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First EST Transfer Workshop Addresses Science, Research Capacity

UNGA30 April 2013: At the first consultative workshop on Development, Transfer and Dissemination of Clean and Environmentally Sound Technologies in Developing Countries, panelists and participants addressed science and technology needs and options for poverty eradication and sustainable development, with a focus on the cases of agriculture and energy.

The workshop took place in New York, US, on 30 April 2013, following UN General Assembly (UNGA) Resolution 67/203 of 21 December 2012, which mandates the UNGA President to organize a series of four one-day workshops on the topic. Additional workshops will take place on 1, 30 and 31 May 2013.

Abdul Momen, Permanent Representative of Bangladesh and Acting UNGA President, introduced the workshops, noting they are intended “to advance our discussions on the development, transfer and dissemination of clean and environmentally sound technologies in developing countries,” as mandated in the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD or Rio+20) Outcome document, The Future We Want. He said the UNGA's Second Committee discussed options for a technology facilitation mechanism, on the basis of the UN Secretary-General's Report on these options, and its discussions highlighted the need to continue the debate in a more interactive format. He identified two questions around which discussion should revolve: what gaps and deficiencies exist in the present international institutional architecture to support science and technology for sustainable development; and what would be feasible and effective options for addressing identified gaps and weaknesses, including the option of a technology facilitation mechanism. He said discussions and recommendations from these workshops would feed into a Secretary-General report on the way forward, to be presented at the 69th Session of the UNGA.

Wu Hongbo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, said the workshops should help to: provide a clear understanding of good practices that can be replicated in developing countries; provide a clear understanding of the challenges developing countries face; and clarify how to support developing countries efforts to advance sustainable development. He said transfer of technology merits continued attention and stressed the need to widen space for generating technology and for collaboration.

Moderating the morning session, Nikhil Seth, Director, Division for Sustainable Development, Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), highlighted the need to address inter-linkages, noting for example that agriculture transformation has an impact on rural poor, migration, and on economic, social and environmental aspects.

Daniel Giovannucci, President, Global Committee on Sustainability Assessment (COSA), stressed the importance of market mechanisms to drive green technologies and of understanding those mechanisms. He observed that adopting new technologies requires confidence in the impacts, which calls for impact assessments that help to understand the impacts on producers, on the environment, on communities, and on business. He said partnering with local institutions, transparency and using indicators that are tailored country context are important.

Hans R. Herren, President, Millennium Institute, stressed the need for a paradigm shift in order to move towards sustainable production systems and consumption patterns. He also called for: connecting the agri-food system with institutions, capacity development and investments; and using a systemic and holistic approach which treats the causes not the symptoms. Answering clarification questions from delegates, he called for developing the local market for healthier food and environment, and for changing the economic system around the food industry as subsidies for example are often “going into the wrong direction.”

Ephraim Maduhu Nkonya, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), remarked that in Sub-Saharan Africa, agricultural technology advisory services focus on production and forget post-harvest and marketing components. He called for: locally produced science and technology or well-adapted foreign technology; investing in other rural services such as roads and mobile phones to improve agricultural production; and providing market access to farmers. He noted the importance to foster North-South cooperation in terms of technology.

During interventions from the floor, Fiji for the Group of 77 and China (G77/China) mentioned plans to table a resolution on a technology facilitation mechanism, and said the workshops should not be restricted to existing frameworks and structures but should also consider any new mechanism to be created. The EU announced said it will: increase substantially support for research and innovation; not promote technologies which are not sustainable; support greater participation of civil society; and promote linkages between EU farmers organizations and developing countries farmers. Others called for new technologies and a better utilization of technologies, training programmes and institutional capacity building, North-South and South-South cooperation, the need to diversify food crops; better addressing nutrition at the UN level; paying attention to middle income countries in science and technology; and better using communications.

Khalil Rahman, Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (OHRLLS) moderated the afternoon session, which focused on energy.

Jorge Rogat, UNEP Risoe Centre, presented the Centre's support for countries to develop Technology Needs Assessments (TNAs). The TNAs focus on environmentally sound technologies both to decrease carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions (mitigation) and decrease vulnerability to climate change (adaptation), and in some cases lead to Technology Action Plans (TAPs). Results from the current round of TNAs indicate that countries prioritize energy-related sectors most highly on the mitigation side, with the most prevalent technologies including solar PV, hydro and wind, while on the adaptation side, the priorities are in water, such as water resources, water scarcity, and water for irrigation and agriculture. Answering questions from delegates, Rogat said a TAP is not a requirement for countries to access assistance from the UNFCCC Climate Technology Centre and Network (CTCN), and that the TNA process does not incorporate gender considerations.

Ambuj Sagar, Indian Institute of Technology, outlined difficulties in realizing technology's potential to meet development and sustainability challenges simultaneously, such as the lack of a one-size-fits-all approach. Instead, a systems-oriented approach is needed, and Sagar proposed the establishment of flexible Climate Innovation Centers in each country. He also observed the “conundrum” that as countries get richer they invest more in science and technology, whereas developing countries are the ones that need those investments the most.

Roberto Schaeffer, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, explained the current emissions gap to show that all the efforts being made by countries are not enough to be on the “safe side” of temperature rise by 2050. He said bridging this gap is more an issue of deploying technologies than developing them, and called for spreading low-carbon technologies to Brazil, China, India and other emerging economies. Schaeffer added that delays in using “simpler” solutions like energy efficiency and renewable energy will lead to relying to “riskier” options such as carbon capture and storage (CCS).

During interventions from the floor, delegates expressed hope that the workshop series would lead to concrete support, called for freer movement of technology and knowledge in the context of intellectual property rights, and raised questions on financing for these activities, and how the issues apply to medium-income countries. Responding to a comment on the need for greater UN coordination, the moderator highlighted the UN Secretary-General's and World Bank's Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) initiative.

In response to a question about framing UN discussions on technology, Sagar said the focus has been on “easy wins” like big power plants, renewable energy, and other forms of mitigation. But the issues that have the highest development consequences should get the highest priority, he said, even if they are more complicated, and even if the climate and/or sustainability benefits are lower. In this light, employment and other aspects of sustainable development deserve more weight.

Concluding the workshop, Momen said the sessions had highlighted areas needing further work and discussion, and that the ultimate goal is to produce “workable proposals for an updated international mechanism to facilitate clean, environmentally sustainable technology development and transfer.” He added that a better focus on institutional aspects of the problem is needed, and said this will be the focus of the third and fourth workshops in the series. [Resolution 67/203] [Publication: Options for a Facilitation Mechanism that Promotes the Development, Transfer and Dissemination of Clean and Environmentally Sound Technologies: Report of the Secretary-General] [The Future We Want]