Developed economies must release green technology to help developing nations cut carbon emissions in the same way that pharmaceutical companies relaxed patents to help sufferers of HIV/Aids, Manmohan Singh, India’s prime minister, said on Thursday.
Mr Singh appealed for a review of intellectual property rights for green technology, saying they needed to be balanced to allow their wider deployment to halt the potential ravages of global warming. He also asked for financial commitments to pay for technology transfer from the global community.
However, his demand was greeted with frustration by officials in developed countries concerned that it would cause further friction in the talks on a new global framework on climate change, set to culminate in a summit in Copenhagen in December.
In recent weeks, rich countries have been heartened by a new “discourse” on the part of developing countries, which have begun to talk of collaboration or co-operation on green technology – which rich countries are prepared to endorse – instead of long-standing demands for the free transfer of intellectual property – something companies oppose.
Mr Singh’s words appeared to contradict that softening stance. But some officials involved in the talks said it was not unusual for countries to be more conciliatory in private while giving a strident populist message in public for domestic voters.
Mr Singh’s comparison with responses to HIV/Aids recalls the bitter struggle with pharmaceutical companies over the price of anti-retroviral drugs and the use of generic drugs. The South African government was taken to court in a lengthy legal battle with companies determined to protect their patents.
“Climate friendly and environmentally sound technologies should be viewed as global public good,” Mr Singh told the United Nations-sponsored Delhi High Level Conference on Climate Change: Technology Development and Transfer.
“Such an approach has been adopted successfully in the case of pharmaceutical technologies for the benefit of HIV/Aids victims in developing countries. The moral case of a similar approach for protecting our planet and its life support systems is equally compelling.”
Mr Singh said finances needed to be found to support technology transfers to the developing world.
“We need to work towards a significantly enhanced and scaled-up set of arrangements for technology under a multilaterally supervised mechanism. We need to act across all the stages of the technology cycle – from research leading to new breakthroughs, to the development and adoption of new technologies and to the transfer of existing and mature technologies.”
His call was echoed by Xie Zhenhua, vice-chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission of China, who said gaining access to technology was a “crucial issue” for Copenhagen. China and India this week signed a deal to co-ordinate their negotiating stances in the climate negotiations.
Countries such as India and China are already benefiting substantially from investments in green technology from the developed world. Many of the world’s biggest makers of renewable energy equipment have set up factories in India and China, including wind turbine makers Siemens, Vestas and General Electric.
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