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Posts Tagged ‘Technology Transfer’

Energy Ministers Endorse Clean-Tech Measures, Back CCS Group

July 22, 2010 Leave a comment

Government energy ministers gathering in Washington, D.C., today launched 11 energy-efficiency and renewable energy initiatives around the world, which they claim will avoid the need to build 500 midsize power plants during the next 20 years.

via www.nytimes.com  (see http://www.nytimes.com/gwire/2010/07/20/20greenwire-energy-ministers-endorse-clean-tech-measures-b-89532.html)

Of particular note is that "the United States and a dozen other nations will create what is being called the Carbon Capture, Use and Storage Action Group to develop a strategic plan for deploying carbon-capture-and-storage (CCS) infrastructure around the world by 2020.  Hopefully the development of this "strategic plan" is transparent and allows for the participation of NGOs representing a range of interests, in particular the public interest. 

For example, one might recall the issue with lead in paint.  While not saying that lead in cement/limestone brick is analogous to lead in paint, BUT – consider the following example of what some companies are doing at the pilot scale with CCS technologies:  capturing carbon dioxide and other toxic heavy metals and forming a carbonate mineral brick that embeds the toxic heavy metals, for use in buildings and other infrastructures .

"Mercury Control: 
Coal-fired power plants represent the largest source of mercury
emission in the United States, but most operate with minimal controls
designed to capture particulate matter that remove less than 35% of the
mercury from their flue gas. This removal percentage can increase to
greater than 50% when a sulfur scrubber is added, but capture levels
are dependent upon coal type. With new federal and state regulations
emerging, many power plants are contemplating the use of activated
carbon injection (ACI) or other additional controls to remove more
mercury from flue gas. The Calera CMAP process has the potential to
not only capture mercury that would otherwise be emitted, but to bind
it into the mineral output in a way that will prevent leaching to the
environment..
As with mercury, other trace metals can be captured by the CMAP
process, including lead, chromium, cadmium, selenium, zinc, and others."  Available at:  http://www.arb.ca.gov/cc/etaac/meetings/102909pubmeet/mtgmaterials102909/basicsofcaleraprocess.pdf

Studies indicate that leaching of heavy metals from the mineral, while being below US guidelines, does indeed occur.  Moreover, what happens in the case of intentional demolition?  Or, what about earthquakes stronger than the specifications of building codes?  Perhaps the settlement of the "9-11 illness" victims, including many first responders, warrants consideration? (see article on the 9-11 Settlement here)

While these toxic heavy metals may be contained for a period of time, these solutions do not appear to offer a permanent solution, to say the least.  All the more reason for transparency and public participation in the development of these "strategic guidelines" for CCS. 

Human Rights, Technology Transfer & Climate Change

May 18, 2010 Leave a comment

On the margins of the WIPO Committee on Development and IP (CDIP), CIEL organized a series of presentations and commentary on the topic of Human Rights and Technology Transfer, in the context of climate change.  Information on what agreements were reached in the CDIP can be found on the CIEL IP Quarterly Update, Second Quarter of 2010.

The speakers included:

  • Mr. Robert Archer, Executive Director of the International Council on Human Rights Policy (ICHRP)
  • Mr. Michael Waibel, Post-doctoral researcher at Cambridge University
  • Mr. Baskut Tuncak, Law Fellow, Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL)
  • Ms. Caroline Dommen, Quaker United Nations Office (QUNO)
  • Mr. Subhas Gujadhur, First Secretary of the Permanent Mission of Mauritius to Geneva

Mr. Archer began the event with a summary of the Human Rights dimension of climate change, based in part on their earlier publication “Climate Change and Human Rights: A Rough Guide.”

Mr. Waibel followed with an overview of Technology Transfer in the International Agreements on intellectual property and environmental protection.  His presentation can be viewed here.

Mr. Tuncak then spoke of how and to what benefit human rights obligations can inform discussions on technology transfer.

Finally. Ms. Dommen and Mr. Gujadhur provided their perspective on the preceding presentations.

For further information, please see IP Watch’s coverage here and/or contact Baskut Tuncak at btuncak [at] ciel [dot] org

Technology Mechanism for Climate Change: Still in the Lab

April 18, 2010 Leave a comment

The first set of 2010 climate change negotiations under the UNFCCC concluded in Bonn, Germany (April 9-11th) with no progress apparent on the Technology Mechanism referenced in Paragraph 11 of the 2009 Copenhagen Accord. 

Image

In fact, the only real outcome of the meeting appears to be an agreement to hold two additional meetings for both Advanced Working Groups on Long-Term Cooperative Action (LCA) the Kyoto Protocol, as well as for both of these groups to prepare draft texts to facilitate negotiations.  Conclusion for the LCA and Kyoto Protocol Working Groups are available here and here, respectively.

