Green growth and sustainable development

Green growth, technology transfer and international research cooperation


Better technology will be key to achieving green growth, in areas such as energy, transport and waste disposal. For environmental concerns of international (or even global) concern, there are benefits to be gained from international policy coordination which extend beyond joint commitment to emission reductions. 

Recent work has examined the role multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) play in encouraging the international diffusion of abatement technologies. More specifically, the role that adherence to a series of international agreements on reducing SOX and NOX emissions - the Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution Protocols - has played in inducing the transfer of technologies between signatories has been assessed. The major finding is that there is a positive effect on technology transfer between pairs of countries which have both joined the LRTAP Protocols. (See figure below)


Protocol Signature and International Transfer of Air Pollution (SOx and NOx) Abatement Technologies: 1980-2008



Source: Invention and Transfer of Environmental Technologies (2011)


Not all transfer takes place within the OECD. Indeed, in recent years non-OECD countries have become important destinations and sources for transfer of environmental and climate change mitigation technologies (see map below).  Actions by developing countries to put in place policies that constrain emissions will also be critical to encouraging greater transfer of low-carbon technologies.

Mechanisms such as the Clean Development Mechanism have played a complementary role in, for example, encouraging the transfer of Climate Policy and Technological Innovation and Transfer: An Overview of Trends and Recent Empirical Results. However, domestic innovative (or absorptive) capacity in the recipient countries is even more important. The higher the level of domestic human capital, the higher the level of technology transfer as well as the positive local spillovers from trade and foreign direct investment. This illustrates the importance of long-term capacity building and education in technical and scientific areas.
One important way to increase domestic innovation capacity is through international research collaboration. Indeed, it is interesting to see that while much of the international research co-operation is amongst Annex 1 (Party to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) countries, some non-Annex 1 countries have become significant research partners.  The map below shows how frequently inventors from different countries co-operate in the development of patented technologies.


International technology cooperation as a means of developing capacity

The case of solar photovoltaic technology


Source: Climate Policy and Technological Innovation and Transfer: An Overview of Trends and Recent Empirical Results, Environment Working Paper No. 30 (2010)  

International technology-oriented agreements can play an important role in encouraging such collaboration and the evidence indicates that emerging economies are relatively more likely to collaborate in the development of climate mitigation technologies than in other areas. Moreover, recent work undertaken at the OECD has shown that the IEA's "Implementing Agreements" have played a crucial role in encouraging inventors from different countries to collaborate in the development of technologies such as solar and wind power, carbon capture and storage, and energy storage. Perhaps most significantly, many of the emerging economies are playing an increasingly prominent role in such agreements.


Effect of Joint Membership in Different Implementing Agreements on Cases of Co-invention across Country-Pairs



Source: OECD Energy and Climate Policy and Innovation (forthcoming)


Further reading:

Environment and Development:

Environmental Policy and Technological Innovation:

Environment and Trade:     

Financing Climate Change Action: