The Road to Lima: Climate Governance, Adaptation and Technological Responses

2014 has been declared by the UN as the “Year of Climate Action”. As the year is coming to a close, and leading up to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of Parties in Lima, Peru from 1-12 December, global climate governance is facing a crucial junction: Will negotiations result in concrete proposals and implementation measures to adapt effectively to climate change and its effects on people’s livelihoods, or will the multilateral architecture fail to deliver as valuable time passes? Against this backdrop, The Hague Institute for Global Justice hosted a policy roundtable on the theme of Climate Governance, Adaptation and Technological Responses.

Part of The Hague Roundtable series, this event offered an informal platform for policymakers, academics, civil society organizations and representatives of international organizations active in the field of climate change governance to share experiences and propose solutions to mitigate and prevent the impact of climate change across the globe. The discussions were held under the Chatham House Rule. The event consisted of two parts:

  1. It addressed the general gridlock in global climate governance negotiations in the framework of the Institute’s work on a Commission on Global Security, Justice & Governance.
  2. It honed in on the potential of existing technology to counter the effects of climate change.

Climate & People is one of the thematic focus areas of the Institute’s flagship project on a Commission on Global Security, Justice & Governance, which is a joint initiative launched together with the Stimson Center (Washington D.C.). The Commission is composed of a select group of eminent statespersons and public intellectuals and co-chaired by former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and former Foreign Minister of Nigeria Professor Ibrahim A. Gambari. A chief goal of the Commission is to issue, in June 2015, a focused set of global policy and institutional reform recommendations in advance of the United Nations’ 70th Anniversary Summit, which is planned for September 2015 in New York. The Commission’s recommendations will aim to complement the UN Post‐2015 Sustainable Development Goals agenda, the intergovernmental Fourth Global Conference on Cyberspace in The Hague (April 2015), the recommendations of the UN Peacebuilding Commission 10‐Year Review (October 2015), as well as the UN Conference of Parties on Climate Change (COP 21) in Paris (December 2015). The roundtable served as one of several multi‐stakeholder expert consultations, featuring a set of draft background papers which will inform the Commission’s recommendations.

The afternoon session addressed the issue of proprietary technologies, a thus far underutilized means to adapt to climate change. It is observed by some that while the green (agricultural) revolution was publicly driven, the new technological revolution that draws heavily on biotech and clean technologies is mostly dependent on the private sector. This means that promising technologies such as the next generation of biofuels, solar cells, or water purification, are in a great measure of a proprietary nature, with a predominant participation of firms and institutions from OECD countries. Developing countries are in need of new technologies both to fight the effects of climate change and upgrade their obsolete infrastructure.

While existing international commitments encourage the transfer of proprietary green technologies to developing countries, there are no adequate incentives to facilitate this transfer to recipient countries which cannot afford to pay market prices for the technologies and lack physical and human infrastructure necessary to facilitate their dissemination. Technology transfer (TT), particularly to the most vulnerable economies, faces a number of important challenges, among them lack of market incentives and the complexity of the procedures. The latter is especially the case in situations whereby proprietary technology might be dispersed or shared among different entities. Licensing, as one of the means for TT, could offer opportunities as a means to facilitate the dissemination of clean energy technology to developing countries by providing transparency to licensors to control the terms under which the technology is used and under which conditions, and furthermore enhance public-private cooperation. In addition to licensing, there can be (public-private) partnerships and joint ventures as alternative ways of diffusing technologies. Global facilities that specifically deal with the transfer to climate technologies to developing countries in this area are so far few and tentative.

Since the Bali Action Plan (2007), intellectual property rights (IPRs) have been a controversial issue in discussions under the UNFCCC. Negotiations have often pitted developed countries and business groups who believe IPRs are an essential incentive to clean energy innovation against a significant number of developing countries and NGO which tend to consider IPRs as an inherent barrier to TT and diffusion. The discussions are therefore polarized and reaching a deadlock. Other, innovative approaches are therefore necessary to take the discussions on IPRs and climate change, further.

In this session of the roundtable two possible solutions to this deadlock are put forward:

  • The establishment of a global licensing facility that effectively enables and manages the transfer of green technologies
  • Utilizing trade agreements as a means of promoting or incentivizing climate technology transfer.

The background papers to be discussed at the roundtable are:

  • Patrick Huntjens, “Climate Change, Security, and Justice
  • David Michel, “The UNFCCC and the Future of Climate Governance
  • Peter Stoett, “The Evolution of and future prospects for transnational Environmental Crime Prevention
  • Manuella Appiah & Menno van der Veen, “Enhancing Technological Responses to Climate Change

External Speakers at the Roundtable:

  • Mr. Martin Khor
    Executive Director, The South Centre
  • Dr. Ala Druta
    Team Leader of Vulnerability and Adaptation Team, Ministry of Environment, Moldova
  • Ahmed Abdel Latif
    Senior Programme Manager, International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development, Switzerland
  • Mr. Wouter Veening
    President, Institute for Environmental Security
  • Amb. Michel Rentenaar
    Netherlands Special Envoy for Climate and Development

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