Technologies for Climate Change Adaptation: Emerging Lessons from Developing Countries Supported by UNDP

Article excerpt

In developing countries, resource-dependent communities are disproportionately affected, jet less equipped to cope with the adverse impacts of climate change. Though generally associated with institutional adjustments, technology transfer, absorption and diffusion provide outstanding opportunities to increase the resilience of vulnerable communities and the ecosystems on which they rely to the risks of climate variability and extremes. In spite of the potential for technology diffusion as it emerges from the international regime, scientific evidence suggests that global efforts to transfer climate-smart technologies needed for successful adaptation in developing countries have fallen short. This paper examines current challenges and opportunities related to technology transfer for climate change adaptation in developing countries, as well as the contribution of the United Nations Development Programme--Climate Change Adaptation Team (UNDP-CCA) in promoting technology absorption and diffusion at the country level.

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These days, climate change is one of the most prominent challenges facing humanity. Recent data released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) of the United States suggest that June 2010 was the hottest month of June on record. (1) Resource-dependent communities in developing countries are disproportionately affected, yet less equipped to cope with the adverse impacts of climate change. As extreme weather reaches its peak, the need to adapt becomes an urgent priority. The transfer of technology--which in the broadest sense includes not only materials and equipment, but also the technical and commercial information and human skills needed to properly understand and use it--is presented as one of the main pillars to increase the resilience of vulnerable communities and their ecosystems to climate risks. Yet today, global efforts to transfer and diffuse climate-smart technologies have fallen short of what is required for significant adaptation in the coming decades. (2) The experience of the UNDP Environment and Energy Group in promoting the absorption and diffusion of technology in developing countries can help pave the way for successful transfer of technology to developing countries.

We begin by elaborating on the opportunities and constraints associated with the transfer of technology in developing countries, then go on to present the portfolio of UNDP's projects addressing the absorption and diffusion of technology in climate change adaptation in developing countries. Our final section explores the prospects for scaling up efforts to transfer technology for climate change adaptation in developing countries.

OPPORTUNITIES AND CONSTRAINTS TO TECHNOLOGY TRANSFER IN DEVELOPING COUNTRIES

From the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 1992 to the Kyoto Protocol in 1997 to the Bali Action Plan ten years later, several multilateral environmental agreements have been developed to assist developing countries in adapting to climate change; namely, by facilitating innovation and diffusion of technology that can bolster the resilience of vulnerable communities to climate change, variability and extremes. For example, Article 4.5 of the UNFCCC urges developed countries who are party to the Convention (Annex I countries) to promote, finance and facilitate the transfer of environmentally sound technologies and know-how to developing countries. Yet despite their commitments, the difficulty of fulfilling this critical need has highlighted the importance of moving toward concrete actions. Today, the World Trade Organization's (WTO) agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) provides potential opportunities to speed up the transfer of technology for adaptation. While addressing some concerns, significant challenges still need to be overcome in developing countries in order for adaptation technologies to deliver their full promises. …