Welcome to the United Nations

Technology transfer

The Addis Agenda commits to a range of actions with the aim to directly and indirectly foster the development, dissemination and diffusion of technologies to promote sustainable development.

Marine technology and ocean health

The Inter-governmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO (IOC-UNESCO) is mandated as a United Nations body to promote scientific research, capacity development and facilitate the transfer of marine technology. In pursuance of Decision EC-XLVII/Dec.6.2, and Decision XXVIII, Dec.5.1, adopted by the IOC Executive Council at its 47th session (Paris, 1-4 July 2014) and the IOC Assembly at its 28th session (Paris 18-25 June 2015), the IOC-UNESCO has incorporated as part of its mandate the publication of the Global Ocean Science Report (GOSR). It will function as a monitoring framework to assess national and regional investment in marine research and related capacities. The GOSR will assist local and national governments, academic and research institutions, as well as international organizations and donors, in making informed decisions on future research investment. Disaggregated data to be included in the GOSR will include investment in ocean science, and in particular expenditure on R&D in general and ocean R&D specifically, indicators related to human resources, gender distribution, facilities/ laboratories/field stations, and availability of key equipment. The report will also include descriptors on geographical and thematic coverage of interna¬tional, national, regional and local databases and the different user communities; research productivity and science impact, including peer-reviewed publi¬cations; and engagement in international collabora¬tion. The data to be used to populate these proxies and indicators will be derived from national surveys, as well as existing Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission programmes on ocean observation and ocean data exchange (Global Ocean Observing System and International Oceanographic Data and Information Exchange), as well as the UNESCO Science Report, Institute for Statistics and the OECD.

read more

Parts of the information presented in the GOSR are used for the development and populating of the indicator 14.a.1 (Target 14.a - Increase scientific knowledge, develop research capacity and transfer marine technology, taking into account the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission’s Criteria and Guidelines on the Transfer of Marine Technology, in order to improve ocean health and to enhance the contribution of marine biodiversity to the development of developing countries, in particular small island developing States and least developed countries; Indicator 14.a.1: Proportion of total research budget allocated to research in the field of marine technology.). Marine technology as used in the indicator and as defined in the criteria and guidelines refers to instruments, equipment, vessels, processes and methodologies required to produce and use knowledge to improve the study and understanding of the nature and resources of the ocean and coastal areas. The proportion of resources allocated for marine technology compared to the total R&D funding is a proxy, which can be applied across different development levels, regions and country sizes. The full description of the 14.a.1 Indicator Methodology will be presented in March 2017. This Methodology will include the descriptions for data gathering, data analysis, data publication, data storage, data visualization. IOC-UNESCO started to develop the methodology in 2014, previously and currently no other organization at the regional and international level collects the information needed to calculate the proportion of total research budget allocated to research in the field of marine technology. The complete GOSR is envisaged to be published in June 2017.

The data collection and publication frequency will take place online every 2 years via the IOC-UNESCO GOSR data portal. This provided information can then be obtained in the international context and also at regional levels, including graphics showing the development over the years in comparison with other countries or nationally.

Every 4-5 years this analysis together with other national specific ocean science information about human and technical capacities available as well as science output will be published via the IOC-UNESCO GOSR.

Developing and disseminating environmentally sound technologies

The development and diffusion of technologies in general is a crucial component for achieving progress under many of the SDGs, but particularly in the environmental field it is essential for meeting the challenges of climate change and sustainable development through fostering a rapid transition to a low-carbon economy. It is a broad and complex process which represents more than just the moving of equipment and other so-called “hard” technologies, but also includes know-how, goods and services, and institutional procedures, and is influenced by enabling or hindering policies.

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.

read more

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.

Specific activities by UN organisations

United Nations Environment Programme

As one of the UN organisations working on transfer of EST, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) aims to develop strategies to enhance synergies internally and externally, including with other UN bodies to maximize the potential for environmentally sound development. Capacity building and the facilitation of technology development and sharing with countries underpin the delivery of all UNEP support to countries, in line with the Bali Strategic Plan and increasingly through South-South and triangular cooperation. UNEP is also implementing the Technology Needs Assessment for supporting 35 to 45 countries leading to the identification, prioritization and diffusion of environmentally sound technologies for mitigation and adaptation to climate change. This will accelerate the uptake of the actual implementation of their prioritized technology action plans and help countries to achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) while achieving their national Climate Goals.


With respect to marine technology, the Inter¬governmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO is mandated as a United Nations body to promote scientific research, capacity development and facilitate the transfer of marine technology. List of potentially relevant links to initiatives directly or indirectly supporting transfer of ESTs or marine technology (not exhaustive):

Name of Initiative Brief Description
Climate Technology Centre and Network
The CTCN promotes the accelerated transfer of environmentally sound technologies for low carbon and climate resilient development at the request of developing countries. The centre provide technology solutions, capacity building and advice on policy, legal and regulatory frameworks tailored to the needs of individual countries
International Environmental Technology Centre
IETC promotes the development and the implementation of integrated waste management, water and sanitation systems, and disaster prevention and management through capacity building and technological support.
United for Efficiency
U4E is a global effort supporting developing countries and emerging economies to move their markets to energy-efficient appliances and equipment.
En.lighten helps to accelerate a global market transformation to environmentally sustainable, energy efficient lighting technologies, as well as to develop strategies to phase-out inefficient incandescent lamps to reduce CO2 emissions and the release of mercury from fossil fuel combustion.
Global Fuel Economy Initiative
The Global Fuel Economy Initiative (GFEI) exists to assist governments and transport stakeholders promote greater fuel economy.
WIPO GREEN is an interactive marketplace that promotes innovation and diffusion of green technologies.
UNEP OzoneAction- Compliance Assistance Programme
In the supporting developing countries in phase-out of Ozone depleting Substances under the Montreal Protocol, Parties have agreed to seek for best longer term climate and energy efficient alternatives.
District Energy in Cities Initiative
The Global District Energy in Cities Initiative is a multi-stakeholder partnership intending to support local and national governments, in developing countries and emerging economies, to mobilize the policy and finance support needed to spur the uptake of modern (low-carbon and climate resilient) district energy systems. 
UNEP Environment and Trade Hub
The UNEP Environment and Trade Hub, which is a partnership model aimed at assisting countries in building their capacities for using sustainable trade as a vehicle for achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, includes activities aiming at enhancing trade and investment in EST as well as related green markets and value chains.