Print Edition - 2017-06-04  |  Free the Words

Hey, that’s my idea

  • Intellectual property protection of climate change technologies is a sticking point

Jun 4, 2017-

In 2015, the United Nations adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development which contains a set of 17 goals to end poverty and hunger, protect the world from environmental degradation and promote a prosperous, peaceful and inclusive world. One of these Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is action to fight climate change and its impacts on the planet. 

Today, the world is worried about global warming and climate change. Rapid emission of greenhouse gases has been identified as the main driver of climate change. The role of intellectual property rights (IPRs), technology development, access to innovation and transfer of climate technology to cope with the challenges of climate change have been emphasised by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), World Trade Organisation (WTO) and World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO). 

Global response

Debates on global adoption of climate change mitigation and adaptation technologies besides policies that support the effective transfer of technologies are being held. The UNFCCC has been acting as the main international and intergovernmental forum for the purpose of discussing global response to climate change. It has asked all member countries to cooperate in the development and transfer of technologies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The developed countries will take practicable steps to facilitate and finance technology transfer to the developing countries. The WIPO GREEN programme is facilitating the innovation and transfer of green technology in accordance with the UNFCCC. 

WIPO GREEN can also be an important marketplace for trading and sharing clean technologies. Article 66 of the WTO’s Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS) agreement has given a time extension to the least developed countries (LDCs) to apply the pact. Regarding technology transfer to the LDCs, Article 66.2 of the TRIPS agreement states that the developed counties shall provide incentives to the LDCs of their regions for the purpose of promoting and encouraging technology transfer in order to enable them to create a sound and viable technological base. The TRIPS agreement also facilitates the transfer of climate technology from the 

developed countries to the LDCs.

Generally, IPRs contribute to the transfer climate technology rather hinder it. However, the current debate on Intellectual Property (IP) and climate change and the role of IPRs in addressing climate change are researchable issues. Copenhagen 2009 and Cancun 2010 international climate change conferences have recognised the role of IPRs in encouraging research, development and transmission of clean technologies to mitigate and adapt to the influences of climate change. From the UNFCCC 1992 to the 2010 Cancun agreement, IPRs have been discussed as a barrier or a facilitator in the promotion of climate technology. 

During the Copenhagen and Cancun climate change conferences, the developing countries claimed that IPRs acted as a major barrier to the transfer of climate change technologies and proposed that such technologies be exempted from patent infringement. However, the developed countries opposed such proposals. There 

was no agreement on the IPRs issue at these conferences. The developing world believed that IPRs act as a barrier to access and transfer of climate change technologies and the developed world argued that IPRs incentivise innovation and help to address climate change issues. 

Legal force

During the Paris 2015 UN climate change conference, all member countries agreed on a climate change outcome which has legal force for all countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This agreement will be a turning point in global efforts to deal with climate change. However, a recent Group of Seven (G7) summit held in Sicily, Italy has ended without a common agreement on climate change, as the Trump administration has decided to pull out of the Paris climate deal. The other six G7 leaders have agreed to stick to their previous commitment to implement the Paris agreement to restrict the emission of greenhouse gases to fight climate change and global warming. President Trump called global warming a hoax created by the Chinese. He had campaigned on a promise to pull out of the Paris deal, and came under intense pressure from other leaders to honour the agreement.

IP protection might act as a barrier to the transfer of climate change technologies to the developing countries. Technology barriers can impact their climate change mitigation efforts. However, some people argue that IP protection is a relatively minor barrier to the utilisation of environmentally sound technologies. One of the most challenging tasks in the multilateral negotiations system is the formulation of a policy framework to facilitate the access and transfer of climate change technologies from the developed to the developing countries. The patent protection system is considered to be a barrier to climate technology access and technology diffusion in the policy community related to climate change. The role of IP and climate technology transfer in addressing the challenge of climate change has been highly 

emphasised by multilateral negotiations and global policy initiatives. 

Nepal needs to be practical to secure the benefits that the Paris agreement has provided to the LDCs and continue to strive to safeguard the people from the adverse impacts of climate change through access to climate technology to address the challenge of vulnerable communities.

- Chapagai is a faculty member 

and MBA programme director at Boston International College, Bharatpur, Chitwan

Published: 04-06-2017 08:13

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