Guest Article #109

From Anticipation to Action - Can the Climate Technology Mechanism Offer a Solution for Sustainable Development?

Bound by the Pacific Ocean on the west, the Andes Mountains on the east and the Atacama Desert in the north, Chile is home to a wealth of biodiversity. The Chilean people depend upon the diverse natural resources created by this topography for their livelihoods. Yet as pressures on its ecosystems mount from both human activity and a changing climate, Chile recognized that it does not have the technological capacity to reliably monitor or forecast impacts on its biodiversity, which is essential to inform decision making on the sustainable use and protection of its ecosystems.

In the opening of this year's UN Technology Dialogue, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon noted that making tangible progress in facilitating the development of environmentally sound technologies is a key component of the post-2015 development agenda. However, the scale of current efforts remains modest in comparison with the needs and challenges involved in technology cooperation and dissemination.

Participants of the Dialogue agreed on the need to find a common vision for “a facilitation mechanism that promotes the development, transfer and dissemination of clean and environmentally sound technologies by assessing the technology needs of developing countries, options to address those needs and capacity-building” as prescribed by the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD, or Rio+20) Outcome Document The Future We Want (Resolution 66/288, July 2012).

The fact that fragmentation and gaps persist in the current international system of technology development and transfer was readily agreed upon, yet proposals for addressing this challenge took many forms, including: an effort to support better analysis and reporting on technology activities; a special technology bank for least developed countries (LDCs); establishment of an entirely new UN global technology organization.

Many participants noted that technologies are transferred via so many different means and types of initiatives (public or private, commercial or non-commercial) that it is hard to envision how a single entity could be capable of providing technology oversight for all sustainable development activities. Furthermore, the role of private companies, finance, markets and enabling policies must all be considered in the development of an effective technology transfer solution.

The path that climate technology has taken might provide a useful example for this effort. These same issues had been intensively negotiated in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) for more than 15 years, when a major breakthrough was achieved during the 2009 Copenhagen Accord. At that time, Heads of State called for the creation of a special Technology Mechanism to accelerate technology development and transfer in support of climate change adaptation and mitigation. These leaders envisioned a country-driven approach guided by national priorities that would encourage collaboration between academia, the private sector and public and research institutions in order to both develop and transfer existing and emerging environmentally sound technologies.

A Technology Executive Committee (TEC) and Climate Technology Centre and Network (CTCN) were thus created under the UNFCCC umbrella to provide a two-pronged approach to addressing climate technology needs.

The TEC promotes strategic policy cooperation with relevant international technology initiatives, stakeholders and organizations and promotes coherence and cooperation across technology activities.

The Climate Technology Centre, with its consortium of 11 independent, regional organizations led by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the UN Industrial Organisation (UNIDO), facilitates a network of international, regional, national and sectoral technology organizations, private sector firms and academic/research initiatives, which work to build capacity and share climate technology expertise from neighbouring countries in order to accelerate the implementation of relevant, effective technologies.

To date, the TEC has analysed developing countries' own Technology Needs Assessments, and identified prioritization trends for climate mitigation (energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies) and adaptation (agriculture and water management). It also highlighted the economic, financial, policy, legal and regulatory challenges that pose the main barriers to technology development and transfer.

The CTCN is working with countries like Chile, who have engaged the Centre and its vast network to find solutions to their technology-related adaptation or mitigation needs. Nearly 80 countries have established national CTCN focal points (known as National Designated Entities) who collaborate with national stakeholders to develop and relay requests. The CTCN has received a diverse array of technical assistance requests already, spanning from renewable energy policies to public transportation and from biodiversity monitoring to saving mangrove forests for coastal protection.

It is evident that we need both strategic and practical actions to ramp up our progress in technology facilitation. My hope is that the UNFCCC's model of country-driven requests, South-South-North collaboration that includes the private sector and strategic advice via an established UN entity may prove to be an effective technology response.