From Technology Transfer to Technology Absorption: Addressing Climate Technology Gaps in Africa

Fixing Climate Governance Series Paper No. 5

June 6, 2017

Africa’s capabilities to effectively contribute to the Paris Agreement’s global agenda of reducing the threats of climate change hinge on how fast and how well the continent can absorb and leverage the technological competencies needed to sustain climate mitigation and adaptation. The ratification of the Paris Agreement by many African countries, coupled with the adoption of domestic climate change laws and progressive efforts across the continent to facilitate the transfer of low-carbon and climate-resilient technologies, demonstrates a real and determined effort to address technological gaps that hinder climate action across the continent.

To build on this momentum and bridge existing governance gaps with respect to climate technology, African countries should promote the development of small and medium-scale cleantech start-ups that can effectively develop and deploy clean technology. By providing adequate policy backing for cleantech investments, and by adopting tax incentives, feed-in tariffs and other fiscal and regulatory measures that could make technology inflow and deployment more attractive to private-sector entrepreneurs and investors, Africa’s quest to bridge current climate technology gaps could move from being merely aspirational to reality.

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Fixing Climate Governance Series

Climate scientists agree that human activity has been changing our planet’s climate over the long term. Without serious policy changes, scientists expect devastating consequences in many regions: inundation of coastal cities; greater risks to food production and, hence, malnutrition; unprecedented heat waves; greater risk of high-intensity cyclones; many climate refugees; and irreversible loss of biodiversity. Some international relations scholars expect increased risk of violent conflicts over scarce resources and due to state breakdown. Environmentalists have been campaigning for effective policy changes for more than two decades. The world’s governments have been negotiating since 1995 as parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) . Their 2015 Paris Agreement created a new regime for joint action; among other things, it is the first UN climate agreement to oblige all parties to make some contribution. Each party made a pledge pertaining to the period 2020 to 2025 or 2030. But it is widely agreed that if they are all implemented, together these 2015 pledges will still fall far short of what is needed to meet the collective goals and avoid widespread catastrophes. Important details of the Paris Agreement itself also remain to be negotiated. Nor is the UNFCCC the whole of international climate governance. Many initiatives have also been launched by smaller sets of countries, national governments, provinces, cities, civil society, and private investors and companies.   This project was designed to generate improved ideas for both the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) process and other possible sites of climate governance. In 2015, we published nine policy briefs and papers, which can be found below. The ideas in two of them appeared in Paris during COP21. Several offered original recommendations for more effective action outside the UNFCCC. A new series of publications appeared in 2016-2017.  

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