Poor Nations Demand Green Technology
Dec 14, 2007 - Associated Press
Uganda gets plenty of sun, making it a great spot
for solar energy. There's only one problem: In one
of the world's most impoverished nations, few people
can afford an imported solar panel.
Poorer countries accuse the rich of pressuring them
to control emissions of greenhouse gases blamed for
global warming, while refusing to provide them with
technology needed to do so without hurting their economies.
They have made their demands that rich nations provide
cheap access to green know-how a centerpiece of the
U.N. climate change conference in Bali, Indonesia.
"We know the challenges are there, but we cannot
respond to the challenges because we don't have the
capacity," said Maria Mutagamba, Uganda's environment
Wealthy countries say they must consider demands
of private companies for protection of their intellectual
property rights, assurances they will have the opportunity
to profit from their investments, and better regulation
and laws in host nations.
Industrialized countries deny they are unfairly
withholding know-how from poorer nations.
"Let there be no doubt, America is engaged in the
transfer and receipt of technologies on a massive
scale," Jim Connaughton, the chairman of the White
House Council on Environmental Quality, told reporters.
The need of developing countries for energy will
only increase with economic growth, and they argue
that reliance on outdated technology today will lock
them into high-emissions patterns for decades to come.
The United States has long been the world's top greenhouse
gas emitter, but some say it has already been eclipsed
by rapidly growing China, a country that relies heavily
on outdated and dirty coal-burning technology. India's
burgeoning economy is also a growing environmental
"What is needed in the short- to medium-term is for
developed countries to speed up the process of transferring
climate-sound technologies to developing countries,"
said Maxwell Kofi Jumah, Ghana's environment minister.
"Time is running out and more action is needed."
Uganda relies on hydropower for almost all of its
electricity. But droughts in recent years have cut
the supply, forcing people chop down trees for firewood.
That's why Mutagamba, the environment minister, is
so interested in solar power.
"We're still importing everything," said Mutagamba,
explaining why solar panels are so expensive in her
country. "When there's no electricity, then the people
go and cut the forests."
A draft of the statement to be released at the end
of the conference calls on countries negotiating a
new global warming pact to consider ways of removing
barriers to technology transfer, provide incentives
and improve access to clean technology.
The 1997 Kyoto Protocol on global warming already
established ways of funneling green technology to
developing countries. But money so far has focused
on China, India and Brazil, leaving impoverished Africa
mostly out of the process. A so-called Adaptation
Fund, which helps countries adjust to the effects
of rising temperatures, is seriously underfunded.
Developing nations have also called on the U.N. to
fully fund the programs for technology transfer, set
up powerful incentives for companies to share their
know-how with the developing world, and set international
targets for such transfers.
Wealthy countries, meanwhile, are pushing free-market
answers to speed the diffusion of technologies.
The United States and the European Union, for instance,
have proposed tearing down trade barriers to 43 green
goods and services such as wind turbines. Washington
is also concerned about protecting intellectual property
rights as technology is spread around.
"If you want funds, venture capital funds, going
to such inventions, the entrepreneurs, the businesses
that invest, need to know they're going to get a return
on their investment," U.S. Trade Representative Susan
Schwab said in Bali earlier this week.