Turning to technology at COP24


November 27th, 2018

Negotiators have spent the last 18 months deliberating two elements which will guide the work of governments, institutions, and UN bodies around the world on using technologies to tackle climate change and its impacts. The Technology Framework, and Periodic Assessment, will set out how Parties will support developing countries to access and develop the technologies they need to take transformational action on adapting to the increasing climate change impacts they face, and to create low-carbon growth in their economies.

At least, that is what they are meant to do.

But as Parties come together at COP24 to finalise these two pieces of the legislative jigsaw, we risk ending up with two rather useless pieces of paper, which do little to focus efforts on the most climate-vulnerable people nor hold Parties to account on their obligations under the Paris Agreement.

Technology Framework

The purpose of this is to provide new guidance to all stakeholders about how we can best facilitate technology transfer to developing countries, and how to best support them to build national innovation systems for appropriate technological responses to climate change impacts. Primarily, the Technology Framework focuses on the role and activities of the Technology Mechanism of the UNFCCC, which comprises of the Technology Executive Committee (TEC) – a board of technology experts nominated by Parties which provides guidance on national climate technology policies, as well as undertaking key research and evaluations of technology developments and policy options; and the Climate Technology Centre and Network (CTCN) – which provides technical assistance to countries developing climate technology plans and projects, as well as delivering capacity-building support and sharing key technology-related knowledge.

As the Technology Mechanism already exists, the focus of the Framework is not on procedures and modalities. It is on the priority areas of work of the Mechanism, the scope of its mandate, and the methods it will employ to enhance technology access in developing countries. Last year, I blogged on how negotiations were delayed and almost derailed by Parties focusing on minutia and semantic arguments over the meaning of words like ‘structure’. Thankfully, we have come a long way since then. But so much of the Framework remains in ‘bracketed’ text – which means it could be argued out next week at COP24 in Katowice, Poland.

We call on Parties to ensure that they maintain a focus on the poorest and most climate-vulnerable – those that are in dire need of technologies to enable them to adapt to the harsh impacts of climate change on their lives – and to ensure a balance in support for both adaptation and mitigation actions. While new and emerging technologies may help us to address climate change in more effective ways, we must not overlook the existing technologies and knowledge, particularly for adaptation, which can be leveraged already for transformative climate action. They may not glisten and shine and be backed up by powerful servers in Silicon Valley, but they can support a remote rural community to thrive in the face of a deteriorating natural environment. They need rainwater harvesting, not robots.

The missing link?

One of the big questions looming over the Technology Mechanism, like a dark cloud blocking out the Sun, has been how it will link with the Financial Mechanism, particularly the Green Climate Fund. To date, the TEC and CTCN have had rather ad-hoc, albeit increasingly close, working relationships with the GCF. Yet for the Technology Mechanism to really deliver what it sets out to achieve, it has to find a more structured and streamlined way to link to the GCF. The GCF is seen as the main means of financing ambitious climate action in developing countries, and after a rocky year, it is finally back on track and funding new activities around the world. The outputs of the Technology Mechanism – the briefs, the research, the technical advice – could all be extremely useful to the GCF, and the countries seeking its funding. Equally, there needs to be a clear flow from the outcomes of Technology Needs Assessments and Technical Assistance Requests, from the TEC and CTCN respectively, to fundable project proposals to the Financial Mechanism.

The Technology Framework and Periodic Assessment provide opportunities to create these linkages, and ensure that the various aspects of the UNFCCC can work effectively, efficiently, and in harmony to achieve the most transformational outcomes for developing countries and the most climate-vulnerable communities.

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