Although developing countries are pushing for legally binding commitments as an outcome of the December 2010 Conference of the Parties (COP) in Cancun, this does not appear likely. 

The Copenhagen Accord (the Accord), in particular the way in which it was negotiated, has led to what observers at Bonn are calling a sense of “deep distrust” at this past meeting between developed and developing countries.  Australia, on behalf of the “Umbrella Group,” stated that the Accord was a clear expression of political will to combat climate change and gave direction for future work.  However, many are concerned that the Accord would result in the end of the Kyoto Protocol.

Specifically, regarding the Technology Mechanism of the Accord, or “enhanced action on technology development and transfer” as it is being negotiated under the in the Working Group on LCA, several issues remain undecided, based on outside reports, including whether:

  • activities or outcomes of activities eligible for support can included “purchasing of licenses and other intellectual property (IP) issues”;
  • implementation of the technology mechanism shall be funded by new financial arrangements to meet the full incremental costs of compliance;
  • the mechanism should support removal of barriers to technology development and transfer and enhancing means to promote technology transfer;
  • the Technology Executive shall, among many other things, “address intellectual property issues as they arise”;

and most significantly – whether Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) will be mentioned in the text, and if so, whether:

  • International agreements on IP shall not be interpreted so as to prevent parties from taking measures to address mitigation or adaptation to climate change (e.g. Articles 30 and 31 of the TRIPS Agreement);
  • Global Technology Intellectual Property Pools for Climate Change are created;
  • Steps are taken to share publicly funded technologies and know-how;
  • Patents over environmentally-sound technologies for mitigation or adaptation are excluded from IP protection, including the revocation of any existing IP rights, in particular those that are publicly funded or those involving the use of genetic resources for mitigation or adaptation; or
  • A recommendation is made that international action be taken to remove barriers to technology development and transfer, including those arising from IP rights.

In short, negotiators still have a range of options for how they choose to deal with the IP issue.  Obviously, industrialized countries are on the side of not weakening IP protection, with developing countries pointing to past experiences with the refusal to license non-ozone depleting (non-CFC) propellants to India and Korea, as well as experiences with essential medicines under the WTO's TRIPS Agreement.  But, interlinked to technology transfer is the issue of financing – the details of which are still skeletal as well and perhaps dependent on what becomes of the Copenhagen Accord. 

The next intersessional meeting is currently scheduled for the 1st-11th of June 2010 in Bonn, with the two additional meetings to be held between then and the Mexico COP in December.

Leading the Way towards Carbon Reductions

March 19, 2010 1 comment

image Heard of the Yes Men?  They are the incredibly straight-faced and gutsy duo that dare to go on the BBC TV and Radio, claiming to be from Dow Chemicals and announcing that Dow will compensate the victims of the Bhopal, India catastrophe with $12 billion from selling all assets related to Union Carbide Corp.  Dow purchased Union Carbide after the gas leak in Bhopal killed tens of thousands and continues to contaminate ground water in the area, probably under the assumption that their legal team could avoid paying the billions in restitution that is due.

Unfortunately, their routine is merely a hoax, disappointing hundreds of thousands of uncompensated victims.  Likewise, their stunt at the Copenhagen Climate Summit in December of last year gave everyone a glimpse of hope that the only country to abandon the Kyoto Protocol and home to the largest single source of industrial greenhouse gas emissions – Canada – was actually going to change its climate policy. 

No such luck.  Copenhagen went out with a fizzle as the Parties “took note” of the Copenhagen Accord.  An ambivalent reference to a vague document. 

Since then, China and India have associated themselves with the Copenhagen Accord.   There are still many nations which have not given any indication whether they will engage with the Copenhagen Accord.  The US-CAN website has an excellent table of which countries are on board with the Copenhagen Accord. 

The most recent country to not endorse the Copenhagen Accord was the Cook Islands.  In their letter of non-association to the UNFCCC, the Cook Islands identified the lack of clarity surrounding the “Technology Mechanism,” referenced in paragraph 11 of the Copenhagen Accord as being one of four major issues it found with the Accord.  In particular, the Cook Islands noted:

“[p]ast experience with the Expert Group on Technology Transfer has shown that mitigation technologies have received far more attention [than adaptation technologies'].”

imageAs a small island developing state, the Cook Islands were one of several other island nations pushing for a 1.5 degree target at Copenhagen that would have reduced the likelihood of sending much, if not all, of their country underwater, which is predicted result from the 2 degree target under the Copenhagen Accord.   Many of the other small island developing countries have yet to respond (see US-CAN table above) to the Accord. 

The technologies and knowledge for adapting to climate change, which the Cook Islands accurately state as not receiving adequate attention, include technologies and knowledge such as:

  • Medicines for combating increased incidence of vector borne diseases such as malaria;
  • Water technologies, for economizing usage of freshwater, filtration & purification methods and desalination;
  • Infrastructure technologies and knowledge for minimizing the disruptive effects of increasingly severe floods, storms and droughts;
  • Crops for high-saline and low water growing conditions; and
  • Advance warning systems for oncoming storms and pandemic spread of diseases.

