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December 08, 2011

Will COP17 Deliver on Technology Transfer?

Sierra Club at Heads in the Sands event

We're at the plate.  Will the negotiators and ministers connect for a homerun or will it be a swing and a miss?

Ever since the Technology Mechanism (TM) was defined in the Cancun Agreement to consist of two bodies, the Technology Executive Committee (TEC) and the Climate Technology Center and Network (CTCN), the discussion of the character of each has been debated. Based on the names alone, one might believe that the former would be a high-level decision-making body and the latter a functioning body composed of a core "center" and a network of organizations that provide Technology Transfer (TT) related services to developing countries. But agreement on the body names has not come close to entailing agreement on body functions. 

Somehow, some parties came into the 2011 intercessionals with the idea that the TEC's role in the TM was to be a "think tank" of experts with no role in "executing" any action at all, while the "host" of the center would be the sole operational body making essentially all of the TM's important decisions. This caused chagrin among some parties who were concerned that a single body, especially one operated by a host which is not a UNFCCC body, might have priorities not strictly in line with UNFCCC principles.

As the intercessional meetings progressed, some parties pushed for an architecture in which the CTC host would report to the TEC, receiving high-level guidance from the TEC and accounting to the TEC.  Other parties viewed the TEC as being inappropriate for that role, and after the TEC's first meeting in September, claimed that the TEC was too weak for the role. The outcome of the final intercessional in Panama was a text that included a "hybrid option" as well as the options for the CTC to report to the TEC, or for both to report independently.

When we came into Durban, the key issues for resolution were the architecture/reporting structure of the bodies of the TM, the linkages of those bodies to others both within and without the UNFCCC, and the provision of funding.

The G77 came into Durban with a fleshed-out version of the hybrid that called for an independent "board" to provide high-level guidance to and accountability from the CTC. Early in the first week this proposal led to greater flexibility on both sides that gave great hope for a positive outcome. Unfortunately, days later, that hope was clouded by the proposition that the new board would be "constituted" by the CTC host organization, essentially nullifying its role as a counter-weight to the host's authority.

As of Thursday morning of the final week of COP17, the parties are making very slow progress toward bridging the gap. Meanwhile the Green Climate Fund group acknowledged the need for interaction with the TM via the TEC in its own text. Also some parties described a need for a "Foundation" funding window for the TM.  

It's still a cliff-hanger. Hopes are high. Let's hope negotiators and ministers step up to the plate and hit that home run!

-- Janice Meier/photo by Josh Lopez

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