Environmentally sound technologies need "a revolutionary push", says Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
On the eve of the opening of the UN Climate Change Conference in Poznan, Poland, he said: "Incrementalism is the enemy of fundamental change. We are really going to need a major fundamental shift, and technology has to be at the heart of that."
The transfer of "green technology" from industrialised to developing countries is one of four building blocks of the climate negotiations, the latest round of which begin on Monday (1 December). The others are global warming mitigation, adaptation to change and finance.
The importance of technology transfer was reinforced at a meeting held in Beijing, China, earlier this month (November) in the run-up to the Poznan meeting. It was attended by de Boer and finished with a declaration specifically calling for developed countries to improve technology transfer.
Zhang Ping, director of China's National Development and Reform Commission, recently mooted the establishment of a new fund to support transfer of clean technology. Norway has suggested raising money for technology transfer through auctions of national emission rights.
On the mechanics of technology transfer, de Boer said, "There has been some discussion on a technology leveraging facility … to assist in supplementing private sector initiatives that involve clean technology with public funding to install technologies that are even more advanced."
In Beijing, he also spoke of the need to ensure that intellectual property rights (IPRs) were not a barrier to large-scale commercialisation and deployment.
But these and other proposals — including a detailed submission by the G77 (the bloc of developing countries in the negotiating process) and China — are either bargaining tools or undeveloped ideas.
"Expectations are very low," says Mattias Söderberg of humanitarian non-governmental organisation DanChurchAid, who will be lobbying in Poznan.
"Poland is just a part of the journey towards the climate change summit in Copenhagen next year. There will be negotiations, but I don't expect big conclusions or specific agreement."
And William Blyth, Associate Fellow with Chatham House's Energy, Environment and Development Programme, said the technology negotiations process was "symbolic and rather sterile", with little progress in a decade of talks.
"I don't think transfer takes place because of the existence of a fund," he noted. "Transfer occurs through licensing and investment. Even on intellectual property, seen as a thorny issue, my view is that in the real world IP doesn't stop deals being made."
De Boer's full interview with SciDev.Net will appear on this site next week.