Policy Assessment for Adaptation and Mitigation Technologies—A Close Look at the Role of IP System

Dr. Li Yuguang

(Speech at Conference on Intellectual Property and Public Policy Issues
Panel discussion: Adaptation and Mitigation Technologies: Towards a Global Needs Assessment for National and International Policies)

July 13, 2009

Climate change has drawn increasing attention from the world and invoked profound impact on the human society. In the mean time, the economic globalization further strengthened inter-dependency among different countries. Scientific research indicates that the impact brought about by the climate change shall be multi-faceted and lasting for a sustaining time. If it is dealt with indulgently, the problem will result in serious effects with unbearable, irreversible and lasting nature to a country’s natural ecosystem, social and economic sectors. To this end, it is in the interests of the mankind to adopt positive actions to combat climate change.

Science and technology plays a significant role in understanding climate change and effectively tackling it. At the same time, intellectual property (IP) system is an important mechanism to encourage innovation and promote technology diffusion. With the emergence of major technology advancement in new and renewable energy, key technologies relating to climate change are in the process of achieving a breakthrough. Some existing technologies and sci-tec means to be used in the coming decades will play an effective role in stabilizing the emission level of the greenhouse gas. The diffusion and application of those technologies will certainly lay a solid foundation for mitigation and adaption of climate change.

Therefore, it is of great significance for us to make joint efforts to study the climate change and challenges it brought to us, so as to explore and utilize IP system to their solution.

I. Importance of adaptation and mitigation technologies to China

Adaptation and mitigation technologies are two mutually supportive components with supplementary nature to deal with climate change. Adaptation technology is an important factor to reduce the vulnerability to the climate change and also a more realistic and urgent solution while mitigation technology is a comparatively long and arduous task.

Adaptation and mitigation technologies are of great significance for China to combat climate change, which is determined by the practical situation of the country. China is a country with a large population and great shortage of all kinds of resources needed for development. The per capita amount of coal and water resources of China is only 50% of that of the world. While the same for petroleum and natural gas is only about one fifteenth of world average and arable land accounts for less than 30%.1

Secondly, China is a country with complicated climate picture and vulnerable ecological environment which determined its situation of inclining to climate change influence. For example, China’s forest coverage rate is 18.21%, which is only 62% of world’s average. While at the same time, China’s coastal line is over 18,000 kilometers. According to statistics, in the recent 100 years(1908-2007),China’s annual average temperature has risen by 0.5~0.8℃2. Current research shows that adverse effect brought about by climate change to China has started to reveal itself. For example, we have witnessed the risen sea level along the coast, the increasing uncertainty of agricultural production and the lately changed distribution of water resources.

The effective application and diffusion of adaptation and mitigation technologies can simultaneously produce great economic benefits. China’s statistics show that the economic scale of China’s green economy and industry was roughly 1.8, 2.1 and 2.4 trillion Yuan in 2005, 2006 and 2007 respectively, accounting for about 8% of the country’s GDP. If make forecasting based on investment scale of the green economy and industry during the 11th Five-Year Plan of China, it will bring the country a revenue equivalent to 60 billion Yuan, 18 million new job opportunities and about 2 trillion Yuan consumption.3 Those figures indicate that adaptation and mitigation technologies can meet the demand of developing countries for economic growth and poverty alleviation on one hand and for environmental protection and realization of sustainable development on the other hand.

It is exactly based on this understanding that China’s input in clean and new energy has not been reduced since 2008 when the financial crisis broke out. China’s investment in wind power has increased by 88%, 72% increase for nuclear power and 19.2% for water power.4 Besides, among the additional 230 billion Yuan fiscal investment made by the Central Government of China during the period from the end of 2008 to April 2009, 23 billion was used for ecological environment construction and preservation projects, accounting for 10% of the total.5 This ratio and those figures have reflected Chinese government’s firm determination towards green growth.

II. Options of IP tools tackling climate change

IP may become an important incentive in the innovation and diffusion of adaptation and mitigation technologies. We, as the relevant policy makers, should make full use of the existing diversified IP tools in the process of actively responding to the climate change. At the same time, we should, in addition to the traditional business of IP examination and granting, broaden our mind and explore more possibilities in the direction of upstream technology innovation and downstream technology diffusion. I think that cooperation can be developed in the following ways for the purpose of innovation and diffusion of adaptation and mitigation technologies.

