Low carbon technology transfer to developing countries has a central role to play in mitigating carbon emissions. It is a key issue for the international negotiations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The promise of access to low carbon technologies was an important incentive for developing nations to support the UNFCCC in 1992.

Although the Convention was intended to facilitate low carbon technology transfer, its success in achieving this has been limited, Many developing nations have expressed frustration that their expectations have not been met.

Despite the high profile of technology transfer within the UNFCCC negotiations, there is relatively little empirical evidence upon which to base policy. Low carbon technologies are diverse – in their stages of development, their target markets and their scale. They include early stage capital intensive energy supply technologies (such as carbon capture and storage), mass produced consumer goods (such as energy efficient light bulbs) and can be facilitated by new network infrastructures (such as

smart grids). This diversity introduces new and unique barriers, opportunities and policy challenges which are not yet properly understood. Global policy solutions from other domains such as health and agriculture have only limited applicability. Furthermore, there is a need for urgent action if dangerous climate change is to be avoided. This briefing note discusses these challenges, based on empirical research on India and China led by the Sussex Energy Group over the past five years. The research is based on low carbon technology case studies including LED lighting, solar PV and more efficient coal-fired power plants.

The research on India, undertaken with The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), was carried out between 2006 and 2009. The insights from a follow on study on China with Tsinghua University, are tentative since full results will not be available until early 2011.

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