Environmental Technologies, Intellectual Property and Climate Change

Environmental Technologies, Intellectual Property and Climate Change

Accessing, Obtaining and Protecting

Elgar Law, Technology and Society series

Edited by Abbe E.L. Brown

Many disciplines are relevant to combating climate change. This challenging book draws together legal, regulatory, geographic, industrial and professional perspectives and explores the role of technologies in addressing climate change through mitigation, adaptation and information gathering. It explores some key issues. Is intellectual property part of the solution, an obstacle to change or peripheral? Are there more important questions? Do they receive the attention they deserve? And from whom? This innovative book will play an important role in stimulating holistic discussion and action on an issue of key importance to society.

Chapter 1: Low carbon futures for all? Strategic options for global availability of environmental technologies

Keith Culver

Subjects: development studies, law and development, environment, climate change, innovation and technology, technology and ict, law - academic, environmental law, human rights, intellectual property law, law and development, politics and public policy, human rights


What role can IP rights play in securing equitable global access to essential technologies for response to the challenge of climate change? This chapter explores the geopolitical context of this question, and argues that the question is at best misplaced, and at worst, a costly red herring. This chapter argues that where the need and opportunity are greatest for climate change mitigation and adaptation, the technologies needed are not essential technologies, and further, the relevant non-essential technologies are most useful if they arrive in the company of supporting institutions and practices. If this argument is sound, it points the way to a global strategy for equitable technology access and implementation in which IP rights play a relatively small role. In this strategy, support for equitable access to needed climate change technologies and implementation techniques is not gained by IP-handling tactics. Rather, appropriate support is supplied by enabling countries in greatest need of climate technologies to access finance and technical knowhow for implementation of integrated suites of technologies and implementation practices – some existing and some new. This argument will be supported by a reflection on the present and future context of climate change mitigation and adaptation, a context in which the increasingly urban global population is distributed in significantly asymmetric urban environments: the slow-growing, rapidly decarbonizing, relatively wealthy and relatively old cities of the global North, and the fast-growing, high-carbon, relatively poor and relatively new cities of the global South.

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