The project explored how best to secure wider and more equitable access to technology which can assist in the battle against climate change. The legal starting points are the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and its Kyoto Protocol. As is well known, the future of international action in this field remains unclear, most recently at the discussions in Durban in late 2011. The focus of this international work has increasingly moved to technology, calling for more development, and the transfer of technology to those who need it, so that greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced (eg more use of wind power) and their impact managed (eg seeds are developed which can grow in the change environment).
This project explored the fact that technologies important to the battle against climate change may be the subject of intellectual property (“IP”); if so, the IP owner can control their use – what does this mean for the challenges of climate change? And if IP lies at the heart of the encouragement of innovation, might there be unintended consequences of restricting IP?
The project involved experts from different academic fields (law, geography, geoscience), legal practitioners, industry experts and international bodies. Key questions were how can corporate power, innovation and access be combined to meet the important goal of managing climate change? Are the real issues of dignity and fairness being lost in a world of law and finance?
The project developed new approaches for how the development of technology, and its transfer, can be encouraged as effectively and fairly as possible.
• the problem is not IP itself, it is the need for the efficient development of a range of technologies and for them to be disseminated widely, whether or not they are the subject of IP, and irrespective of the action taken by the IP owner; and
• access to technologies which are important to adapting, mitigating and learning about climate change has significant differences to access to essential medicines; yet analogies can arise in respect of new seeds and new forms of energy generation which are of value to particular circumstances, and more widely, in respect of the control of information which reveals the extent of climate changes and also of ownership of software which operates grid delivery systems.