Methodological and Technological issues in Technology Transfer

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3.3.2 Technology Transfer as a "Positive Measure" in Multilateral Environmental Agreements

The literature on global participation in Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) has increasingly emphasised the need to balance measures of enforcement with those of facilitation. Weak capacity can itself impede effective participation by developing countries in MEAs (including difficulties with the adoption and effective implementation of some kinds of commitments) There are a wide variety of instruments available for both enforcement and facilitation. The term "positive measures" is increasingly used for non-trade measures that facilitate participation in MEAs (UNCTAD, 1997b).

Osakwe (1998) presents a categorisation of such measures (Table 3.1) in which technology transfer is first on the list of such positive measures. He summarises the results of several years of work in the WTO Trade and Environment Committee, at UNCTAD, and elsewhere, illustrating the role of technology transfer while cautioning against simplistic treatment of "positive measures":

Positive measures tend to be considered as second order supplementary measures, offered as compromises only to weaker countries and firms lacking in capacity. Although developing countries may, on balance, need these non-restrictive measures more, this reasoning is incomplete. Positive measures are also required by developed countries and firms.

UNCTAD has proposed an agenda for positive measures and offers suggestions for implementing positive measures. UNCTAD also highlights three difficulties that hinder the implementation of positive measures. First, compared to trade measures, there are no implications which arise from the abandonment of commitments to positive measures [for the country abandoning them]. Second, the viewpoint expressed at several Conferences of Parties is restated: that exclusive rights granted under Intellectual Property Rights regimes could increase the cost of acquiring technologies authorized by MEAs. Third, apart from provisions for financial mechanisms in some MEAs, there are no explicit references to mechanisms for technology transfer, for instance, through the purchase of equipment, licensing, foreign investment, application of scientific research results in the public domain.

Balanced views should always be presented. For example, rebating energy taxes on weaker industries have produced unintended effects of increasing pollution levels . Also, long grace periods for adjustment by developing countries and weak producers have downsides. They could lead to high dependence, high phase-out costs for the developing countries, and the likelihood of the migration of environmentally harmful industries in the application of positive measures the "guilty" - polluters - should never be rewarded, weak capacities notwithstanding.

Table 3.1 The interaction of trade and positive measures: an indicative typology (Source: Osakwe (1998)
Coercive Bans / prohibitions
Taxes / charges
Mandatory labelling schemes
Cooperative Import / export permits
Prior informed consent procedures
Tradable emission permits
Transfer of environmentally friendly technologies
Joint implementation of projects
Project financing
Funding incremental costs
"Green loans"
Credit guarantees
Elimination of environmentally harmful subsidies
"Green non-actionable subsidies"
Grace periods within which to satisfy MEA commitments
Market access and "green market access"
Technical assistance for capacity-building

During the 1990s financial mechanisms in MEAs have become more widespread. The Global Environment Facility, obviously, has become a central actor for climate change and other agreements. Other specific experience of technology transfer and other positive measures in MEAs is limited to date, but growing.

Two major examples of MEAs, in addition to the UNFCCC, with strong components relating to technology transfer are the Montreal Protocol and the Convention on Biological Diversity.

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