Sino-US Conflict Brews Over Climate Technology
The U.S. and China, long at odds over protecting intellectual
property, are facing off in a new battleground at the U.N. conference on climate change in Bali, Indonesia.
China wants developed nations like the U.S. to share cutting-edge renewable-energy technology at reduced costs with the developing world to help poor nations reduce their dependence
But the idea is generating tensions with U.S. officials, because American companies don't want to sell this new technology at cut-rate prices, and they worry that innovative technologies could be illegally copied if they are deployed in China.
As the world's two largest emitters of greenhouse
gases, both China and the U.S. loom large on this Indonesian resort island where government delegates from nearly 200 countries have gathered to begin hammering out a global climate pact to succeed the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.
Talks are in very early stages, and many of the details of China's proposals aren't yet clear. But Zou Ji, a member of China's delegation
who specializes in clean-energy-technology issues, said in an interview he would introduce a proposal during the meeting that would set up a body under the United Nations to promote the transfer of renewable-energy technology to poorer nations.
He will also propose that the U.N. body manage a fund that would help finance the spread of new, clean-power technologies. The fund also would support research on clean-energy technology and could acquire intellectual
-property rights related
to clean power. Mr. Zou argues that intellectual
-property protections sometimes drive up the costs of emissions-reducing technology, keeping it out of the hands of poorer nations.
'We are dealing
with something related
to public good,' Mr. Zou said. 'It's a trade-off between intellectual
-property rights and climate protection.'
Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, was skeptical about the idea of any fund that would buy down intellectual
-property rights. 'I personally
don't quite see how that would work,' said Mr. de Boer last week. 'To my mind, technology is owned by the private sector. Private sector is not interested in selling technology at cut rates. The private sector is interested in investment opportunities.'
U.S. negotiators back the idea of an 'international clean energy fund' as part of the post-Kyoto accord to help emerging countries like China and India pay for cleaner
and more efficient
buildings, power plants and other facilities. But they vowed to reject
any fund structure that might slash incentive
s for U.S. companies to develop new technologies.
'We do not support a technology-transfer fund that would buy down intellectual
-property rights,' Harlan Watson, head of the U.S. delegation
, told delegates Tuesday.
The debate harkens back to disagreements over technology transfer when the Kyoto Protocol was being negotiated that led to the creation of the Clean Development Mechanism. Companies in the West that pollute
above Kyoto-mandated limits are allowed to meet their obligations by investing in clean-energy projects in the developing world. But so far, most CDM projects have involved only basic technology, such as capturing methane gases released by landfills.
Now, though, China wants access
to more-complex technologies. 'We need carbon capture and sequestration,' says Hu Min of the Energy Foundation in Beijing, a nongovernmental group, referring to the undergroundstorage
of carbon dioxide
emitted when coal is burned. About 70% of China's electricity
needs comes from coal-fired power plants.
China's focus on technology may be a negotiating tactic, aimed at pointing the finger at the developed world. China has long argued that developed nations like the U.S., which are largely responsible for the build-up of greenhouse
gases in the atmosphere, should take the lead in paying to fix the problem.
For its part, the U.S. wants to see China agree to binding
emission cuts in a successor
treaty to Kyoto. Beijing's refusal
to do so under Kyoto was a major reason the U.S. declined to ratify
the treaty. Some observers say Western nations will have to make concessions over issues like technology in order to give developing countries an incentive
to agree to emission caps.
For now, the U.S. and the European Union are proposing the elimination
s on pollution-reducing technologies and services to speed the spread of technology around the world. The U.S. and EU proposed the idea last week as part of the Doha round of trade negotiations.
'The easiest thing we could do to encourage the transfer of technology is to eliminatetariff
barriers and non-tariff
barriers that currently block trade in existing technologies that will help clean up the air and address climate change,' said James Connaughton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, who will be representing the U.S. in Bali.
然而《联合国气候变化框架公约》(U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change)的执行秘书伊沃•德布尔(Yvo de Boer)却对这种通过基金以打折价取得知识产权的做法是否可行表示怀疑。德布尔表示，他个人认为这个办法不太行得通。在他看来，技术是掌握在私营部门手中，私营机构感兴趣的并非降价转让技术，而是投资机会。
白宫环境质量委员会(White House Council on Environmental Quality)主席詹姆斯•康纳顿(James Connaughton)表示，最简单的办法，就是取消各种关税和非关税壁垒，让能够清洁空气并解决气候变化问题的各项现有技术自由交流。康纳顿也作为美方代表出席了此次巴厘岛会议。