Technology Transfer Institutions in Global Climate Governance: The Tension between Equity Principles and Market Allocation

Date01 November 2014
AuthorJeffrey McGee,Joseph Wenta
Published date01 November 2014
Technology Transfer Institutions in Global Climate
Governance: The Tension between Equity
Principles and Market Allocation
Jeffrey McGee* and Joseph Wenta
Technology transfer to developing countries has been
identified as essential to mitigate greenhouse gas
emissions and adapt to climate change. However,
existing analyses underplay the influence of wider
normative principles in shaping institutions for tech-
nology transfer in global climate governance. This
article uses discourse analysis to explore the ideas and
assumptions underlying technology transfer institu-
tions both within and outside the United Nations
Framework Convention on Climate Change
(UNFCCC). This discourse analysis identifies four key
periods in the development of technology transfer
institutions in global climate governance. In the first
three periods, technology transfer institutions embody
discourses ranging from green governmentality to
deregulatory ecological modernization. In the fourth
period, the post-Copenhagen Technology Mechanism
embodies a broader discursive landscape that paral-
lels a more fundamental contest over the extent to
which redistributive claims are allowed to shape insti-
tutions of global climate governance.
As the world confronts the challenge of dangerous
climate change,1a tension between the maintenance of
existing socio-economic practices and the necessity to
take meaningful action with respect to greenhouse gas
emissions is apparent. This challenge is most obvious
when the need for effective action to mitigate green-
house gas emissions and to adapt to the negative impacts
of climate change is contrasted with the pressure on
governments to maintain economic growth and increase
material prosperity. This is evident in the political neces-
sity for governments to achieve an economic growth rate
of more than 2% to avoid rising unemployment, falling
tax revenues and claims of economic failure.2In the past,
continued economic expansion has been closely coupled
with increased fossil fuel use and greenhouse gas emis-
sions.3However, the global community has recognized
that failure to achieve a significant reduction in green-
house gas emissions by the middle of this century will
likely bring severe negative climate change impacts.4
Further, it is not immediately clear that significant
climate change mitigation is compatible with continued
economic growth.5Thus, the limitless expansionary
dynamic which underpins modern economic systems is
a significant challenge in a world that is limited in terms
of the amount of further greenhouse gases that might be
safely absorbed by the atmosphere.
Policy makers have looked to developments in technol-
ogy as a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while
maintaining economic growth and remaining competi-
tive with trading partners.6Some countries in Northern
Europe and East Asia have made significant progress
in improving the carbon intensity of their economies
* Corresponding author: Jeffrey McGee, University of Newcastle –
Law, McMullin Building Callaghan Newcastle Newcastle, Australia
New South Wales 2305, Australia.
(New York, 9 May 1992; in force 21 March 1994) (‘UNFCCC’), Article
2, which states that greenhouse gas emissions need to be stabilized
so as to avoid dangerous climate change. The latest attempts to give
meaning to dangerous climate change are found in the Copenhagen
Accord and Cancun Agreements (see n. 9 below), which recognize
(with reference to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovern-
mental Panel on Climate Change) that human-induced climate
change should not increase average surface temperature any more
than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. See also A.
Jordan et al., ‘Going beyond Two Degrees? The Risks and Opportu-
nities of Alternative Options’, 13:6 Climate Policy (2013), 751.
2T. Jackson, Prosperity without Growth: Economics for a Finite
Planet (Earthscan, 2009), at 62–64. See also A. Jordan et al., n. 1
above, at 761.
3R. Garnaut, Garnaut Review of Climate Change: Final Report (Cam-
bridge University Press, 2008), at 4–5.
4IPCC, ‘Summary for Policymakers’, in: Climate Change 2013: The
Physical Science Basis – Contribution of Working Group I to the Fifth
Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate
Change (Cambridge University Press, 2013).
5N. Stern, The Economics of Climate Change: The Stern Review
(Cambridge University Press, 2007), at 231–233; K. Anderson and A.
Bows, ‘Reframing the Climate Change Challenge in Light of Post-
2000 Emission Trends’, 366:1882 Philosophical Transactions of the
Royal Society A (2008), 3863, at 3878 (citing Stern); K. Anderson and
A. Bows, ‘Beyond “Dangerous” Climate Change: Emission Scenarios
for a New World’, 369:1934 Philosophical Transactions of the Royal
Society A (2011), 20, at 40; J. Bellamy Foster, B. Clark and R. York,
The Ecological Rift (Monthly Review Press, 2010), at 151–164.
6See, e.g., World Bank, World Development Report 2010: Develop-
ment and Climate Change (World Bank, 2010), at 287–288, 291. See
also President Obama, ‘Remarks by the President on Climate
Change’ (Georgetown University, Washington, DC, 26 June 2013),
found at: <‌ice/2013/06/25/
Review of European Community & International Environmental Law
RECIEL 23 (3) 2014. ISSN 2050-0386 DOI: 10.1111/reel.12075
© 2014 John Wiley & Sons Ltd, 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford OX4 2DQ, UK and 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA.

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