IPR, Climate Change and addressing the issue of transfer of Carbon abatement technology in the developing world.

To address all pervasive global challenge of climate change, access to efficient and cost effective carbon abatement technology to reduce the greenhouse effect has become a very important issue, especially for an emerging economy like, India. This issue perhaps will gain even more importance after the forthcoming Copenhagen Summit on climate change.
Various schools of thoughts:
Many experts argue that patents on various efficient carbon abatement technology developed by the western countries are making it increasingly difficult for the emerging economies of the world to address this issue, in a cost effective manner.

Another group of experts argue with equal zest that all patented technologies do not cost very high for efficient carbon abatement. Out of various types of such patented technologies, which are available globally to reduce the greenhouse effect, some may cost high, but many of them are also available at quite a low cost.

The third group says that many other efficient technologies are available to reduce carbon emission, which are not covered by any Intellectual Property Right (IPR), at all. Developing or emerging economies should consider these technologies to address this global issue, effectively.

An encouraging trend:

An encouraging trend is now emerging where the developing countries are also applying for patent on such technology with an increasing number. A recent report by the COPENHAGEN ECONOMICS highlights that during last four years, while the number of global patent on the carbon abatement technology increased by 120 per cent over the corresponding period of previous four years, the number of such patents from the developing or emerging economies increased by around 550 per cent. This is indeed a very interesting trend.

Difference in the number of patented technologies within the developing countries:

The same report also indicates that there is a striking difference in the number of patent protected carbon abatement technologies even within the developing and emerging economies. As per this report, around 99 percent of all patent protected technologies are from a small group of emerging economies, whereas just a meagre 0.6 percent of these patented technologies are from a large number of lower-income developing economies. This anomaly is believed to be mainly due to commercial reasons, as the owners of these patents are from the developed economies of the world.

A comparison between India and China:

The report highlights that 40 percent of the carbon abatement technology patents in China are locally owned against around just 14 percent in India.


Be that as it may, such studies perhaps will go in favour of the argument that patent protected carbon abatement technologies should not be considered as a barrier to technology transfer for reducing carbon emission by the low-income developing countries of the world. Also the IPR by itself perhaps will not be an impediment in the transfer of carbon abatement technology from the developed economies.

Many believe that rather than technological reasons, economic reasons are coming in the way in reducing carbon emission in the low income developing countries. The factors like, lack of adequate expertise to develop carbon abatement technologies locally, small market size to warrant a local manufacturing facility, low purchasing power etc. all put together play a significant role in appropriately addressing the greenhouse effect by these countries.

The local government of the respective developing countries should take all these factors into consideration and come out with appropriate and robust policy measures, which also should include lucrative fiscal incentives for using cheaper and efficient carbon abatement technology, to contain the greenhouse effect, efficiently and effectively.

By Tapan Ray

Disclaimer: The views/opinions expressed in this article are entirely my own, written in my individual and personal capacity. I do not represent any other person or organization for this opinion.