Accessing, Obtaining and Protecting
Elgar Law, Technology and Society series
Edited by Abbe E.L. Brown
Chapter 4: Partnership and sharing: beyond mainstream mechanisms
It might seem sensible to begin debates about access to essential environmental technologies, defined as technologies providing fundamental goods and services for survival of people and the planet, on grounds of justice, equity and burden sharing. However, this assumes that current practices of technological development, protection and distribution are similarly couched in such ethical foundations. Clearly, as the discussions about technology transfer in global climate change negotiations illustrate, there are many problems in making such assumptions. Apart from the obvious political problems of sovereignty and economic imperatives of (predominantly) Western-nation states and multinational corporations who are disproportionately privileged in such negotiations, there are more subtle complexities which overshadow decision-making. The chapters in this volume detail many of these complexities, particularly with respect to governing technologies and their dissemination, of which intellectual property rights (IPRs) are a central component. The focus of this chapter in contrast revolves around two issues: the nature of climate change technologies themselves and the geography of innovation that creates those technologies beyond the mainstream for-profit marketplace where intellectual property (IP) issues are less pronounced. Technological innovations have led to immense transitions in the way people live across the globe. However, not all people have benefited equally from these innovations and many innovative developments aimed at improving quality of life have had negative impacts on the state of the environment, including contributing to climate change. It is a significant understatement to say that shifting current pathways of development onto more resilient, or sustainable, trajectories is proving to be challenging.
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