Technology Transfer for Climate Adaptation

Originally published at on September 25, 2014

As the international community gears up for the climate negotiations in Lima this December, technology transfer features prominently on the agenda.  Technology transfer is essential for both mitigation and adaptation, and technologies, while not themselves a solution to climate related challenges, will play an important role in climate change mitigation and adaptation. At the same time, technology transfer is highly contentious in the negotiations, highlighting many of the historical North-South divisions that have plagued the negotiations.

Stepping back from the politically-charged rhetoric of the negotiations, we recently published a paper in Nature Climate Change titled “Technology Transfer for Adaptation”.  In it, we looked at technologies being transferred through the Global Environment Facility’s (GEF) adaptation funds.  Through both a content analysis of project proposals and case studies of three projects funded by the GEF, we analyzed trends in terms of the way technology is conceptualized and incorporated into the projects, and barriers for technology transfer and adoption from the perspective of different stakeholders.

Historically, ‘technology transfer’ has been used to connote  ‘North-South transfer’ or transfer of ‘hard technologies.’ However, knowledge transfer and capacity building are an important component of technology transfer, and the use of technology in addressing climate adaptation needs to incorporate tacit knowledge, behavior changes,  and broad consideration of the types of technology that may be useful for adaptation in a specific location.

The 66 projects included in our analysis span the globe, with the largest portion in Africa. The case studies, from Colombia (agriculture, water supply), Peru (water supply), and Ethiopia (agriculture) varied in design and scope. Our paper discusses technology selection, market factories and technology diffusion in these three projects.

We found that significantly more technology transfer is occurring through adaptation projects than the pessimistic rhetoric might suggest, although the scale of these projects is quite small.  Projects tended to focus on demonstration and early deployment/niche formation activities. recently published a news piece summarizing and discussing the study.

Laura Kuhl

Laura Kuhl is a doctoral candidate at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and a fellow in the Water Diplomacy program. Her research looks at innovation and technology transfer for climate adaptation in East Africa and Central America.