1. Increase investment in adaptation and mitigation technologies through more diversified means and strengthen financial support for research and development of relevant technologies

Active exploration may be taken for the establishment of a joint development fund for adaptation and mitigation technologies and strengthen the financial support for their research and development. Under the fund, special projects can be developed for the diffusion of key relevant technologies. Besides, it may also be used to buy and disseminate free of charge the major adaptation and mitigation technologies with obvious social benefits and easy application. In addition, means as IP pledge can also be taken advantage of by providing favorable financing policies for the diffusion of the technologies.

2. Encourage IP application for adaptation and mitigation technologies and create a sound legal environment for the relevant technologies’ development

By means like reducing application fees and adopting green tracks, it can encourage adaptation and mitigation technologies to apply for IP rights. At the same time, special IP enforcement campaign may also be initiated for adaptation and mitigation technologies in order to intensify their IP rights protection and encourage development of the relevant innovation.

3. Provide professional guidance to and compile model brochure for the innovation and diffusion of adaptation and mitigation technologies so as to maximize its demonstration effect

An IP working group may be established for adaptation and mitigation technologies, which will provide professional guidance to different countries for resolving their problems encountered in the process of innovation and diffusion of adaptation and mitigation technologies. The working group can, by tracking and selecting typical technology innovation and diffusion projects, summarize their development models and compile positive experiences. Eventually, it will be set as an example and reference for expediting the development of adaptation and mitigation technologies and providing guidance to the formulation of promotion plan for relevant technologies.

4. Increase utilization of relevant patent information and provide support to the research work of adaptation and mitigation technologies

With the help of a possible information service platform for adaptation and mitigation technologies, relevant information network and dissemination mechanism may be created. Through this platform, which incorporating consulting, technology exhibition and agency services, it is possible to bring together information, technology and human resources to provide comprehensive services to normal enterprises for its transition to green models and making green investment. Special attention may be paid to the construction of a database for expired adaptation and mitigation patents in order to accelerate the search and diffusion of relevant technologies.

5. Engage enterprises, small and medium-sized ones particularly, in active innovation and application of adaptation and mitigation technologies

It is necessary to encourage enterprises to make full use of external resources to enhance their technology innovation capability in light of their own status. For the purpose of further improving the matching rate between the supply and demand of adaptation and mitigation technologies, it is very much in need to help enterprises, universities and research institutions to establish interactive relationship. It is expected to establish a multi-level innovation system for adaptation and mitigation technologies with enterprises as the main player and build a technology innovation platform integrating production, education and research. We may also encourage the signing of such cooperation agreements involving entrusted or joint research and development, and technology transfer among enterprises, universities and research institutions.

6. Strengthen IP human resources training in the field of adaptation and mitigation technologies

Taking into consideration of the features of adaptation and mitigation technologies, special textbooks may be compiled on IP licensing and transfer. Furthermore, we can provide IP training via distance learning or seminars for enterprises in the field of adaptation and mitigation technologies so as to enhance their IP awareness. At the same time, we may also focus our attention on the training for IP agencies in providing services to relevant enterprises.

7. Attach importance to the use of other IP tools

In agricultural sector, especially for developing adaptation technologies, it is necessary to give full play to the role of geographical indications and new plant varieties. For example, we may encourage registration of geographic indications or new plant varieties for the newly-cultivated stress-resistant plant varieties with specific abilities of resistance to drought, flood, high temperature, disease and pests. These measures shall help enhance the capacity to apply new technologies in agricultural sector and strengthen the diffusion of relevant technologies.

III. China’s deliberations on innovation and diffusion of adaptation and mitigation technologies

In order to strengthen the capacity to cope with the climate change, accelerate the transition of economic growth model and ensure future sustainable development, Chinese Government has always attached great importance to the development of science and technology in the process of coping with climate change. Its deliberations in this regard are further improved and specified in a series of national plans and policies, including the Outline of the People’s Republic of China of the Eleventh Five-Year Plan for National Economy and Social Development, National Guideline on Medium and Long Term Program for Science and Technology Development (2006) and China National Climate Change Program (2007).

In order to support the implementation of those policies and promote innovation and diffusion of adaptation and mitigation technologies in IP field, the State Intellectual Property Office of China (SIPO) has been taking active experiments in this field. Our ideas mainly go as follows:

1. Trying to incorporate innovation and diffusion of adaptation and mitigation technologies into the National IP Strategy so as to draw attention of this issue from various governmental agencies

Taking Outline for China's National Intellectual Property Strategy (published in June 2008) as our guide, SIPO will further exert the role of inter-ministerial joint meeting office for implementing national IP strategy and promote incorporation of innovation and diffusion of relevant technologies into their working tasks. At the same time, SIPO will also actively consult with related ministries to jointly formulate and issue incentive policies.

