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 3: Failure is not an option: enhancing the use of intellectual property tools to secure wider and more equitable access to climate change technologies

Jon P. Santamauro

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


As governments around the world struggle to formulate national and international responses to the unprecedented challenges presented by climate change, one area of controversy has been the role intellectual property (IP) should play in addressing these challenges. This chapter is a contribution to the project ‘Obtaining, Protecting and Using Essential Environmental Technologies’, coordinated by the University of Edinburgh, to answer the question: ‘How best to secure wider and more equitable access to technologies which can reduce emissions.’ It follows on the initial research paper Towards a Holistic Approach to Technology and Climate Change: What Would Form Part of an Answer. This chapter begins with the premise that the role of intellectual property must be considered in any response to questions regarding policies necessary to enhance innovation. On the one hand, there is general agreement that the development of new technology will be critical to efforts to mitigate the effects of climate change and to adapt to its consequences. There is a clear need to provide sufficient incentives for the private sector and other stakeholders to continue to develop these technologies. Intellectual property is widely recognized to be important for and, in the view of some, a prerequisite to innovation. Nonetheless, concerns remain that intellectual property may, at least in certain circumstances, create a barrier to diffusion of climate-related technologies. Thus, the challenge. The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) requires parties to promote the development and diffusion of climate-related technologies. Developed countries, in particular, are required to promote the transfer of, or access to, ‘environmentally sound technologies’.

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