By Ed King
Industrial scale transfers of low-carbon technologies to the developing world is a step closer to reality after plans for a Climate Technology Centre and Network (CTCN) were signed off by the United Nations in Nairobi on Friday.
The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) will host the centre, operating as an implementation arm of the UN climate change Secretariat’s Technology Mechanism.
Once running, it is expected to act as a ‘matchmaker’, responding to individual requests for technology from developing countries and working through the network for institutions or countries that can assist.
The announcement was welcomed by UN climate chief Christiana Figueres, who is increasingly seen promoting green technologies in the developing world.
“The world needs to urgently accelerate climate action across all three central pillars of action – this means international, national and business action,” she said.
“Technology is essential to enable developing countries to pursue sustainable development and to grow their economies in a low carbon, highly resilient manner.
“The completion of the Technology Mechanism and its related network is on track and will soon help boost efforts across all three pillars of climate action,” she added.
The ambition of the CTCN, which was given the green light at the Doha climate talks, is to speed up the transfer of energy efficiency systems, renewables and early warning weather systems to the Global South.
While the goals of the centre are widely supported, mobilizing funds and eliminating policy and technical barriers such as intellectual property rights have proved problematic, illustrated by tense negotiations at the UN climate negotiations in Doha.
Institutions from the USA, Denmark, Germany, India, Senegal and five other countries will provide expert support to UNEP.
Its Executive Director Achim Steiner says the partners will be vital in accelerating low carbon development in poorer regions.
“The consortium partners are already engaged in some 1500 activities related to climate technologies in over 150 countries,” he said.
“Together, this expertise and global reach can deliver scaled-up action on mitigation and adaptation, and support the transition to an inclusive, low-carbon green economy.”
The CTCN advisory board will have its first meeting on March 28 in Bonn, where it will determine rules and elect a Chair and Vice-Chair.
With a final decision over procedures scheduled to take place at the COP19 UN climate talks in Poland this coming November it appears unlikely it will be operational until 2014 at the earliest.
Many countries and businesses are unwilling to hand over blueprints for wind turbines or solar panels to developing countries without adequate assurances they will be protected.
A major concern is that they will be copied and sold back into their domestic markets at a lower price.
Concerns over the ‘dumping’ of Chinese panels led to the the US Commerce Department introducing tariffs of 24-36% on imported Chinese solar panels in October 2012.
The EU is reportedly considering a similar move, Reuters reporting that last week member states approved a plan to register all solar panels from China.
Dr Antonio Pfluger – Head of Climate Change at Germany’s Ministry of Economics and Technology – co-chaired negotiations over technology in Doha.
Speaking at the end of the conference he told RTCC he was satisfied that concerns over intellectual property rights had been addressed, but dismissed suggestions the CTCN would see immediate flows of blueprints from the Global North to South.
“This is hopefully going to play a very important role. Networking is very important, to bring the right people together and talk about the right things,” he said.
“When we talk about a solar cooker a patent is not an issue. There are so many ways to build one you do not need a patent.
“Other technologies are more complex such as wind, and solar PV. Some countries have both and a production plant from abroad. We have to look at it in a case by case basis.
“Training, joint R&D, capacity building and getting the right environment is a key factor. Just providing blue-prints of something that cannot ever be built is perhaps not the best solution.
“We have to look in a regional case-by-case basis on technology transfer. We are not there yet but hopefully we can start soon – maybe in a year’s time.”
RTCC INTERVIEW: Dr Antonio Pfluger – Technology vital to low-carbon debate