Celebrating World IP Day 2024: Climate Change Innovations for a Sustainable Future

Celebrating World IP Day 2024: Climate Change Innovations for a Sustainable Future

In an era marked by rapidly escalating climate crises, the urgent need for global action has never been more evident. Sustainable Development Goal 13(SDG 13) underscores the necessity for immediate and sustained action to mitigate the challenges posed by climate change. Adopted by the United Nations in 2015 as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) calls for strengthening resilience and adaptive capacity to climate related dangers and natural disasters in all countries.

The Sustainable development goal emphasizes the importance of integrating climate change measures into national policies, strategies, and planning.1 The SDG also aims to improve education, raise awareness, and enhance human and institutional capacity regarding climate change mitigation, adaptation, impact reduction and early warning.2

Climate change remains one of the most significant challenges of our time, threatening biodiversity, human health and economic stability.3 However, amidst the daunting forecasts, technological innovation offers a beacon of hope, providing effective tools to mitigate and adapt to these environmental changes. This blog explores some of the most promising technological advancements that are helping the world combat climate change.

Renewable Energy Technologies

One of the ways of reducing global greenhouse gas emissions is transitioning from using fossil fuels to global greenhouse emissions. Solar and wind energy technologies have seen significant advancements and cost reductions, making them more efficient and accessible.

Innovations in photovoltaic cell technology have significantly increased efficiency and reduced cost of solar panels. Perovskite solar cells are becoming popular due to their super efficiency and lower production costs compared to traditional silicon-based cells.4

The development of offshore wind turbines has transformed wind energy, providing steadier and more reliable power sources. The latest models of turbines are larger and more powerful, capable of generating enough electricity to power thousands of homes.5

Smart Grids and Energy Storage

Smart grids are a combination of digital technology and electrical grids to manage electricity and demand in a less wasteful manner.6 Innovations such as solid-state batteries, offer higher energy density and safety compared to conventional batteries.7 Additionally smart grid technology uses real time monitoring systems to optimize energy flow and improve the reliability of electricity distribution. The technology is instrumental in managing variable energy sources such as solar and wind.8

Carbon Capture

This technology involves capturing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from sources like power plants and storing it underground to prevent it from entering the atmosphere. Companies like Climeworks and Carbon Engineering are pioneering DAC technologies that remove CO2 directly from the atmosphere. These technologies, along with secure geological storage, have the potential to reduce atmospheric CO2 levels; a crucial step towards achieving climate targets. 9 In contrast, the Enhanced Oil Recovery technique involves injecting captured CO2 into declining oil fields to increase oil recovery while storing CO2. It both enhances oil production and provides a solution for CO2 storage.10

Enhancing Water Conservation

Water scarcity is a growing concern exacerbated by climate change. Innovations in water management are essential for conservation and ensuring availability. Advanced treatment technologies, such as reverse osmosis and ultrafiltration, allow for the recycling of wastewater, turning it into a resource for various uses including irrigation and industrial processes. These systems are crucial for sustainable water management in arid regions.11 Additionally, Smart water meters provide real-time data on water usage, helping consumers and utilities to better manage and conserve water. By detecting leaks and overuse, smart water meters play a vital role in preventing wastage and promoting water efficiency.12

Building Energy Efficiency

Improving energy efficiency in buildings is essential to reduce the carbon footprint of urban areas. Innovations in building materials, such as high-performance insulation and energy-efficient windows, are crucial in reducing energy consumption in homes and commercial buildings. These materials help maintain thermal comfort while minimizing the need for heating and cooling, thereby reducing overall energy use.13 Materials like Smart or dynamic glass can change its properties in response to external conditions. This innovation helps in controlling heat and light entry into buildings, significantly reducing reliance on artificial heating and cooling systems, which are large consumers of energy.14

Intellectual Property and Eco-friendly Innovations

Many of the advancements in green technology are owned by companies in industrialized nations.15 Patents play a critical role in fostering innovation by granting inventors exclusive rights to their creations, thus incentivizing investment required to develop new technologies.16

However, the patent system has been criticized for potentially stifling broader dissemination and adoption of essential climate change technologies.17 The patent system has been criticized for hindering the transfer of technology to less developed countries that lack the resources to develop their own solutions or afford the costs associated with patented technologies.18 This challenge is exacerbated by the global nature of the IP framework such as the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual property Rights (TRIPS), which sets minimum standards for protecting intellectual property that all signatory countries must adhere to.19

There have been proposals to make patenting green technologies easier and more widespread by firstly encouraging tax credits to promote the development of environmental technologies.20 Secondly, to allow fair use defenses in cases of green technology patent infringement;21 and thirdly, implementing compulsory licensing regimes for green technology by governments mandating patent holders to license their technologies.22

Policy Considerations

Well drafted policies play a critical role in reducing the costs and enhancing the adoption of renewable energy technologies, ultimately contributing to sustainable energy solutions and the mitigation of climate change. There has been evidence that different types of policy instruments have varying impacts on the innovation of renewable energy technologies. Researchers Nick Johnstone, Ivan Haščič, and David Popp found that different types of policy instruments have varying impacts on the innovation of renewable energy technologies.23 Specifically, broad-based policy tools like tradable renewable energy certificates effectively promote innovation in technologies that are nearly competitive with conventional energy sources.24

In contrast, more targeted subsidies, such as feed-in tariffs, are crucial for fostering innovation in more costly and less developed technologies like solar power.25 Furthermore, they emphasize that the effectiveness of these policies is not uniform but rather depends on the specific characteristics and developmental stages of each renewable technology.26 For instance, policies that are effective for advancing wind energy technology may not necessarily yield the same results for solar technology.27 This differential response underscores the need for policymakers to design flexible and adaptive policy frameworks that can cater to the unique needs of different technologies.

