Discussion Paper

International Technology-Oriented Agreements to Address Climate Change

Jan 4, 2007 | Heleen de Coninck, Carolyn Fischer, Richard G. Newell, Takahiro Ueno


Much discussion has surrounded possible alternatives for international agreements on climate change, particularly post-2012. Among these alternatives, technology-oriented agreements (TOAs) are perhaps the least well defined. We explore what TOAs may consist of, why they might be sensible, which TOAs already exist in international energy and environmental governance, and whether they have the potential to make a valuable contribution to addressing climate change. We conclude that TOAs aimed at knowledge sharing and coordination, research, development, or demonstration could increase the overall efficiency and effectiveness of international climate cooperation, but have limited environmental effectiveness on their own. Technology-transfer agreements are likely to have similar properties unless the level of resources expended on them is large, in which case they could be environmentally significant. Technology mandates, standards, or incentives can be environmentally effective, within the applicable sector. However, they are likely to be less cost-effective than broad-based, flexible approaches that place a price on emissions. These results indicate that TOAs have the potential to improve the effectiveness of the global response to climate change. The success of specific TOAs will depend on their design, implementation, and the role they are expected to play relative to other components of the climate policy portfolio.