Dealing with equity related issues is not always easy. Clearly if the key goal
is to reduce GHG emissions, then selecting cost-effective technologies to reduce
the most emissions with the least possible costs is a key issue. However, as
illustrated above, such cost-effective and politically viable technology transfer
may negatively affect some communities within a society. The challenge for the
international community is to try and make these trade-offs in such a way that
it also reduces existing imbalances in the society. This becomes even more complicated
when one realises that empowering poor people, women and the generally neglected
classes, does not immediately lead to a reduction of GHG emissions, but instead
to an increase of the emissions as people move out of the poverty trap. This
is why a key question is: whose development should technology transfer foster?
Clearly, since there is a shortage of resources, the trade-off between environment
and social issues is not an easy one.
However, the implementation of technology transfer has been hampered because
of four reasons (Junne, cited in Gupta, 1997). First, the low GHG emitting "leap-frog
technologies" are produced in few countries (USA, Japan and Germany), and
technology transfer schemes facilitating transfer of the best technologies would
lead to a North-North transfer of financial resources which few other developed
countries would find acceptable. Second, in identifying the low GHG emitting
technologies, new conflicts may arise. For example, if France were to promote
the expansion of nuclear technology, and other countries with advanced coal
technologies may support the promotion of clean coal technology. Third, cost-effectiveness
arguments may lead to the transfer of technologies to the most polluting countries
which may also be the rapidly industrialising countries with comparatively high
growth rates, leading to a South-South inequity by helping those who need the
help least at the cost of helping those who need it most. Fourth, ultimately,
"leap-frog technologies" aim to assist developing countries develop
quickly, a goal that industrialised countries may also not entirely support.
The domestic equity aspects of technology transfer, though central to the debates
on appropriate technologies in the 1970s, have not really influenced the climate
change technology transfer discussions since then. However, there is a good
case to be made for learning from past mistakes and ensuring that technology
transfer under the climate change regime enhances the sustainable development
of the importing countries.
Finally, one way forward is to specifically recognise that there are different
stakeholders in a society and build assessment mechanisms to test for what could
be described as 'best social practices'. Such an approach would recognise that
whilst the market determines technology adoption, markets in developing countries
are very imperfect and tend to exclude social concerns. In order to better evaluate
these concerns, the technology can be assessed for its impacts on intended users.
Conversely, technology could be selected as matched to previously
identified needs. Experiences from different social contexts could in time lead
to general guidelines on 'best social practices' being formulated.