India PM seeks global hub for clean-tech research

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India’s prime minister on Thursday called for a global center to coordinate research on clean-energy technology, saying innovations should be viewed as “public goods” that poorer countries could afford.

Transferring clean energy technologies is a key issue being negotiated as part of a broader global pact to fight climate change that the United Nations hopes will be agreed in Copenhagen in December.

Developing nations say wealthy states have grown prosperous by fuelling their economies with polluting oil, coal and natural gas and that they should help poorer states grow with finance and clean-energy technology to curb the pace of climate change.

But rich countries fear losing competitiveness with any dilution of intellectual property rights (IPR) for innovations.

“Climate friendly and environmentally sound technologies should be viewed as global public goods,” Manmohan Singh told a conference on clean technology in New Delhi.

“This implies that the IPR regime applied to those goods should balance rewards for innovators with the need to promote the common good of humankind.

“The key issue is that of developing the appropriate technologies and then collapsing the time from their first commercialization to their large-scale adoption in developing countries.”

A report by London-based think tank Chatham House said last month the time taken for clean technologies to spread globally must be halved by 2025 to meet emissions cut targets by 2050.

Singh said in August that India, the world’s fourth largest polluter, must invest in its own environmentally friendly technologies as the country’s energy use rises sharply in the coming decades.

New Delhi says it will not commit to legally binding emissions targets under any new U.N. climate deal and that it is crucial for its economy to keep growing quickly to lift millions out of poverty.

It says it will take its own voluntary steps to cut emissions. Actions supported by finance from rich nations would be open to scrutiny as part of a broader climate deal to replace the Kyoto Protocol from 2013, the government has said.

Singh said the world should look at creating a platform to bring together global resources to deliver technologies that can transform entire industries.

“We have good examples to guide us, including the ITER or fusion energy project and the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CIFOR),” he said.

“I have no doubt that if developed countries make a serious effort to bring their per-capita emissions within tolerable levels, they will unleash large resources directed toward research.

“This will generate an upsurge of technology that will make it much easier for other countries to follow suit.”

Kim Carstensen, leader of WWF’s Global Climate Initiative, told Reuters last week it could be possible to find a solution in Copenhagen on licensing and buying up rights to technology.

“Setting up a small fund or facility that would enable identification of technological solutions and buying up or licensing within the framework of the existing IPR system I think that sounds something that should be acceptable to all parties.”

Editing by David Fogarty