The mismatch between the in-country determinants of technology transfer, and the scope of technology transfer initiatives under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change


Despite decades of international political emphasis, little is known about the in-country determinants of technology transfer for climate change mitigation. We draw upon the conclusions of a series of standardised, official governmental statements of technology priorities, coupled with questionnaire-based data collection, to shed light on the nature of those determinants. We find that there is a disconnect between what developing country governments perceive as the key enablers of, and barriers to, technology transfer, and what bilateral and multilateral technology transfer programmes can offer, given budgetary constraints and the logic of development aid spending. We show that the well-established notion of making climate change mitigation actions an integral part of sound development plans is especially relevant for technology transfer. We offer pointers as to how this might be done in practice, in the context of the ‘technology action plans’ developed as part of the United Nations-sponsored technology needs assessment process.

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  1. 1.

    Chlorofluorocarbons were used in refrigerants, propellants and solvents. They were responsible for the destruction of the ozone layer, a portion of the Earth’s stratosphere that absorbs most of the Sun’s medium-frequency ultraviolet radiation, which is damaging to life. For a discussion on the relative role and importance of commercial patents as a driving force behind multilateral agreements to tackle ozone and greenhouse gas emissions see, for example, Seidel and Ye (2015).

  2. 2.

    Multilateral and bilateral funds are channelled through grants, or a range of financial products. Grants are often aimed at increasing technical and institutional capacities in developing countries. Financial products, typically in the form of equity, concessional debt, or guarantee instruments and risk sharing, often seek to leverage larger volumes of private sector financing for capital and infrastructure investment.

  3. 3.

    The Paris Agreement, the international blueprint for climate change management, requires parties to the UNFCCC to formally report their actions to manage climate change. These reports are known as Nationally Determined Contributions (or NDCs for short). The approach used in this paper, focused on the ‘intermediate level’ of planning outlined above, is directly relevant to the type of analysis around which the NDCs are structured.

  4. 4.

    All reports are available online at:

  5. 5.

    For some countries, the results of the TNA project are clearly reflected in the NDC. The extent to which this is so depends, among other issues, on (1) how recent the TNA ranking is, and (2) whether or not the NDC is detailed enough to highlight specific technology-related priorities.

  6. 6.

    The Global Environment Facility reports on funding for technology transfer. The latest report dates to 2014, and includes a full list of beneficiary countries (UNFCCC 2014a).

  7. 7.

    To the extent that some NDC targets are conditional on external support, it may be expected that some countries single out large infrastructure projects as key targets for such external support.

  8. 8.

    Limited funding to-date for the Climate Technology Centre and Network is one of the reasons for this.


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We thank the government officials in Azerbaijan, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Lebanon, and Moldova, who responded to our questionnaire.

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DP, JH, and FB designed the research, and prepared the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Daniel Puig.

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Puig, D., Haselip, J.A. & Bakhtiari, F. The mismatch between the in-country determinants of technology transfer, and the scope of technology transfer initiatives under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Int Environ Agreements 18, 659–669 (2018).

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  • United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
  • Technology needs assessment
  • Technology mechanism
  • Development aid for climate change