National Intellectual Property Organization
World IP Day 2017
Innovation - Improving Lives


Tuvalu is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Delivering their latest report in November, the world's scientists on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) declared climate change to be "unequivocal." Few any longer question the reality of global warming, nor the potential consequences if it continues unchecked. Experts forecast melting icecaps, rising sea levels, droughts, floods, hurricanes, leading to crop failures, conflicts, famine, disease. Describing this as "one of the most complex, multifaceted and serious threats the world faces," UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon has called for a massive mobilization by governments, the private sector and civil society.

To this end, over 11,000 participants gathered in Bali, Indonesia, for the UN Climate Change Conference in December. Government representatives rubbed shoulders with environmentalists, industry groups with development lobbyists, human rights activists with carbon traders. Temperatures rose inside and outside the conference rooms as delegates differed over questions such as targets for reductions in carbon emissions. But all were agreed on one thing: that innovation and new technologies will play a crucial role in meeting the challenge.

Innovation to save the planet

Developed and developing countries are equally anxious to avoid the sort of cut-backs, or restrictive energy policies, which would undermine their industrial growth or competitiveness. What everyone wants are solutions which are not only good for the planet, but also good for business and good for development. Technological innovation is seen as the best hope of delivering this triple whammy.

Technological solutions are needed for the challenges of both mitigation and adaptation, as they are referred to in climate change terminology. Mitigation is about slowing down global warming by reducing the level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Among the many mitigation technologies already on - or nearing - the market are renewable energy sources, such as biofuels, biomass, wind, solar and hydro power; low carbon building materials; and emerging technologies which aim to capture carbon out of the atmosphere and lock it away.

Adaptation involves dealing with the existing or anticipated effects of climate change, particularly in the developing, least developed and small island countries, which are most severely affected. In addition to "soft" technologies, such as crop rotation, hard technologies for adaptation include improved irrigation techniques to cope with drought, and new plant varieties which are resistant to drought or to salt water.

The uptake of mitigation technologies has accelerated in recent years, encouraged by proactive government policies. Yet it is not enough for environmentally minded consumers in Europe and the US to install solar panels on their homes and trade in their gas-guzzlers for hybrid cars. The impact and effectiveness of technological solutions depend on their being deployed on a global scale. The International Energy Agency estimates that, by 2020, 60 percent of greenhouse gas emissions will come from economies in transition and developing countries, underlining that these countries will need to “leapfrog a technological generation or two” if they are to avoid the fossil-fuel trap and move directly to environmentally-sound technologies.

The Scientist, the Patent and the Mangoes - Tripling the Mango Yield in the Philippines

This article sets the scene for WIPO Magazine's new series on the challenge to find technological solutions to climate change. The series will look at examples of climate-friendly innovation
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