I have been following the climate summit in Durban from afar; no matter how I look at it and which source I take the news aren’t good.
Even the conservative International Energy Agency (IEA) has declared a five year window for meeting any civilization-saving climate goals, and that should ring alarm bells in anybody’s head. Yet Canada has pulled out of Kyoto, in a seemingly protectionist move, yet in reality resisting change and low-carbon development will lead to economic stagnation, not to speak of more and more expenses to deal with the impacts of climate change. Canada’s Environment Minister Peter Kent said Canada has already declared that it will hold to its position “however acute the international pressure” and thus made any hope of change of mind obsolete.
Another difficult issue is intellectual property. A North-South knowledge transfer would be extremely important for developing and least developed states; the Copenhagen Accord 2009 and the Cancun Agreement 2010 did establish the Technology Mechanism but failed to reach a consensus on dealing with intellectual property and climate change. The same seems to be the case in Durban now:
The United States Government supports a strong intellectual property rights protection of clean technologies. The US Special Envoy for Climate Change Todd Stern views these rights as an advantage to drive technology forward and the US is currently in fierce completion with China over clean energy patents.
India, the Africa Group and Progressive Latin America States hope for a regime that “balances rewards for the innovators with the common good of humankind and thereby enables developing countries to take early and effective mitigation and adaptation actions at the national level.”
Bolivia has taken a more radical stance by declaring that clean technologies should not be subject to intellectual property rights protection.
It is clear that patent law reform for clean technologies is a key issue to accelerate adaptation and mitigation. A climate commons for intellectual property has been suggested. This would foster co-operation and collaboration on clean technologies while still respecting intellectual property rights, with a scope for flexible uses of clean technologies.
Sadly it appears that right now the economic crisis is overshadowing the threat of climate change but the EU has gathered the support of developing countries to agree to a follow-up of Kyoto by 2015. The IEA allows five more years for action before it will be too late to limit global warming to what is considered manageable, and improvements to the intellectual property regimes are imperative for developing countries. I am afraid this year we won’t be seeing a global commitment to get started.