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FEATURE: A positive vision for the UNFCCC Technology Executive Committee

On February 15-17, the UNFCCC Technology Executive Committee (TEC) held its second meeting. On May 28-29, it will meet again. The TEC is informally called the “policy arm” of the UNFCCC Technology MechanismA Technology Mechanism, under the guidance of and accountable to the Conference of the Parties (COP), was established by the 16th session of the COP in Cancun from 29 November to 10 December 2010. The Technology Mechanism is expected to facilitate the implementation of enhanced action on ..., which aims to enhance climate technology development and transfer for mitigationMitigation refers to actions that reduce our contribution to the causes of climate change. This means reducing emissions of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide (CO2), through energy efficiency and using alternative forms of transport and energy.(UKCIP) and adaptation. Despite its importance, the TEC has not been much discussed or studied. In this blog, two followers of the UNFCCC technology negotiations give their views on how the TEC can make a difference for addressing climate change.

In the coming months, the Technology Executive Committee  (TEC), a group of 20 technology experts and climate change negotiators representing both Annex I and non-Annex I countries which is part of the UNFCCC Technology Mechanism, has an opportunity to set out a workplanThe M&E work plan is an annual costed M&E plan that describes the priority M&E activities for the year and the roles and responsibilities of organizations / individuals for their implementation; the cost of each activity and the funding identified; a timeline for delivery of all products / ... to tackle the toughest technology challenges related to climate change. While the UNFCCC negotiations focus on targets, timetables, legal form, and financial mechanisms, the workhorse in climate issues is technology development, deployment, and transfer. Technology will make it possible to meet targets and timetables without sacrificing other economic priorities. Without accelerated technology development and transfer, achieving the Convention’s goals for cutting emissionsEmissions of greenhouse gases, greenhouse gas precursors, and aerosols associated with human activities, including the burning of fossil fuels, deforestation, land-use changes, livestock, fertilisation, etc. (IPCC) and preparing for impacts will be impossible. Thus, we all have a stake in the success of the Technology Mechanism and what is informally called its “policy arm”, the TEC.

Asking the Right Questions

In mid-February, the TEC met for the second time in Bonn, Germany and began setting its workplan for the next two years. With goals already established through TEC’s mandate, the challenge becomes translating them into actionable, achievable tasks that add value to technology development and transfer.

Against this backdrop, it was heartening to see the TEC’s members thoughtfully and openly engage on the workplan. It is particularly difficult to move from mandate to action in such a crowded field. Innumerable UN agencies, networks, NGOs, and consultants also work on technology development and transfer issues. Ensuring the TEC avoids duplication and contributes effectively is critical.

A Vision for the TEC

Despite this crowded space, much remains to be done and the TEC has a role to play. From the perspective of policy researchers who have spent years working on this issue, we would be thrilled if the TEC undertook to:

  • Be ambassadors for the role of technology in aligning national interests and climate goals. The opportunity in technology development and deployment is understood academically but has little impact on the larger climate negotiations, which quickly become locked into a zero-sum dispute over resources. The TEC members should be ambassadors to the Conference of the Parties about the role technology plays in sustainable economic progress, increased resilience, emissions reductions, and employment. Technology cannot solve all the problems raised by climate change, but it does provide a path toward sustainably raising living standards around the world.
  • Focus on non-Annex I innovations. The simplistic view of technology transferThe exchange of knowledge, hardware and associated software, money and goods among stakeholders that leads to the spreading of technology for adaptation or mitigation The term encompasses both diffusion of technologies and technological cooperation across and within countries. (IPCC) as “North-South” has seized much of the technology discussion in the UNFCCC, despite the success of ‘South-South’ and ‘Triangular’ cooperation. While technology transfer from Annex I to non-Annex I countries will always be important, this misses the innovations emerging throughout developing countries. The TEC should focus on making sure that the Technology Mechanism ensures ongoing innovation from developing countries.
  • Promote technology as a means to empower. Any emerging economy needs to develop capabilities to handle technology. The challenge is helping non-Annex I countries, under pressure to develop quickly, to adopt practices and processes that support sustainable technology. For example, by the time carbon price incentives emerge, engineers will have already been educated to operate coal plants rather than concentrating solar powerA technically simple way to produce electric power from solar energy: electricity is produced from steam which in turn is produced from concentrated light. The steam drives a conventional heat engine. facilities, and to drill for fossil fuelsEnergy from fossil sources, such as natural gas and oil. This type of energy contributes to climate change and because of its finite nature it is not a permanent resource. rather than for geothermalAlso known as geothermal power. Heat that is stored inside the earth is transformed into electrical energy by geothermal power plants. This form of energy is considered to be cost-effective, reliable and friendly to the environment. resources. Through the Climate Technology Centre and Network, the TEC can help provide capabilities to handle the new technology needed for a low-carbon climate resilient world.

Looking Forward

The TEC came close to adopting a workplan in February, but there is still room to shape the tasks for 2012-2013. The mandate leaves latitude for where exactly the TEC might focus its limited resources and attention. If the TEC can take into account the recommendations outlined above, it can have a positive impact on both the UNFCCC negotiations and on climate technology development and transfer globally.

Letha Tawney is a senior associate at World Resources Institute  and Heleen de Coninck is a Programme Manager at the Energy Research Center of the Netherlands

We occasionally invite bloggers from around the world to provide their experiences and views. the views here are those of the authors, and not necessarily those of CDKN.

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