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December 16, 2011

COP17 and Technology Transfer

Cop17

In the final days of COP 17 those of us following Technology Transfer (TT)  hoped for the establishment of a Technology Mechanism (TM) with strong safeguards for developing countries like a grievance procedure and a balance of authority between the two bodies of the TM, the Technology Executive Committee (TEC) and the Climate Technology Centre and Network (CTCN).  But we also faced the very real fear that a stalemate might crash the whole thing.  We didn't get our home run, but neither did we get a strike-out.  To mix the sports metaphors, it seems that what we got is a foul ball, a base hit, and a punt.

The Foul

So what was foul in our long-negotiated TT text? To start, much of the crisp definitive text that had been batted around for ten days before ministers took their shot got quite a bit less prescriptive in the final outcome, leaving room for differences of interpretation. (Recall the interpretation after the Cancun Agreement that the Technology Executive Committee shouldn't really have any executive functions, but should be a "think tank" of experts.)  So take note that all analysis of the outcome is subject to rewrite by future interpretation.

Some specific downers are that the Director of the Climate Technology Centre (CTC) host organization is secretary of the advisory board, which surely tempers the board's role as a counter-balance for the CTC host's authority. So, for example, a country or group of countries or population that thinks it isn't getting its fair share of resources from the CTCN would need to take its grievance to, essentially, the same CTC group that made the allocation in the first place.  The advisory board will also depend on the host organization for logistical support.

Also the TEC and the CTC will report jointly to the COP via the Subsidiary Bodies so there is some lack of clarity on how, for example, an entity in the network would report.  Would it go through its regional center to the CTC host then to the advisory board, back and forth with the TEC, then through the Subsidiary Bodies finally to the COP? Organizations at the bottom of the network might have to start writing in January to meet the COP deadline.

The Hit

There are also some positive surprises in the text. First and foremost, the adopted text creates the advisory board, which may serve as a balance to the authority of the CTC host organization -- a non-UNFCCC body, chosen via an RFP process from candidate organizations that exist today. Whether the advisory board actually fulfills the balancing role depends on how it is constituted and its functionality.  The text-envisioned functions for the advisory board seem to be robust but the devil will be in the yet to be defined detail.

Enhancing this hit is the news that the evaluation committee for the host candidates will be selected by the TEC from within its own membership so there's a fighting chance that the evaluation will be fair and transparent. This also tends to expand the authority of TEC which will help to make it a counter-balance to the CTC host in its own right.  And the edict that the CTC and the TEC will make their annual reports to the COP jointly provides further useful linkage between the TEC and CTC.

Speaking of linkages, there's language in the text related to the Adaptation Committee about linkage with the TEC.   There's also mention of a number of potential financial links to the TM including the "financial mechanism of the Convention".

The Punt

As might be expected some decisions were punted.  For example, the CTCN will report on its  modalities and procedures to the Subsidiary Bodies at their 38th session for approval at COP 19 in December of 2013. This raises the question of how "operational" the CTCN will be by the end of 2012, its supposed "fully operational" date.

Perhaps more importantly the selection of the membership of the advisory board which had been the subject of much negotiation and specific text before the ministerial-level negotiations began was left vague with the text saying only that  the Subsidiary Bodies will recommend its composition to COP 18.  There is no mention of how the Subsidiary Bodies will come to their recommendation.

Beyond the Punt

It may be that the some vagueness in the text serves our goal of producing a TM that truly serves the needs of the most climate-vulnerable populations.  What we have here is an imperfect structure that could possibly be influenced for the good.  It behooves all of us who follow TT to seek out the space for improvement, determine the targets to be influenced and get involved in the intercessional meetings to take our best shot.

In particular we should consider the TM as it would function as part of the Durban Platform, the newly agreed negotiating platform that would in some form "bind" all countries, developed and developing, to emissions reductions and that is slated to be negotiated by 2015.  We need to understand how we can use experience from the Kyoto Protocol to learn lessons on the pitfalls the TM might face under the new regime and to map those lessons into a work plan for COP 18 and beyond.

-- Janice Meier/photo by Josh Lopez

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