In conclusion, the fight against climate change is an urgent and continuous effort that requires the collective action of nations, industries, and individuals. Through the adoption of Sustainable Development Goal 13, the global community has recognized the critical need for innovative and sustainable solutions to address the impacts of climate change. Technological advancements in renewable energy, carbon capture, smart grids, water conservation, and building efficiency are not just promising; they are essential for creating a sustainable future. These innovations offer practical ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, enhance energy and resource efficiency, and build resilient communities.

Image is from needpix.com

1 Transforming our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, A/RES/70/1″ 2015.

2 United Nations, <Goal 13 | Department of Economic and Social Affairs (un.org)> accessed on 14 April 2024.

3 Kammila Srilata, The Climate Crisis is a Health Crisis’ <The climate crisis is a health crisis | United Nations Development Programme (undp.org)> accessed on 10 April 2024.

4Elangovan N, Kannadasan R, Beenarani B, et al, ‘Recent Developments in Perovskite materials, fabrication techniques, band gap engineering and the Stability of Perovskite Solar Cells’[2024] Eslevier 1171.

5 Global Wind Energy Council, ‘Global Wind Report 2020’, GWEC, 2020.

6 Arrow, ‘What is a Smart Grid and How does it Work?’, 22 December 2002 <What is a smart grid and how does it work? | Arrow.com> accessed on 17 April 2024.

7 Phuc N, Hikima K, Muto H and Matsuda A, ‘Recent developments in materials design for all solid sate LI-S batteries [2022] Critical Reviews in Solid State Material Sciences <https://doi.org/10.1080/10408436.2021.1886045> accessed on 17 April 2024.

8 Kabeyi M and Olanrewaju A, ‘Smart grid technologies and application in the sustainable energy transition: a review [2023] International Journal of Sustainable Energy 685 < https://doi.org/10.1080/14786451.2023.2222298> accessed on 14 April 2024.

9 Keith, DW, Holmes, G, Angelo, DS, and Heidel, K, ‘A process for capturing CO2 from the atmosphere’ [2018] Joule 1573.

10 Jackson, RB, Solomon, EI, Canadell, JG, Cargnello, ‘Methane Removal and Atmospheric restoration’, Nature Sustainability [2019] 436.

11 Gray, NF, Water Technology: An Introduction for Environmental Scientists and Engineers, (3rd edn, Elsevier, 2017).

12 Gerra O and Reklaitis G, ‘Advances and Challenges in Water Management within Energy Systems’ [2018] Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 4000.

13 Hafez S, Sa’di B Safa-Gamal M et al, ‘Energy Efficiency in Sustainable Buildings: A Systematic Review with Taxonomy, Challenges, Motivations, Methodological Aspects, Recommendations, and Pathways for Future Research’, [2019] < Energy Efficiency in Sustainable Buildings: A Systematic Review with Taxonomy, Challenges, Motivations, Methodological Aspects, Recommendations, and Pathways for Future Research (sciencedirectassets.com)> Elsevier.

14 Alias, A., Abhijith, R., Thankachan, V. (2019). Review on Applications of Smart Glass in Green Buildings. In: Drück, H., Pillai, R., Tharian, M., Majeed, A. (eds) Green Buildings and Sustainable Engineering. Springer Transactions in Civil and Environmental Engineering. <https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-13-1202-1_13>. Springer, Singapore.

15 WIPO, ‘Mapping Innovations: Patents and the Sustainable Development Goals’ <Mapping Innovations Patents and the Sustainable Development Goals (wipo.int)> 25 -35, 2024.

16 Fowler A, ‘No need to Reinvent the Wheel: The Positive Relationship Between Green Technology and Patent Enforcement’ [2024] Villanova Environmental Law Journal 125.

17 Lawrence P and Heather Ann Forrest, ‘Intergenerational Justice: A Framework for Addressing Intellectual Property Rights and Climate Change’ in Matthew Rimmer (ed) Intellectual Property and Clean Energy The Paris Agreement and Climate Justice (Springer 2018).

18 Ibid.

19 Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), 15 April 1994, UNTS 299.

20 Fowler A, ‘No need to Reinvent the Wheel: The Positive Relationship Between Green Technology and Patent Enforcement’ [2024] Villanova Environmental Law Journal 125.

21 Ibid.

22 Ibid.

23 Nick Johnstone, Ivan Haščič, and David Popp, ‘Renewable Energy Policies and Technological Innovation: Evidence Based on Patent Counts’ (2008) Working paper 13760 < w13760.pdf (nber.org)> accessed on 14 April 2024.

24 Ibid.

25 Ibid.

26 Ibid.

27 Ibid.

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