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Developing and disseminating environmentally sound technologies

As there is currently not data available for SDG MoI 17.7.1 (“Total amount of approved funding for developing countries to promote the development, transfer, dissemination and diffusion of environmentally sound technologies”), the average applied tariffs imposed on environmental goods has been proposed by UNCTAD as an alternative indicator. The indicator looks at the weighted average tariffs applied to the imports and exports of 44 environmental goods compiled by the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) member countries whose tariffs were to be reduced or eliminated among them. The data reveals that in 2014, the average tariffs on the imports of environmental goods were below 4 per cent across all income groups.

Environmentally Sound Technologies (ESTs) are those technologies that from a life cycle perspective protect the environment, are less polluting, use resources in a sustainable manner, recycle more of their wastes and products, and handle all residual wastes in a more environmentally acceptable way than the technologies for which they are substitutes. Over the next fifteen years, affordable ESTs must be developed and disseminated widely to reorient unsustainable development trajectories. ESTs also need to be compatible with the national circumstances, socioeconomic, cultural priorities and development goals.

Defining environmentally sound technologies in an absolute sense is difficult since the environmental performance of a technology depends on its impacts on several factors like availability of infrastructure and human resources for the management, monitoring and maintenance of the technology, as well as the sustainability of natural systems. The technologies which are considered environmentally sound today will inevitably be replaced in the future by even cleaner technologies. Decision makers in the public and private sector face severe challenges in prioritizing, identifying and selecting ESTs based on costs, benefits, environmental impacts, and successes and failures.

When trying to monitor progress in terms of transfer and promotion of ESTs, one is faced with challenges related to the diverse landscape of private sector activities, scarcity and lacking comparability of data. Many activities have long-term, diffuse impacts that are challenging to measure, assess and accurately attribute.

At present, there are few holistic tools which help in the selection of ESTs, such as multi criteria analysis (MCA) for evaluating and prioritizing adaptation and mitigation technologies or the International Environmental technology Centre’s Sustainability Assessment of Technologies (SAT) to aid policy makers in the assessment and choice of the appropriate technology under specific local conditions.

The private sector is the major provider of technologies and investments and therefore has a major role to play in the development and diffusion of EST. Governments are responsible for putting in place policies and measures that create incentives for investment and promote the development and diffusion of technologies. The committed involvement of both private sector and governments, together with other national stakeholders, would help align private-sector activities with countries’ climate change targets and development goals. This would also overcome some of the major barriers which impede private sector investment in EST.

As an example, 2015 saw an increased investment in renewable energy power and fuels among developed, emerging and developing countries amounting to 286 billion USD which was more than double the USD 130 billion allocated to new coal- and natural gas-fired power generation capacity. For the first time in history, total investment in renewable power and fuels in developing countries exceeded that in developed economies. Increasing trends on ongoing energy efficiency improvements, use of smart grid technologies and significant progress in hardware and software to support the integration of renewable energy, as well as progress in energy storage development and commercialization were observed.