II. The Necessity of Technology Transfers


    Scientists and policy makers are becoming increasingly concerned that human activities such as power generation are "exacerbating the normal greenhouse effect of the atmosphere."[7] The effect of human activity on global climate will undoubtedly increase in coming years with an increased demand for world energy. World energy demand is projected to grow by 55% in the coming 20 years and electricity demand will increase more quickly.[8] Electricity demand is increasing more rapidly because globally, "end-use shows and increasing reliance on electricity, arguably the most versatile final energy source."[9] Some projections show that the percentage of total primary energy supply used in the production of electricity will rise from 35%, currently, to 52% in the year 2060 "with a shrinking gap between industrialized and developing countries."[10]

    Currently, nearly two-thirds of electricity is produced by fossil fuels, one-sixth nuclear and one-sixth from hydroelectric and others.[11] Carbon emissions from the combustion of fossil fuels represented 70-90 percent of CO2 emissions from human activities.[12] Carbon emissions are of particular concern because "[o]f the major greenhouse gases (water vapor, CO2, methane, chloroflourocarbons, nitrous oxide and ozone), carbon dioxide produces the lowest change in radiative forcing per kilogram, but it dominates the estimated human contributions to global warming because of the sheer volume of emissions."[13] Furthermore, "the cumulative buildup of atmospheric carbon dioxide is considerable" and rising steadily.[14] Along with an increase in atmospheric buildup, the volume of emissions is estimated to increase by 55% by 2015 over 1995 levels.[15] More than a third of the increased emissions will come from two countries not subject to the Kyoto Protocol, China and India.[16] "The bulk of growth in GHG emissions will occur in the developing world as a result of comparatively rapid population and economic growth."[17] Indeed, emissions from India have grown nine times in the last forty years.[18] As the economies in developing countries grow, those countries will become more electricity dependent and emissions from this sector will grow accordingly. Again, with respect to India, carbon emission from the electricity generation are now rising at over 4.4% per annum.[19]

    The increase in emissions due to an exploding economy and population in countries such as India is not surprising. (See Figure) However, population growth and increased power demand do not completely explain the absolute volume of emissions that developing countries will produce. Indian power plants, for example, have an emissions to output ratio that is twice that for the United States.[20] This means that for every unit of energy produced, an Indian power plant will emit twice as many GHGs as an United States Plant. Thus, for the same level of growth, United State's power plants would increase emissions by half as much. An increased emission to output ratio tends to indicate poor efficiency and is likely to be the result of poor technology. Therefore "improving energy efficiency is particularly important for developing countries, such as China and India, whose reliance on energy intensive technologies to achieve economic growth is leading to a rapid increase in their contribution to global carbon emissions."[21]

    As the negotiations to the Kyoto Protocol demonstrate, developing countries will not commit to emissions limitations due to fears that such limitations would stunt growth.[22] The economic benefits of free riding on abatement measures undertaken by developed countries sufficiently outweighs the benefits of agreeing to emissions reductions.[23] Growth would be stunted because agreeing to quantified emissions limitations would deprive developing countries of the "engine of economic development under their soils--i.e. high sulfur coal . . ."[24] Because developing countries will not agree to emissions limitations, technology transfer is an essential mechanism for helping curb the impact of global warming. One commentator suggests that with respect to developing countries, "a viable strategy for carbon abatement is one that abates carbon emissions from [power] plants without a negative impact on electricity generation."[25] Technology transfer appears to be such a strategy. With the proper technologies, developing countries could "mitigate the impact of high sulfur coal on GHG emissions"[26] and greatly increase power plant efficiency. In this manner, carbon emissions relative to power demand can be greatly reduced while allowing a recipient country to continue sustainable development.

    Support for technology transfer can also be inferred from the actions of parties with respect to previous international agreements. Under the Montreal Protocol of 1997 for the regulation of ozone depletion, developing countries agreed to the treaty "only after receiving significant technological and financial incentives."[27] Under international agreements, developing countries may be more likely to participate if there are sufficient provisions for the transfer of technology. Even countries which did not sign onto the Kyoto Protocol may be encouraged to participate through technology transfers. China, for example, "sees technology transfer . . . as critical to its emissions-reduction efforts."[28]

    Technology transfers to developing countries are essential to any viable scheme of GHG abatement. The transfer of technology will help ensure that sustainable development occurs while mitigating the environment effects of such development. Technology transfer, however, is far from being a silver bullet. As the economies of developing countries become more robust, the demand for energy will continue to grow. Even under an aggressive technology transfer scheme, atmospheric carbon levels will not stabilize.[29] However, technology transfer can buy valuable time, and "[a]dded time translates to increased opportunity to learn more about the climate system and to develop and implement solutions we have yet to conceive."[30]