Our Man in Doha: Day Five - Technology’s a sticky wicket that’s too important to stay stuck

Day Five: Technology's a sticky wicket that's too important to stay stuck

Technology will play a big role in mitigating and adapting to climate change, but scripting the technology story is proving to be difficult at this conference.

The idea of technology transfer involves diffusing and integrating environmentally sound technologies, and it's considered to be a key component of long-term cooperative action between developed, emerging and developing countries.

Here in Doha, parties are trying to decide how to operationalise the technology mechanism, but it's turning out to be a major sticking point in the negotiations. One element of the technology mechanism is the creation of a Climate Technology Centre and Network, but there's disagreement about how it will work, who will host it, and how it will interface with the Technology Executive Committee that is also being created as part of the negotiations on the technology mechanism.

Technology transfer is one of the five pillars that support the Bali Action Plan (the outcome of COP 13), and it's expected to include the set-up of institutions around the world that diffuse technologies and adapt them to local conditions. These could play an important role in global efforts to deal with climate change.

Earlier this week, I heard His Excellency Fahad Bin Mohammed Al-Attiya, President of COP 18, explain how Qatar is developing a technology testing facility to see how different solar technologies could be adapted to suit the country's hot, dusty equatorial conditions. After testing, the government will tender for a 1.8 GW solar power array to built on a 25km² plot of land. Construction is scheduled to be complete by 2018.

Not only will Qatar be able to desalinate all of the country's water using renewable energy instead of gas, it will also have about 600MW of spare capacity to be put into the grid. Importantly, Qatar also aims to diffuse the technical expertise it develops to countries that share its geographical conditions - hot countries that have typically been unable to afford big R&D investments. This is one example of how a technology innovation centre might work and enable technology transfer. 

The idea is practical and helps generate win-win solutions, as innovation can reduce technology costs, increase efficiency, and help adapt technologies to environmental conditions that haven't been the focus of major R&D efforts in the past. But despite UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon hoping on Wednesday that the "Climate Technology Centre and Network [be made] fully equipped and effective" by the end of the week, it seems that it's still too hard to get unanimous agreement.

In the conference centre corridors, delegates are whispering that COP 18 might drag into the weekend, even though it's scheduled to end tonight. I'm hoping that some serious progress can be made in the next twelve hours. It's important that these issues get resolved so that delegates can leave the conference with the certainty and commitment they came here to agree.

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