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In 2008, a report published by McKinsey & Co. predicted that a successful program of action on climate change would require the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 76% by the year 2050. In order to achieve this seemingly daunting target, the report recognized that the transfer of environmentally sound technologies (ESTs) from the developed to the developing world was an urgent necessity. The report cited other sources to acknowledge that such technology transfer was unlikely to be achieved even by a combination of market incentives and funding from developed-world governments.

If market-oriented means, supported by governments, do not suffice to achieve the deployment of ESTs in the developing world, what steps might be necessary to facilitate such technology transfers? A resolution adopted by the European Parliament in 2007 spells out one significant method. The Parliament recommended changes to the WTO Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) “in order to allow for the compulsory licensing of environmentally necessary technologies…”

This emphasis on compulsory licensing as a means of ensuring the deployment of ESTs through the developing world has increasingly gathered strength from various quarters. The prominent civil society activist, Martin Khor, recently went so far as to say that “…the fact that a country requires a product or technology in order to meet its objectives or responsibilities to mitigate climate change or to adapt to climate change is a most valid ground for compulsory licensing.”


Environmental Law | Law