Research Handbooks in Intellectual Property series
Edited by Joshua D. Sarnoff
Chapter 16: Patents and climate change
The amount of greenhouse gas emissions and the extent of climate change will depend substantially upon the rapid development and widespread dissemination of a wide variety of new climate change technologies. So will the problems that climate change will cause and how well society responds. The availability of substantial private and some public funds for climate change mitigation and adaptation products and services – and the correspondingly large potential private markets – will attract new technological development and will encourage patenting (to differing degrees in various industries) in the hopes of appropriating economic returns. In turn, the costs of climate change mitigation and adaptation measures will depend in part on whether these climate change technologies are patented, on how they are licensed and on what technological substitutes are affordably available. Widely cited assessments have assumed there would be price constraints on patented climate change technologies because of the availability of ready substitutes for existing technologies, or development of incremental rather than breakthrough technologies; but these assumptions may not always hold. In Cancún at the end of 2010, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) adopted an agreement that places substantial emphasis on developing and disseminating technology through private markets, although many other government alternatives exist. The agreement also contemplates transferring both public and private funds from developed countries (in the context of their mitigation obligations) to developing countries of at least $100 billion per year by 2020.
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