Technologies for Sustainable Development
Hardware, software, know-how, and other technologies are an essential tool for sustainable development.
They can be instrumental in ensuring that people:
- have access to clean water (through water purification, efficiency, delivery, and sanitation technologies);
- have access to energy that is clean, affordable, and sustainable (e.g., through energy-efficient technologies and technologies that use alternative sources of energy);
- live in a less toxic environment (e.g., by putting in place alternative agricultural and industrial technologies that reduce the quantity and toxicity of the raw materials and processes, as well as treatment techniques);
- live in a more stable environment by mitigating the effects of climate change (e.g., more energy-efficient processes and emissions control) and adapting to climate change (e.g., using GIS to assist in land use planning); and
- are able to more effectively and efficiently manage natural resources;
- have effective environmental governance regimes (e.g., in monitoring compliance and enforcement, providing public access to information, building capacity, and raising public awareness).
One of greatest challenges that countries — especially developing countries — face in realizing sustainable development is obtaining and putting in place the necessary technologies. While access to technology depends to some extent on financial resources, it is not only a financial issue. In many instances, legal and institutional frameworks impede the development, import/export, transfer, and use of technologies for sustainable development. Quotas and tariffs can affect the ability to import technologies. Similarly, subsidies may promote the use of technologies that may waste energy, water, or other resources. Moreover, decision makers should consider cultural norms when selecting and putting in place technologies.
ELI seeks to promote the development, import/export, transfer, and use of technologies for sustainable development. We will:
- examine legal, institutional, and other barriers to the effective application of technologies;
- identify innovative approaches to promote technologies for sustainable development, drawing upon lessons learned from experiences to date (what works, in what contexts, why, how, …); and
- understand the legal, socio-economic, and political factors that may affect the effectiveness of initiatives to obtain and implement particular technologies.
ELI will work with local partners to identify challenges to the development, import, and use of technologies, and possible solutions to help put in place the necessary technologies. These collaborations will entail a combination of research, capacity building, and legal and technical assistance.
- James Shepherd, “The Future of Technology Transfer Under Multilateral Environmental Agreements,” 37 Envtl. L. Rep. 10547 (2007)
(Mr. Shepherd researched and wrote this article as an ELI Visiting Scholar)