2. Provide financial support to IP application of adaptation and mitigation technology

SIPO will increase the financial support for the patent fees of adaptation and mitigation technologies so as to reduce their application burden. It is planned to reduce and exempt patent application fees for those technologies within the key adaptation and mitigation technology list. SIPO also considers to encourage IP application of adaptation and mitigation technologies by reducing patent examination cost with financial subsidies from local governments through the coordination of local IP offices.

At the same time, SIPO also plans to establish patent application assistance mechanism for adaptation and mitigation technologies. SIPO will give full play to the role of All-China Association for Patent Agents and establish a patent agent assistance system. Under the system, certain agencies shall conduct services on public welfare basis for those adaptation and mitigation technologies which have reached major breakthrough but lack of capitals. The service cost of relevant patent agencies may be subsidized from the special fund of the national financial resources.

3. Strengthen the role of national patent exhibition and trading center in order to promote the commercialization of adaptation and mitigation technologies

SIPO plans to establish green zones within the present 42 national patent exhibition and trading centers. For the purpose of promoting application and industrialization of green technologies, SIPO will also provide guidance for the formulation of green patent trading rules and establishment of performance assessment standards. Besides, SIPO will expedite the construction of trading platform by adding a special column for adaptation and mitigation technologies, in which relevant technology information will be published and disseminated free of charge. SIPO will further promote its publicity so as to increase the influence and expand the commercialization of relevant patent technologies.

4. Strengthen IP training for green enterprises

SIPO will design special curriculum, training methods and textbooks for green enterprises through strengthening cooperation with those enterprises in energy and high-technology sectors. At the same time, SIPO will utilize the existing China IP distance learning platform and provide a series of training courses freely for relevant small and medium sized enterprises. In addition, we will also try to increase the rate of trained green technology enterprises to a greater extent within a comparatively short period of time.

IV. Conclusion

The impact of climate change on human being is multi-faceted and its solution requires active participation of all parties concerned. No single country can stand alone in the face of such a huge challenge. Nor can a single country undertake this severe responsibility by itself. Only when we take joint, realistic and cooperative actions and deal with it scientifically, can we realize harmonious development and achieve win-win results. In the process, IP system shall give full play to its inborn advantage. The efficient application and active development of existing IP tools will promote the innovation and diffusion of adaptation and mitigation technologies. Just as we emphasized in the face of financial crisis, we hold that confidence is more valuable than gold and collaboration should be cherished better than money. Human wisdom has created today’s civilization and wealth. The development of science and technology will certainly bring about tomorrow’s prosperity and development. Let’s join our efforts together and contribute our best to the creation of a beautiful home for the whole human being.

Thank you!

1 White paper “Energy Status and Policy in China” publish by the State Council Information Office on December 26th, 2007. (数据来源于2007年12月26日,中国国务院新闻办发表的《中国的能源状况与政策》白皮书。)

2China National Climate Change Program”& amp; amp; amp; amp; amp; amp; amp; amp; lt; /i>compiled by National Development and Reform Commission in June 2007 (数据来源于2007年6月中国国家发展和改革委员会组织编制的《中国应对气候变化国家方案》)

3 Mr. Wang Jinnan, Deputy Director General of Environmental Planning Institution under Ministry of Environmental Protection of P. R. China on April 16, 2009 (数据来源于2009年4月16日中国环境与发展国际合作委员会“应对经济动荡 迈向绿色发展”圆桌会议上环境保护部环境规划院副院长王金南的发言)

4 Mr. Ma Songde, former Vice Minister of Ministry of Science and Technology of P. R. China on March 22, 2009. (数据来源于2009年3月22日中国科技部原副部长、中 国技术创业协会理事长马颂德在“2009中国国际节能减排和新能源投融资论坛”上的讲话)

5 Mr. Li Ganjie, Vice Minister of Ministry of Environmental Protection of P. R. China on April 16, 2009. (数据来源于2009年4月16日中国环境与发展国际合作委员会“应对经济动荡 迈向绿色发展”圆桌会议上环境保护部副部长李干杰的发言)