16 october 2009

Hopes for deal on climate boosted
Financial Times, by Fiona Harvey in London, October 16 2009

Developing countries have dropped long-standing demands for access to rich countries' technology to cut greenhouse gas emissions, removing a big obstacle to an international deal on climate change, European officials said yesterday.

Countries such as China and India have pushed for rich countries to grant them free access to lowcarbon technologies ever since the lead-up to the 1997 Kyoto protocol. The demand has been a sticking point in negotiations before this December's climate change summit in Copenhagen with rich countries, arguing that any such move could force private sector companies to give away their intellectual property.

The softening of the developing countries' position comes close to resolving one of the five key elements the United Nations says are necessary for a deal on climate change at Copenhagen this December.

The other elements are: binding targets for mid-term emissions reductions from developed countries; a long-term global emissions target; actions by developing countries to curb their emissions; and financing for developing countries to adapt to the effects of global warming.

One European Union official said the "language of the discourse" on technology transfer had changed in recent weeks. Instead of demanding the transfer of intellectual property, developing countries are now willing to discuss collaborating on the development of low-carbon technologies. Such a scenario would see rich world companies encouraged to co-develop new technology with developing country partners.

Officials within the European Commission, the EU's executive body, confirmed there had been "a broadening" of the terms of the discussion, with "more mutuality" between rich and poor countries. Other non-European officials involved in the talks said there had been agreement on the need for an international plan on technology development, with incentives to encourage private sector investment in developing countries. This could take the form of carbon trading.

In part, the shift reflects the reality of the world economy. The rush of western companies to set up factories building wind turbines and other low-carbon technology has made China one of the biggest exporters of environmental goods.

Ed Miliband, the UK's climate and energy secretary, yesterday praised developing countries such as China and India for instituting domestic measures to curb emissions growth.

But on the biggest sticking point of the negotiations - financial assistance from the rich to the poor nations to help them cut emissions and cope with climate change - Mr Miliband said that agreement would not come until the very end of the negotiations

>>> Back to list