Embracing Technology Assessment

8 December 2014

ECO observes that the critical missing piece of the technology transfer puzzle is technology assessment. And why? Because all kinds of technology, even those we generally like, carry some level of risk. But some are much riskier than others, and that’s the point.

Here’s a well known example. Decades ago, lead became a common additive to gasoline despite its known properties as a human toxin. Narrow commercial interests and inadequate assessment allowed the practice to become widespread. As a result a generation or more were exposed to airborne lead and experienced health effects because basic principles of technological assessment and precaution were ignored.

In pursuing technology deployment and innovation to address climate change, we should not sacrifice safety for expediency. While the exposure to lead impacted only those countries that allowed the lead additive, technologies that have global reach can impact us all.

Here’s what that means for innovative climate technologies. By mid-2013, 78 developing country Parties had prepared their Technology Needs Assessments (TNAs) reports and action plans including the technologies they need to address climate risks, and more are in the process of developing their TNAs.

This is a situation that demands technology assessment.

The first question that arises is where this should happen. The creation of a mechanism for technology assessment within the Technology Mechanism will provide a process that can assess technologies for their environmental, social and economic risks, and that process should prioritize the participation of civil society and other stakeholders. That will provide robust risk information to Parties and enable the best decisions on a broad range of technologies and insure that they are environmentally and economically appropriate and not
socially rejected. And here are some
important criteria.

• If there are ‘unknowns’ regarding the impacts of a technology, the precautionary approach should be used. The lack of full scientific certainty should not be used as an excuse not to bypass proper assessment.

• Technology Assessment should create the least burden on the recipient country consistent with process integrity. Developing countries should be offered full support for the assessments they choose to undertake.

• Technology should be compatible with intergenerational equity, so as to meet our current needs and provide continuing availability for future generations.

• Assessment should be comprehensive but also based on the site-specific impact that the technology will have.

• Assessment should quantify the impact of the technology on the existing environment (including flora, fauna, cultural heritage and economy), and describe findings in detail.

• Technology assessment should be
applicable to both adaptation and mitigation technologies and be included as appropriate in NAPs and NAMAs.

• Technology Assessments should be open to public inspection and submission prior to the approval of technology deployment, and should be reflected in the CTCN knowledge platform including results of the assessment as well as lessons learned.

In addition, criteria must be determined to define categories of technologies with the greatest risk. Those determinations should be based on existing work within the UN System where available, and extended with further science-based risk assessments. All of the above should be available to Parties and should be reflected in the qualifications for public finance.

Adopting Technology Assessment under these terms gives countries confidence that their technology choices will meet their low carbon strategies, while preserving choice and ensuring that countries are fully supported and enabled to conduct thorough assessments.

Embracing Technology Assessment

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