Rhein on Energy and Climate

50 days ahead of the Copenhagen Climate Conference a new theme re-enters the debate between developed and developing countries: free transfer of green energy technologies to developing countries.

India and China are particularly vociferous in demanding such technologies to be made accessible to their companies free of license fees, citing the example of anti-retroviral drugs in the struggle against HIV as a precedent.

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It is the wrong debate at the wrong moment.

  • Fighting climate change is not primarily a matter of high-tech but of political determination to reduce the use of fossil energies by raising energy efficiency and resorting to renewable energies.

It is much more a matter of giving the right incentives and offering the proper regulatory environment, e.g. by abolishing subsidies on fossil energies and imposing carbon taxes.

  • Developed countries have acquired a lot of expertise in energy efficiency and alternative energies have over the past three decades, spread among tens of thousands of companies and most of which not protected by patents. Governments in developed countries have no legal means to force these companies how to dispose of their technological expertise.
  • Chinese, Brazilian and Indian companies have made great strides in new energy technologies. Brazil is the leading country in biomass. China has become the No 1 exporter of solar panels. India hosts one of the leading companies in wind energy. China and India have successfully demonstrated their capacity to harness nuclear technology, which is infinitely more complex than solar or wind technologies. India and China should therefore go ahead and invite their companies to share their expertise with less advanced developing countries?
  • Though still in an infant stage, global exchanges of energy technology –by direct investments, exports/imports or licence agreements among companies are bound to become a dominant feature of the global economy in the coming decades. It is therefore normal that all major industrial countries, including China and India, are trying to obtain a share in what promises to become a lucrative market. It would therefore suicidal for any government to force its companies to share their know-how free of charge with competing companies wherever they may be located.

Read also: COP 15 United Nations Climate Change Conference Pre-brief

In conclusion, Copenhagen is not the place for discussing if and how companies across the world should share their technologies. There is no reason to further complicate the climate negotiations by what should be a non-issue.

Brussels 24.10.09 Eberhard Rhein

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