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technology transfer, climate change, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference, UNFCCC, innovation, technology transfer, TRIPS Agreement, clean energy


The global spotlight is once again focused on the challenges of climate change with the annual United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties kicking off this week (November 28th–December 7th) in Durban, South Africa. With the international community looking to Durban for results, an important opportunity exists to address one of the most contentious – and misunderstood – issues in the climate change debate: the role of intellectual property rights in the production of and access to mitigation and adaptation technologies. The rapid development and diffusion of these technologies is a key component of the global response to climate change. Intellectual property rights have traditionally been the primary policy mechanism for encouraging private investments in innovation, including for the production of mitigation and adaptation technologies. Yet while global climate change negotiations have made some progress in the area of technology transfer, as reflected in last year’s agreement in Cancun to establish a Technology Mechanism under the UNFCCC, the role of intellectual property rights has remained a particularly divisive issue. Not only has no agreement been reached in this area, but even the path to a constructive and meaningful discussion seems elusive. Unless the role of intellectual property is addressed in a constructive and balanced manner, the potential for achieving sustainable and realistic outcomes from the climate talks could be compromised. In this policy brief, we seek to untangle the issues that lie behind this impasse. We also suggest a possible course for action that, while taking into account a diversity of perspectives, also challenges countries – and other stakeholders – to go beyond entrenched negotiating positions.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (1992), Clean energy industries, Climatic changes, Technology transfer, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (Organization), Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (1994), Inventions, United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (1992 : Rio de Janeiro Brazil)