Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies
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Only three countries lead 60 percent of global environmental technology innovations

Despite capital investment and regulatory initiatives worldwide, international environmental technology transfer between developed and developing country occurs rarely while 60 percent of related innovation is concentrated in 3 countries.

Accelerating environmental technology development and promoting application are key challenges in the current global environment and energy debate.  The climate change COP agreed that the developed countries shall take all practicable steps to promote, facilitate and finance the transfer of, or access to, environmentally sound technologies and know-how to other Parties, particularly to developing countries. According to a report by the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century, a policy network headquartered in Paris, total investment in renewable energy reached $257 billion in 2011, up from $211 billion in 2010.The investment is headed by countries like China, Germany, the United States and Brazil. Yet the global renewable energy development is unevenly distributed across different countries. Technologies have been developed primarily in industrialized countries, yet they are needed in fast-growing emerging economies.

In a paper from Review of Environmental Economics and Policy, a group of researchers from the London School of Economics and Political Science, Centre for Industrial Economics, based in France, and Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development use European Patent Office Worldwide Patent Statistical Database to assess the geographic distribution and diffusion of inventions. The inventions covered include thirteen climate-mitigation technologies for the past three decades from 1978 to 2008. By categorizing and reorganizing the large amount of data, the researchers find out that Japan, Germany, and the United States together account for 60 percent of total cleantech inventions while China and Brazil together account for about 10 percent of total inventions. Meanwhile, despite the buzz and global attention on environmental technologies, international transfers in environmental technology occur mostly between developed countries, which enjoy 73 percent of all exported inventions. Exports from developed countries to emerging economies are still limited to 22 percent of all exported inventions, but are growing rapidly, especially to China.

The finding highlights the need for collaborative regulation and global policy incentives to foster the creation of markets for environment technology transfer. Governments in both the developed and developing world should initiate a financially practical framework to address trade deficiency and facilitate technology transfer beyond the borders. Ultimately, such initiatives should enable developing countries to address their needs for environmental technologies and active technology transfers.
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Original Paper

Antoine Dechezlepretre, Matthieu Glachant, Ivan Hascic, Nick Johnstone and Yann Ménière. “Invention and Transfer of Climate Change–Mitigation Technologies: A Global Analysis,” Review of Environmental Economics and Policy, (2011) 5(1): 109-130.
doi: 10.1093/reep/req023


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