Chatham House Report

Author: 

Bernice Lee, Ilian Iliev and Felix Preston

Who Owns Our Low Carbon Future?

Ensuring access to climate-friendly technologies at affordable prices is a critical issue for international public policy - and one that cuts across economic, legal, security and geopolitical concerns. To keep the rise in average global temperatures below 2C, global greenhouse gas emissions must peak before 2020 and be reduced to 50-85 per cent below 2000 levels by 2050. Achieving these ambitious targets requires a critical mass of low carbon investment, innovation and deployment that meets mid- and long-term goals.

Ensuring access to climate-friendly technologies at affordable prices is a critical issue for international public policy - and one that cuts across economic, legal, security and geopolitical concerns. To keep the rise in average global temperatures below 2C, global greenhouse gas emissions must peak before 2020 and be reduced to 50-85 per cent below 2000 levels by 2050. Achieving these ambitious targets requires a critical mass of low carbon investment, innovation and deployment that meets mid- and long-term goals. The implications for corporate strategies and business models are profound.

This report examines two issues: patent ownership of climate-friendly technologies, and the rate of technology diffusion. A polarized debate continues between proponents of strengthening intellectual property rights (IPR) regimes to encourage innovation of climate technologies on the one hand, and those calling for more IP-related flexibilities to ensure access to key technologies by developing countries on the other.

'The report makes a series of practical recommendations for more rapid diffusion of new technologies on a basis that would be profitable for both the inventor in the developed country and for the company who puts the technology into action somewhere else. This report shows how important an agreement in Copenhagen could be'. - Ambassador John Bruton, EU Ambassador to the US, October 2009.