Methodological and Technological issues in Technology Transfer

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1.2 Basic Concepts

For the sake of brevity, the term "Technology Transfer" as used throughout the Report includes the related concepts of "Technology Cooperation" and "Technology Diffusion". Using this terminology, the Report describes what is needed in connection with technology transfer to address climate change; examines the adequacy of current initiatives in technology transfer in support of the Convention, and places the discussion in the context of the sustainable development agenda and the problem of development choices.

There is, however, no simple definition of a "sustainable development agenda" for developing countries. Sustainable development is a context-driven concept and each society may define it differently. Technologies that may be suitable in each of such contexts may differ considerably. This makes it important to ensure that transferred technologies meet local needs and priorities, thus increasing the likelihood that they will be effective. And although local needs and priorities may be challenging to ascertain by the consensus of the relevant stakeholders, transferring technologies that are to meet such needs without causing a huge economic burden to the people is even more complicated.

A special emphasis in the Report is on the direct role of governments in technology transfer and their role in creating favourable conditions for the development of a market for climate change-related goods, technologies and services (IPCC, 1996), and for taking actions. The Report stresses that current efforts and established processes of technology transfer will not be sufficient to meet this challenge, and concludes that additional actions are needed for the transfer of mitigation and adaptation technologies. Especially for technologies that will not yet diffuse commercially, it is important to go further than improving market performance. Extra efforts to enact policies that lower costs and stimulate demand will be needed to realise environmental benefits that are not adequately produced otherwise. Integrating human skills, organisational development and information networks is a key to effective technology transfer.

The Report looks at technology transfer as the result of many day-to-day decisions, and identifies the stakeholders who participate in the decision-making process regarding strategy, investment, international trade, market opportunities, etc. It also identifies social, economic, political, legal, and technological factors that influence technology transfer. Cultural preferences, consumers' awareness, social values, lifestyles, corruption, competition, etc. are reflected in technology transfer as well. Although the report contains a comprehensive list of publications dealing with the conceptual aspects of technology transfer, it emphasises actual case studies, listed in Annex 1-1, to illustrate the practical aspects of managing technological change to address global climate change concerns. The key words here are management, technology, climate and change for sustainable development.

The Report elaborates on what governments can do to facilitate technology transfer in support of the Climate Change Convention, taking into consideration their stage of development and specific sectors. The Report addresses effectiveness criteria as being subjective and dependent on perspectives and indicators on greenhouse gas abatement, economic sustainability, social acceptability, and environmental sustainability. Annex 1-2 articulates this matter further.

It is important at the outset to distinguish between technologies for mitigation and adaptation to climate change. In simple words, mitigation focuses on slowing climate change, whereas adaptation deals with the effects of climate change. The general question the Report attempts to address is how can "technology transfer", or rather the management of technological change, encourage development that is climate friendly (mitigation) and climate responsive (adaptation), taking into account the need to adjust to the effects of climate change.

Throughout this Report reference is made to Environmentally Sound (or Sounder) Technologies (ESTs), that is: "technologies which protect the environment, are less polluting, use all resources in a more sustainable manner, recycle more of their wastes and products, handle residual wastes in a more acceptable manner than the technologies for which they were substitutes, and are compatible with nationally determined socio-economic, cultural and environmental priorities. The term encompasses hard and soft technologies (United Nations, 1993)." "Examples of soft technologies include capacity building, information networks, training and research, while examples of hard technologies include equipment and products to control, reduce or prevent anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases in the energy, transportation, forestry, agriculture, industry and waste management sectors, to enhance removals by sinks and to facilitate adaptation (van Berkel and Arkesteijn, 1998)."

In this Report ESTs imply both mitigation and adaptation technologies. It is worth noting that technologies, which address climate change, that is, which are climate friendly and climate responsive, are not necessarily always environmentally sound. For instance, technologies for large hydroelectric plants are climate friendly but could affect the environment where they are deployed. Conversely, the catalytic processing of exhaust gases from automobile tail pipes may be environmentally sound but may not be climate friendly. However, in this Report it is assumed that both mitigation and adaptation technologies will be applied in such a way that they are environmentally sound. A finer qualification on equating climate-responsive with adaptation is the possibility that adaptation technologies may take advantage of climate change, for instance to increase agricultural productivity in specific instances.

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