Responding to the challenges of global climate change through RTD policy
Background Climate change is an important science and technology policy concern. Science and technology have important contributions to make to:
The three functions (prediction, mitigation and adaptation) are complementary. Detecting signs of climate change and predicting possible future climate variation is important in order to target mitigation and adaptation strategies. Mitigation is necessary to avoid or reduce the causes of adverse climate change. Adaptation strategies need to be developed to cope with the adverse impacts on the economy, society and ecosystems that cannot be prevented or avoided.
- detecting and predicting climate change and its effects on the environment
- mitigating anthropogenic contributions to climate change; and
- adapting to climate change and its impacts.
Dealing with uncertainty is a common feature of the three elements above. For the proposed ETAN action a particularly important form of uncertainty regards the readiness of our socio-economic systems to develop, diffuse and use appropriate technologies and implement appropriate policy options when faced with urgent need to change (e.g. in face of extreme weather events).
Detection and prediction
This is mainly a task for fundamental research, which has been at the forefront in alerting society about the risk of global warming. Science and technology policy has a long tradition in this field, including the development of monitoring and other relevant technologies.
Science and technology policy responses have been largely focused on the development of options for reducing human contribution to climate change, namely greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions. International, European, and national institutional frameworks have been set-up, and political commitments have been taken(1) or are being negotiated. Those commitments pose challenges and opportunities for technological innovation, for Europe s industry and society. If delivering the commitments under existing socio-economic conditions is one challenge, another is to achieve the socio-economic conditions to take full advantage of the opportunities.
1. At the EU level, the Council decisions of March and May 1997 set EU emission reduction targets for CO2 and other GHGs (15 % by 2010 as compared to 1990 levels). At the global level, the Framework Convention on Climate Change -FCCC- of 1992 and its Berlin Mandate provide the legal and political basis of international action on climate.
The development of adaptation strategies also takes place in the context of existing and future policy commitments, but with a focus on the need to deal with possible adverse impacts of climate change on economic sectors, regions and ecosystems. As it is the case for mitigation strategies, adaptation strategies are faced with a broad range of uncertainties over the urgency and seriousness of the problem and the distributive implications of adaptation options (e.g. who takes responsibility and what are the costs and benefits?).
Science and technological change
Science and technology are involved in all aspects of the climate change problem. Detection and prediction of climate change are based on scientific progress and technological development (e.g. in the fields of coupled models and remote sensing). At a different level, the success of mitigation and adaptation strategies is linked to technological change (including further development and diffusion of existing technologies, their applications to new domains, and the development and diffusion of new technologies).
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Description of topic - terms of reference The ETAN action will address the implications of mitigation and adaptation strategies for RTD policy from a European perspective. Detection and prediction will be only addressed as far as the development of supporting technologies for carrying out these tasks is concerned, and only to the extent that improvements in prediction will radically alter mitigation and adaptation strategies.
Based on consolidation of expertise and experience, this ETAN action will aim at identifying key options, orientations and priorities for European RTD policy. In particular it will address the following questions.
What ranges of change -provided by the available models and scenarios- are relevant to the EU position on targets and options for responding to climate change? (E.g. ranges of temperature/climate change, of expected severity and distribution of climate impacts on sectors and regions, of emission reduction potential of different technologies and policy measures).
What are the policy response options currently focused on ? Which ones are already implemented and which ones are at the early stage of formulation ? To what policy and economic domains do they refer to ? What technological change do the different policy options imply? (For instance, further development of existing technologies, application to new sectors, generation and diffusion of new technologies).
Identifying and addressing key issues and options for RTD policy
What are the technologies that could most help in mitigating and adapting to climate change?
- Questions related to technological developments needed to address climate change
Which technologies can assist in coping with cumulative, gradual change and which ones can help in handling extreme events?
What are the mechanisms to promote technological developments that can enhance the ability of key economic sectors to adapt to climate impacts?
What are the most appropriate technological developments and mechanisms (including incentives, behavioural changes etc.) to promote the decoupling of economic growth and greenhouse gas emissions?
What are suitable criteria for allocating EU RTD policy resources to the development and diffusion of technologies within mitigation and adaptation strategies?
- Questions related to research and innovation policy instruments
What are the best methods for supporting both supply and demand side policies through RTD? (e.g. development of new energy production or water desalinisation technologies together with energy or water demand management schemes).
Through what means should European RTD policy encourage the development of technological alternatives to mitigate climate change and to implement adaptation strategies if/when/where needed? (e.g. direct and indirect incentives for RTD, institution-building, diffusion of best practices, intellectual property rights regimes).
What are the crucial interactions between RTD policy and other policies (e.g. fiscal, competition, trade, agriculture, industry, environment, transport policies) for ensuring successful mitigation and/or adaptation strategies (synergies, complementarities, possible contradictions etc.)?
- Questions related to the interface between RTD and other relevant policies
To what extent do these interactions promote, and to what extent do they hamper, the development of European competitiveness in relevant industries and economic sectors?
What are the best mechanisms to assess and enhance both the economic and institutional feasibility, and the social acceptability of technology- and other policy options intended to tackle emissions reduction and adaptation? (e.g. economic incentives, regulatory practices, diffusion campaigns etc. - taking into account experience with the use of such mechanisms and their effectiveness).
What are the appropriate technology transfer/sharing mechanisms and financial transfers for the diffusion of "carbon-free" technologies in economies in transition and developing countries?
On the basis of current knowledge of climate change and its impacts, of EU and international commitments related to climate change and of other EU priority issues (employment, cohesion, competitiveness, enlargement prospects), what are suitable priorities for European RTD policy?
- Questions on future needs and priorities
What would be the most appropriate institutional mechanisms and/or activities for technology monitoring and assessment in Europe in relation to climate change?
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Members of the working group
S&T Research Council
103 87 Stockholm
Technopolis: Innovation Policy Research Associates
3 Pavillon Buildings
Brighton BN1 1EE
National Technical University of Athens
|Reinhard Coenen |
Institute for Technological Assessment and System Analysis
Forschungszentrum Karlsruhe GmbH
P.O. Box 3640
Société de Mathématiques Appliquées
et des Sciences Humaines - CIRED
45 bis avenue de la Belle Gabriëlle
F - 94736 Nogent sur Marne
|Jim Skea |
Policy Studies Institute
100 Park Village East
NW1 35R London
University of Limburg
NL-6200 MD Maastricht
|Walter R. Stahel |
The Product-Life Institute Geneva
P.O. Box 3632
18, chemin Rieu
CH-1211 Geneva 3
Potsdam-Institut fur Klimafolgenforschung e.V.
Department of Global Change and Social Systems
|Carlo Carraro |
University of Venice
Department of Economics
S. Giobbe 873
Commission officer responsible
DGXII-D - SDME 07/71
Rue de la loi, 200
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Reports and Documents
ETAN Working Paper: "Climate change and the challenge for research and technological development policy"
Events and conferences
MORE-14 - Seminar on "Global Climate Change' - research on RTD policy in the EU and its meaning for insurance", 16-17 September 1999, London, UK