the most urgent. Environmental deterioration due to pervasive poverty is a matter of great concern. The interaction of poverty and environmental destruction sets off a downward spiral of ecological deterioration that threatens the physical security, economic well being and health of the world’s poorest people.

The problem of poverty is so enormous that developing countries cannot solve it within domestic resource alone. Therefore, the financing for the transfer of technology to alleviate poverty and improve the quality of environment will have to come from external sources, particularly developed countries. The quality of life and good health depend upon the quality of the environment. The number of people of the world whose basic needs are not met in terms of proper shelter, clean water, basic sanitation and adequate health and nutrition levels was never so large as it is today. Therefore, if environmentally sound and sustainable development is to have any meaning at all, it must relate to requirements for the survival of the poor through meeting their basic needs.

At present, many developing countries, for example, in the African region, people are still facing serious sanitation and nutrition problems. Many are struggling for food and the remote areas still do not have access to electricity.This bring to mind many questions: what prevents people from getting a better life, and what is exactly is a " better life?" Is technology a solution for all problems? Can technology help the poor to meet their basic needs and to bring them up to the level where they can live their lives prosperously ? Can technology invented in the developed world fit in the life system of the poor people in developing countries ? Finally, shall we ask these people to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions or even talking with them about credit sharing ?

Many poor people are also living in the small island developing states. Special attention must be given to these people since they are the most vulnerable to climate change. They are searching for adaptation technologies that will help minimize the risks, even that of death. Sympathy will not help. Urgent action will. As agreed upon in Article 4.5 of the Convention, the developed countries shall promote, facilitate and finance, as appropriate, the transfer of, or access to, environmentally sound technologies and know-how to other Parties, particularly developing country parties.

For the past three sessions of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC, developing countries have constantly requested and reiterated their urgent needs for financial assistance and the transfer of technology. They have had to express their deep regret from time to time that their requests received less attention from the world leaders. At present, technology transfer has still occurred under normal commercial terms, which demand large returns for intellectual property rights. Therefore, it goes against the spirit of the Convention. The governments of the rich countries argue that the private sector companies own the technologies and the better way to get them is to associate yourself with any flexibility mechanisms; namely, joint implementation, emissions trading and the Clean Development Mechanism. For some poorest countries, if these mechanisms can help their people to have enough food and access to technologies, particularly electricity, the governments may be forced to join. It is my wish that the negotiators at COP-4 will take decisions that provide the greatest benefits for the world’s poorest people.

Development and Transfer of Technology: A Proposal for COP-4

Technology transfer remains one of the important issues in the implementation of the Convention. In my view, delegates to COP-4 should try to reach an agreement on the establishment of an effective mechanism for the development and transfer of technology under the Convention. Perhaps this can be considered as the way in which developed countries can take the lead in combating climate change and its adverse effects (Article 3.1).

At present there is plenty of information and experience from which to draw, and many studies have identified barriers to progress and suggested new avenues to pursue. There is no need for a lengthy analytical phase. Another survey on technological needs of developing countries may be conducted on a continuing basis, as recommended by some Parties, but this should not prevent the Parties from moving toward more concrete action. Climate change has been determined to be a real phenomenon. Any decision taken today will determine the quality of life for future generations. Hence, the decisions taken today must be bold and constructive enough to tackle this urgent need. Perhaps the most important issue of the on-going debate surrounds a proposal from the G-77/China for the establishment of an international technological information center(s).

The developing countries are of the strong opinion that little progress has been made in the development and transfer of technology, despite the commitments of developed country parties in the Convention. Furthermore, developing countries believe that the establishment of such center(s) is the most practical step that developed countries should and must provide since it will lead to the successful implementation of Convention commitments by both the North and South. It is also expected that the most accurate information on and access to environmentally-sound technology will be provided on a grant or concession term.

It is therefore recommended that COP 4 should reach the following agreements;

Agree to set up an international mechanism on the development and transfer of technology in order to provide guidance on ways and means to promote the international cooperation in this area on a grant or concession term. Terms of reference and membership shall be discussed and developed further by SBSTA with a view to take a final decision at COP-5.

Decide in principle to establish an international technology information center and, together with this decision, a Task Force be hereby established to work on the detailed work plan on the establishment of such center(s) at the international, regional, and national levels. It is expected that such center(s) will be established in a cost-effective manner, and where appropriate, be considered the possibility of using or co-locating the existing centers at the international and regional levels.

Decide that the immediate work program of the Convention secretariat be focused on ways and means to promote capacity building in developing countries.

Conclusion

In my view, the strengthening of national technological capabilities and the building of endogenous capacity of environmentally friendly technologies should be promoted so that over time the donor-driven character of technology transfer is reduced. The unsustainable practices adopted by the industrialized countries are causing climate change. They must bear the responsibility for combating the problem and for introducing alternate technologies in due proportion.