The Paris Agreement: A Focus on Technology

by Vincent Diringer & Amy Wilson

Since the ratification of the Paris Agreement in 2016, a range of countries, companies and local municipalities have sought to find ways of reducing the carbon emissions, with many committing to reaching carbon neutrality by the midway point of the century. But how does one manage to attain that goal?

Technology plays a very important part in the current transition towards a cleaner, more sustainable economic model and a future below the 2°C target set by global decision-makers [1]. From reducing the intermittency of renewable energy, to creating breakthroughs in transportation, finding innovative ways of replacing fossil fuels, technology is helping entities reach their targets. Whether we realise it or not, technology is at the forefront of mitigation policy. 

The UNFCCC and Transfer of Technology

The Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) acknowledged the importance of the transfer of technology, from developed to developing countries, through Article 4 (section 4, titled commitments) of the Convention [2]. The sharing of technology innovation is key to assisting developing countries with their emission reduction goals, adaptation, and eradication of poverty. The Financial Mechanism, outlined in Article 11 of the Convention, also provides an outline of how finances can be resourced to assist in the transfer of technology [2].

The Paris Agreement and the Technology Mechanism

The Paris Agreement also acknowledges that innovation is critical for an ‘effective, long-term global response to climate change’, and as a result, through Article 10, the agreement supports, and enhances, the Convention’s acknowledgement of the importance of the transfer of technology [3]. 

The agreement also established the strengthening of the Technology Mechanism and a technology framework (Article 10) to accelerate the transfer of technology and facilitate access to technology in the early stages of the technology cycle [3]. The framework provides guidance to the Technology Mechanism to promote and facilitate enhanced action on technology development and transfer [4]. Importantly, the Paris Agreement also acknowledges the need to balance technology support for mitigation and adaptation [3]. 

Parties to the UNFCCC should record their technology innovation and sharing, with developing countries, through their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) which will be reviewed at the Global Stocktake [3]. 

Technology innovation is vital to achieving climate goals

As noted by the UNFCCC [1], “Zero-carbon solutions are becoming competitive across economic sectors representing 25% of emissions.” If nations are to reach the sometimes ambitious targets and goals set out in their NDCs, technology will play a significant role — as the UNFCCC further explain: “This trend is most noticeable in the power and  transport sectors and has created many new business opportunities for early movers. By 2030, zero-carbon solutions could be competitive in sectors representing over 70% of global emissions.” [1]

Technology and COP

The use of new, emerging technology and the innovation driving it highlights the cooperation between different sectors that the Conference of the Parties (COP) is striving to emulate [5]. In the same way that technological innovation is created through partnerships between academia, entrepreneurs and companies, the solutions needed to help mitigate the climate crisis need input from more than policy-makers and delegates. If you take a close look at the upcoming COP26 in Glasgow you might notice that Japanese multinational Hitachi is a principal partner of the summit. The company is one of many that is supporting the climate conference and express their own desire to help the world transition towards a low-carbon future through their own commitments and technological expertise [6].

As COP26 looms and further NDCs are announced, all eyes will be on what new targets will be set out by the world’s leaders — behind the scenes, technology will also feature heavily in negotiations and considerations. We are currently falling short of the goals set out in Paris in 2015. Climate Action Tracker is advocating for stronger short-term action should we want to stay on track [7]. Technological advances and innovation are closely linked to how fast we are able to transition towards the sustainable future we are seeking to achieve.

[1] A. Dearing, Sustainable Innovation: Drivers and Barriers, 2000. Available at https://www.oecd.org/science/inno/2105727.pdf
[2] United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Available at   https://unfccc.int/resource/docs/convkp/conveng.pdf, (accessed 01/05/21)
[3] Paris Agreement. Available at https://unfccc.int/files/meetings/paris_nov_2015/application/pdf/paris_agreement_english_.pdf , (accessed 01/05/21)
[4] UNFCCC, CMA Decision: technology framework under Article 10, paragraph 4, of the Paris Agreement, (2017). Available at https://unfccc.int/sites/default/files/resource/cp24_auv_cop_4_TF.pdf, (accessed 01/05/21)
[5] L. Leydesdorff, The Triple Helix, Quadruple Helix, …, and an N-tuple of Helices: Explanatory Models for Analyzing the Knowledge-based Economy?, J Knowl Econ (2012), 3:25–35 DOI 10.1007/s13132-011-0049-4 
[6] Hitachi, COP26: Uniting the World to Tackle Climate Change. Available at  https://www.hitachi.com/cop26/, (accessed 01/05/21)
[7] Climate Action Tracker, Paris Agreement turning point Wave of net zero targets reduces warming estimate to 2.1?C in 2100 All eyes on 2030 targets, (2020). Available at https://climateactiontracker.org/documents/829/CAT_2020-12-01_Briefing_GlobalUpdate_Paris5Years_Dec2020.pdf, (accessed 01/05/21)
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