Common Tragedies

Thoughts on Environmental Economics

Federal technology policy and the developing world

Posted by Evan Herrnstadt on December 7, 2007

Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change called for a redirection of investment and aid dollars toward climate-friendly technologies. That’s not particularly new, but the most interesting bit was his statement that “Over 50 percent of this energy investment will have to go to developing countries.”

The importance of transferring technology to the developing world must be kept in mind as we go forward designing energy technology policy. If this 50 percent figure is truly necessary, achieving it right now seems fairly daunting. Much of the debate about energy technology centers on issues such as whether ARPA-E is better than an Energy Technology Corporation. However, there should probably be more discussion of helping poorer nations develop without horribly exacerbating our current carbon crisis; in effect, instead of aiding their ascent up the development ladder, we might need to build a new parallel ladder which relies on cleaner technologies. Obviously the Clean Development Mechanism is a good move in that direction. Still, I’m wondering how much R&D money actually goes into innovation and developing appropriate technologies for developing economies. Perhaps our federal technology policy should pay more attention to this goal.

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