UN delegate: Technology transfer is not about the rich giving to poor

By John Parnell

The transfer of technology is not just about North-South transfers (Source: EU)

The UN system to transfer climate technology is not about rich nations giving to poor, according to a member of the UN climate agency’s Technology Executive Committee.

The goal of the mechanism is to shift the technology required to reduce the impact of climate change, to countries where it is needed most.

It is frequently assumed that this means rich nations from the global North acting as donors to poor countries from the global South.

“This concept that tech transfer is North-South is invalid, a lot of the technologies that we are dealing with are South-South,” said Matthew Kennedy, Senior Planner with the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland and a member of the UNFCCC’s Technology Executive Committee.

“A lot of the technology will not be going from Europe to Africa or Europe to Asia. For example biofuels coming from Brazil to Africa, or perhaps solar technologies from China and India being repatriated and exploited within Africa,” said Kennedy.

He added that the breakdown of the rich-poor divide was one of the principles carried forward in the Durban Platform at the UN climate change talks last year.

“The regulatory environment might be different but a good energy project has the potential to be implemented in a number of jurisdictions. It’s about identifying the good projects that have the ability to be replicated.”

The Technology Executive Committee is meeting in Bonn this week for the second time since its formation.

The transfer of technology has proved to be one of the less controversial components of the UN climate talks, which Kennedy attributes to progress made during previous rounds of the UN climate talks.

“The reason it hasn’t received a lot of criticism is that all of the Parties, Annex 1 [developed] and non-Annex 1 [developing] are aware of the benefits that technology transfer can bring. There are questions about who is going to finance it however,” he said.

“In general terms, there is very much consensus on the mechanisms to deliver technology.”

The Technology Executive Committee will discuss its agenda for the next two years, nominate six new members and discuss recommendations on the possible hosts of the Climate Technology Centre, through which much of its future work will be done.

Speaking ahead of the meeting UNFCCC chief Christiana Figueres said: “Technology is vital for developing countries to both curb their emissions and to build more climate-resilient societies.

“This meeting is an important next step towards ensuring that the Mechanism becomes fully operational this year and begins delivering concrete results,” she said.

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