The Socialist International Commission for a Sustainable World Society, meeting in Stockholm on 5-6 September 2008 hosted by the Swedish Social Democratic Party, SAP, addressed the issue of technology transfers and capacity building for developing countries as part of the global response to mitigating and adapting to climate change and promoting sustainable economic development, and how the necessary funding can be provided.

Development and transfer of technology is a key part of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, and green technology, transfers and building the capacity in the developing world to assess, adapt and manage environmentally sound technologies will be central items on the agenda at the Conference of the Parties to the Climate Change Convention (COP-14) and the Kyoto Protocol (CMP) scheduled for 1-12 December 2008 in Poznań, Poland.

Poznań will mark the halfway point in the process that began at the end of 2007 when more than 180 nations agreed the Bali Roadmap and Bali Action Plan to reduce global warming. The Commission believes that it is imperative now that in Poznań the nations of the world produce solid results leading to an agreement which will need to be reached at the Copenhagen Conference in December 2009, in order to allow its implementation before the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012.

The Commission noted positively that at the latest UN Climate Change Conference held in Accra on 21-27 August 2008 – which included government delegates from 160 countries, as well as representatives from environmental organisations, business and research institutions – negotiations between countries generally appeared to pick up in pace, while developing countries became more actively involved, with many offering national action plans with specific targets to be reached that will be brought to Poznań.

Also encouraging were the agreement in Accra on the need to include the issue of deforestation in developing countries in the anticipated Copenhagen agreement, including compensation for countries that work to curb deforestation and conduct conservation programmes, and the headway made toward an arrangement that would limit carbon emissions by specific industries such as cement, steel and power generation, the so-called “sectoral approaches.”

Further with regard to emissions, the Commission expressed concern about the rapidly increasing production over the last decade of nitrogen trifluoride, a gas used to produce flat-panel display screens that was not covered under the Kyoto Protocol, but which recent studies have concluded could potentially be as harmful in its greenhouse effect as carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and methane. The Commission urged that nitrogen trifluoride be included in any agreement for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The Commission took note of the report issued in Accra by the United Nations Environment Programme and supported its case urging countries to phase out energy subsidies harmful to the environment, economic growth or social welfare and redirect monies into policies aimed at promoting use of greener, renewable energy sources and providing greater support for poor and low income families, the ones who are most negatively affected by higher fuel prices.

The Commission underlined that the harnessing of science and technology and the transfer of clean-climate technologies are critical. It is a vast, complex field that includes developing new means for producing energy from renewable sources including solar, wind and thermal and for making cleaner the combustion of fossil fuels, including coal. In Accra governments for the first time discussed what is needed with regard to creating and refining green technologies and how to fund their transfer to the developing world in order to enhance efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to adapt to the effects of climate change.

The Commission noted that an important part of the process is the carrying out of technology needs and needs assessments by individual countries in the developing world that identify and determine their specific mitigation and adaptation technology priorities. Some proposals in this regard were made in Accra and were expected to be brought to Poznań. But the Commission believes there must be further and more determined efforts by nations in both North-South and South-South cooperation in determining how best to upgrade current capacities and maximise new technologies, if concrete progress is to be made in Poznań in the area of technology transfers.

The Commission also emphasised the enormous challenge of financing green technology transfers. Developing countries will require massive transfers and great amounts of technical and capacity-building assistance to properly make use of new technologies, and the current funding under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is not nearly sufficient. This is especially true in the case of Africa, which is particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change but thus far has only minimally benefited from the Global Environment Facility and Clean Development Mechanism, which the Commission is pleased to see high on the agenda in Poznań.

The Commission strongly urged that every effort be made to close the enormous gap in financing green technologies in the developing world, particularly with regard to the poorest countries, small island nations and others most threatened by climate change.

The Commission noted that because technology transfers and capacity building are so costly – with estimates ranging in the hundreds of billions of dollars over the next two decades – there must be substantial input from and far greater cooperation between the public and private sectors at every level, and between national governments and international agencies.

One way forward could be the transformation of portions of the debts of developing nations into funds earmarked for green-based economic development programmes and climate change adaptation. Also to be considered is a redesign of the international rules on intellectual property with the aim of cutting the cost to developing countries of accessing new technologies and helping to bridge the North-South knowledge divide.

The Commission believes that how to achieve the necessary input and cooperation is ultimately a political challenge, one that requires that the developing world, particularly the most vulnerable countries and regions, be given a greater voice as the negotiating process moves ahead. It is clear that the international community will be hard pressed to provide adequate, predictable and long-term funding for technology transfer and capacity building without greater North-South solidarity and coordination.

The Commission called for the creation of an institution for the distribution and transfer of clean technologies within the United Nations system, complementing the work of other agencies and assisting individual countries.

The Commission, while noting the progress in Accra, expressed renewed concern that not enough was being done soon enough in the overall effort to create a successor to the Kyoto Protocol, particularly if ranges and targets for emission reductions by industrialised countries are to be agreed in Poznań as part of preparing a negotiating text for 2009.

The Commission was also concerned that efforts to respond to climate change could be downgraded as the world confronts a global economic slowdown and mounting concerns over energy security. It warned of the risks of resorting to incrementalism and half-measures and emphasised that for any climate change regime to be effective there had to be found the right balance between mitigation, adaptation, the promotion of sustainable development and establishing greater reliance on renewable energy sources.

The Commission underlined that progress in the overall effort to set and carry out a post-2012 climate change regime, as in the specific cases of technology transfers and capacity building, depends on political will and determination.

Also critical to generating political momentum toward an effective response to climate change are greater efforts in the areas of education and public outreach, to promote consciousness and energise popular demands for action that can move the political dynamic in the right direction at the local, national and international levels.

The Commission underlined that much work needs to be done in the short period of time ahead and reaffirmed that the member parties of the Socialist International, both in government and in opposition in countries throughout the world, have key roles to play in carrying out the necessary tasks.