Role of intellectual property in tackling the climate change issues

“The time is not past when humankind thought it could selfishly draw on exhaustible resources. We know how the world is not a commodity”. Francois Hollande

Climate change refers to the changes in the atmosphere and various other geological, chemical, biological and geographical factors on and within the Earth. For me, climate change refers to a warning directing us to change our lifestyle and habits or risk preparing for a one-sided war against nature. It has become a subject of global concern and has been considerably debated for a few decades now. Climate change caused due to the release of large amounts of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere results in frequent heavy floods, droughts, as well as rapid an erratic temperature changes.

Though the problem of climate change cannot be solved in one single day, yet many initiatives could be taken to tackle it. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is an international treaty, which aims at reducing global warming. The members of this treaty are aligned to fight the problems of climate change.The UNFCCC reached at a landmark agreement also known as “Paris Agreement” on 12th December, 2015 where all the parties to the agreement decided to combat climate change and to accelerate and intensify the actions and investments needed for a sustainable low carbon future. The main objective of this agreement was to strengthen the global response by keeping global temperatures below 2 degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to seek efforts to limit the temperature rise even further to 1.5 degree Celsius.

In addition to this, there is an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which is an intergovernmental specific organization instituted by the UN Environment Programme and the World Meteorological Organizations. The reports of IPCC contain assessments and projections regarding climate change which is authored by the international community.

Another prominent encouragement of spread of green technology is by WIPO which has come up with what is known as “Innovate Green Technology solution” aimed at facilitating access to alternatives to traditional energy production, energy-saving, and greener forms of transportation, agriculture, and forestry. WIPO’s Global Challenges Program mainly focuses upon three perspectives – firstly, hosting WIPO Green, aimed at the promotion of innovation and diffusion of green technologies. Secondly, providing fact-based information and objective analysis of relevant Intellectual Property (IP) issues to facilitate international policy dialogue, and finally, contributing IP expertise to the UN..

The problem of climate change could be reduced to a large extent by collective efforts of countries by shifting their energy demands to clean energy technologies, such as photovoltaic (solar), biofuels and wind technologies, instead of carbon-reliant energy production. To this effect, India, recently invited bids for “One Sun One World One Grid” plan, pledging to increase the share of non-fossil fuel-based electricity up to 40% by 2030. The Prime Minister of India and the President of France jointly launched the International Solar Alliance which is mainly aimed at addressing the obstacles involved in deployment. This treaty is considered as the future replacement to OPEC for meeting the energy needs of the world. Hence, for implementing “One Sun One World One Grid” (OSWOG), the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) has invited proposals from eligible consulting firms for developing a long-term vision, implementation plan, road map and institutional framework.

In respect of the relationship between patents and climate change, the holy trinity of patent pools, patent databases and compulsory licensing maintain a level of regulation that is important to meet the objective of providing clean and environment-friendly technology. Patent Databases work as a quasi-technology transfer service that provides exhaustive details about climate change technologies and allows the ease of access to it.  WIPO Green is an example of such a patent database. WIPO GREEN  is an initiative of the World Intellectual Property Organization created as repository for patent data gathered from developed as well as developing countries. A Patent Pool on the other hand is a cross-institutional licensing agreement between two or more patent owners to license one or more of their patents to third parties. Patent Pools are mainly associated with complex technologies and combine the patent resources of different companies into a ‘pool’, making it collectively available on license to willing purchasers. Lastly, there is Compulsory Licensing that is born out of Trade-Related Aspect of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) and is an exception to the general rule of patents, i.e. the patent holder has the exclusive right to enjoy the patented item. Natco Pharma is India’s first and only compulsory license holder for producing a generic version of a patented drug. However, no compulsory license has ever been issued in the field of green technology in India or any other country to resolve the climate change issue.

Thus, there is a need for green and clean technologies to tackle the problem of climate change. Different organizations such as WIPO, UNFCCC, and International Solar Alliance are trying to encourage the use of clean energy to make our planet a greener and cleaner place to live in. The trinity of Patent Pools, Patent Databases, and Compulsory Licensing aims at providing access to  clean and environment-friendly technology. Thus, IPR is contributing to tackling the problem of climate change. However, we are yet to utilize this to its maximum potential.

Give it a thought!!!
How about granting a compulsory license for ESTs (Environmental Sound Technologies)? Do you think it would encourage the use and availability of green inventions at a reasonable price?

About Tanya Sharma 13 Articles
Good day everyone!!! I am a student at the School of Law, UPES, Dehradun, pursuing B.A.,LL.B. (honors) specialization in Energy Law. Passionate about gaining knowledge in Legal field, I like to write articles and research papers in the field of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR). Apart from academics, I like to travel, dance and read novels.

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