Climate change and technology

Aug 2005

This paper examines how a global climate regime for post-2012 could more effectively promote the development, deployment and diffusion (DD&D) of appropriate technologies.
Technology is expected to play a critical role in the mitigation of and adaptation to climate change, and achieving the objective of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) (Article 2) to stabilize “greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.” To achieve the required reductions will require a significant transformation of the conventional technology used to produce and distribute energy, manufacture goods and enable transportation (both the mode and fuel).
The deployment and diffusion of existing technologies, as well as the DD&D of new technologies will be essential to stabilize anthropogenic GHG concentrations. Pacala and Socolow (2004) note that stabilizing emissions at 500 parts per million (ppm) requires that emissions be held near the present level for the next 50 years, even though they are projected to more than double due to population growth, poor countries getting richer and the failure of wealthy countries to reduce greenhouse gases. There is widespread agreement that known technologies could reduce emissions significantly from the business as usual trends in the short-term. For these technologies, development is not the issue, more critical is their effective deployment and dissemination in all countries. Over the long-term, the current portfolio of technologies is unlikely to reach the objective of the UNFCCC, indicating that increased technology DD&D is critical.
5. Much work has been undertaken to promote technology transfer within the UNFCCC regime, including the adoption of a framework on the transfer of technology, the establishment of an Expert Group on Technology Transfer (EGTT) that aims to enhance the technology transfer goals of the UNFCCC and the establishment of the Special Climate Change Fund (SCCF) that is intended to support activities in the areas of, inter alia, adaptation and the transfer of technologies.
To be effective, a future international climate change regime will need to find ways to encourage and enhance technology DD&D. Technology development could be encouraged through research programs and technology partnerships. Deployment efforts, through project-oriented initiatives and actions, could assist in creating the necessary market transformation to support the uptake of new technologies. Technology diffusion, the successful market penetration of technologies in both developed and developing countries, could be supported through the dissemination of technical information and know-how to encourage the subsequent adoption of new technologies and techniques. Technology cooperation—those efforts made to share technology research, development and diffusion, including both goods and knowledge—and technology transfer are means to support DD&D of climate-friendly technologies. Nor should the prospects for South–South technology transfer be understated—often times more similar socio-economic circumstances between developing countries might mean better prospects for sustainable technology transfer in those regions. Biofuels in transportation is but one example to consider in this regard.
This paper examines the contribution of technology DD&D in building the post-2012 climate change regime and the role of the UNFCCC in promoting DD&D initiatives that will assist in stabilizing GHG atmospheric concentrations. Section 2.0 provides the background and context for the discussion by providing information on the technology challenge. The section also includes a brief review of technology cooperation and transfer activities in and outside of the UNFCCC. Section 3 reviews the barriers to successful technology DD&D, as well as strategies to overcome those barriers. Section 4 examines options for enhancing technology DD&D in a post-2012 regime and Section 5 puts forward key questions for discussion and moving forward.

By: D. Murphy, J. Van Ham, J. Drexhage (IISD)

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