India moots global enterprise for mitigation tech

Written by ASHOK B SHARMA | Updated: Dec 14 2007, 01:41am hrs
India mooted the proposal of setting up of a global enterprise for mitigation technologies (GEM) at the 13th Conference of Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Bali on Thursday.

Speaking at the roundtable discussion on climate change, the Indian science and technology minister, Kapil Sibal suggested the global challenge to combat global warming needs a global response. Much like the human genome project, the global community might consider a human GEM project:- a Global Enterprise for Mitigation technologies.

He said that India believed in three major elements - appropriate funding modalities and approaches, a facilitative IPR environment and enhancing the absorptive capacity within developing countries. The G-77+China have already put forward a proposal for the creation of a new multilateral technology cooperation fund that would finance the development, deployment, diffusion and transfer of technologies for both mitigation and adaptation to developing countries and India supported this proposal, he said.

Sibal said : technology is a mixed blessing while it is often the source of our problems, it also holds the promise of enduring solutions. In our move towards a low-carbon economy, technology has a vital role to play, and therefore it is quite right that mitigation technologies engage significantly the attention of policy-makers and scientists.

Technology may now be developed jointly, like through bi-national or multi-national efforts, or it may also be developed by new ways of public-private partnership. Many of these mechanisms were being adopted in India, and have demonstrated significant success, he said.

Observing that one of the main barriers to technology adoption lies in the poor absorptive capacities of developing countries, Sibal said that technology diffusion cannot be forced through the harmonization of standards. Standards and norms must reflect the development levels of where they would be deployed.

The approach needs to be further elaborated to include the existing capacities for in-house technology development and technology adoption/absorption. Based on such a country-driven approach, future modalities for development, transfer and adoption of technologies in developing countries should be identified, he said.

In the same breadth, however, Sibal pointed out that some developing countries, including India were developing appropriate technologies. Today, an Indian company sells an electric car in many European countries and I was happy to see Members of Parliament of the UK driving it in London, he said and added that such technology transfers were taking place from South to South.

Other panelists in the round table were Ghana deputy minister, Maxwell Jumah, Andy Karsner from US Department of Energy, Stigson,- president of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, Stigson and representatives of the Global Environment Facility (GEF). Sibals speech also triggered a number of interventions from the floor as well.

However the US, even while acknowledging the collaborative R&D with India in climate change mitigation observed that legal and commercial frameworks within developing countries were the main constraints for diffusion of technologies. The IPR of advanced technologies lie in the private sector and the companies perforce look for compensation for investments in research.

The officiating chairman of the round table even while agreeing with the rationale of protection of IPRs referred to Sibals speech. A facilitative IPR regime, which Sibal had argued, that balances rewards for innovators with the common good of humankind was the need of the hour. This may be done through a system of regulated royalties to innovators for deployment in developing countries, he said.

Such an approach has been adopted successfully in the case of pharmaceutical technologies for the benefit of HIV/AIDS victims in developing countries. If there were a moral imperative to adopt such an approach in the case of pharmaceuticals the moral case of a similar approach for saving our planet was even more compelling, he said.