The issue of easing the costs of intellectual property resources on clean technologies takes centre stage

For the developed countries it was a devil buried at the climate negotiations last year at Doha. At the Warsaw talks, the developing countries, including India, resuscitated the devil — easing the costs of intellectual property rights (IPR) on clean technologies — back to life, by demanding that a funding mechanism be set up to buy licenses on clean but costly technologies to provide to the poor countries.

The topic of intellectual property rights has been such a hot potato for the developed countries that at the climate talks last year, developing countries had to agree to back-burner it in order to build consensus.

Bringing the topic right back to the centre-stage again at Warsaw, the Egyptian lead negotiator, speaking for the Like Minded Developing Countries, said: “Like the Harry Potter series character, in Doha, IPR was the ‘word which should not be named’. But we live in the real world not in a fictional world. In this real world we live in, we need to address this issue of IPRs in a pragmatic manner, not run away from this issue.”

While the analogy elicited smiles and some laughter from all quarters, the real content of the proposalagain brought to the fore the deep divisions. The LMDC countries said: “To begin with, we can use the financial mechanisms under the Convention to fund the IPR costs to ensure that climate-friendly technology is available to developing countries easily. A dedicated window under the Green Climate Fund for technology transfer and IPR issues should be established.”

India’s negotiator in the room, T.S. Tirumurti, intervened to add: “‘The word that should not be named’ was one on which Parties have serious differences. There is need to be pragmatic and not run way from the issue. The delegate called for the ‘word’ to be named.”

Egypt, speaking for the LMDC — which includes Algeria, Argentina, Bolivia, China, Cuba, Dominica, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, India, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Malaysia, Mali, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Syria and Venezuela — said the group wanted a chapter on technology development and transfer as an integral part of the 2015 outcome.

The EU delegation opposed the move a day later, claiming that it saw the protection of IPRs as essential to dissemination of technologies and not as a barrier.

A source in the LMDC group told The Hindu: “It is important for us to keep this issue on the table. It is going to generate a lot of heat and perhaps not get as much traction but it’s important to not let this fall off.”

As the U.N. climate negotiations require consensus and not majority for decisions to be taken, the chances of a mechanism to buy out IPRs remains low and progress on the issue is bound to be hampered. But the intervention by the group, of which India and China are important members, has ensured that it will not get knocked off the decisions taken in Warsaw drawing elements for the 2015 agreement.