These are what the most vulnerable populations will require to avoid the loss of human rights, such as the rights to life, food, water, health and adequate housing.  CIEL has articulated some practical steps for implementation of Human Rights and Climate Change law.  Many of these steps, along with integrating a rights-based approach into the Technology Mechanism of the Copenhagen Accord would help considerably in addressing the concerns of those countries and populations most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. 

Another potential tool is to lead by example.  The small-island developing state of the Maldives is doing exactly that.  While being one of the most progressive countries in examining the implication of climate change on human rights, they have associated themselves with the Copenhagen Accord AND are also setting the most ambitious mitigation target of any country:  100% reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emission by 2020.  In other words, the island nation is putting its words into action, and promising to be carbon neutral in ten years. 

Whether or not countries associate themselves with the Copenhagen Accord, arguments on all sides of the climate debate are only strengthened with stronger national commitments to GHG reductions.  Hopefully, other countries will follow the Maldives’ lead.  Perhaps the Yes Men can use their trickery to help shame all other countries and the private sector, not just Canada, into taking this path towards solving the problem, that which was forged by the Maldives. 

World Bank discusses Trade and Climate Change

November 12, 2009 Leave a comment

The World Bank, along with two other NGOs, held a panel discussion today on the trade implications of the ongoing climate negotiations.  The final presentation, on Technology Transfer and Climate Change was the most substantive, as detailed below.  The presentations did not address either labeling schemes, standards, border carbon adjustments, or subsidies.  For an in depth discussion of these topics, please see the 2009 CIEL publication, Is World Trade Law a Barrier to Saving our Climate?, available at: http://www.ciel.org/Publications/ClimateTradeReport_foee-ciel_sep09.pdf

Richard
Baldwin
began by discussing possible implications
of Copenhagen outcomes for the world trading system, and coping policies
to
minimize conflicts in the trading system.  In order to prevent what he
called a "train wreck" in the making, he encouraged Industrialized
Countries and Emerging Economies like Brazil, India, China and Russia,
to agree upon climate change rules for trade outside of the WTO
system.  He especially emphasized not letting the WTO's Dispute
Settlement Body take up the issue of climate related trade measures.

Dominique
van
der Mensbrugghe, Lead Economist at the World Bank, followed with an
outline of some of the probable changes in patterns of international
trade that rising global temperatures might precipitate.  His primary
emphasis was on the implications of climate change on agriculture.  A
representative of the World Health Organization (WHO) questioned why the health
related aspects, i.e. the human rights implications of climate change,
were not being addressed by the presentation, which was not answered by
Mr. van der Mensbrugghe.

Aaron Cosbey of the
International Institute for Sustainable Development discussed technology transfer and development assistance.  In using the IPCC 4 definition of Technology Transfer, he argued that weakening IPRs to stimulate the transfer of climate technologies is insufficient for the dissemination of these technologies to developing countries
.   Rather, Mr. Cosbey emphasized the need for developing countries to have  enabling environments in place for investment.  He suggested learning from the experience of the trade regime, vis-a-vis Aid for Trade, to improve the investment climate in these countries, rather than looking at the experience of the WTO in handling another global challenge – access to medicines – with the Doha Declaration on Public Health.  He cited three reasons for the relative insignificance of IPRs in the dissemination of climate technologies: (1) the requirement for trade-secret protected know-how to implement patented technologies; (2) the significant barrier of a poor investment climate in many developing countries; and (3) the inapplicability of public health and IP lessons to energy-related technologies. 

However, in response to a question posed by CIEL, Mr. Cosbey did acknowledge that his analysis did not account for either patents on the most cutting edge of alternative energy technologies (i.e. cleanest), or the expected emergence of Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS) for "Clean[er] Coal."  These advancements will be covered by patents for several years to come, and likely will not have the same level competition enjoyed by current climate technologies.  The World Bank, in its 2010 Development Report, projects that about 25% of the necessary reduction of greenhouse gasses (GHGs) by 2050 will come from CCS technology, which is expected to be an exceptionally concentrated industry. 

Indeed, his hypothesis on the impact of IPRs assumes a sufficiently competitive environment, where alternative suppliers of solar panels, wind turbines, etc, are readily available.  This is the case with older technologies that are in the public domain.  However, in order to reduce greenhouse emissions to 350 PPM, the World Bank, IPCC, and other researchers are united in stating the necessity that more efficient technologies be developed, deployed and disseminated to developing countries.  Thus, it is entirely possible that as advancements in energy generation/GHG reduction are developed (in large part with public funding) the importance of patents held by the private sector will increase tremendously.