Climate change mitigation and the role of patents

07 December 2015 - No comments »

EPO President Benoît BattistelliWith COP 21 underway in Paris, negotiators from over 190 countries are seeking to bolster global efforts to mitigate climate change. Scientists have been clear that unless emissions are reduced, there could be catastrophic consequences for the earth’s environment and population. While many courses of action are being discussed, it is the increasing use of low carbon technologies that is central to negotiations. Plans that have been developed in advance of the talks have centred on stimulating greater use of Climate Change Mitigation Technologies (CCMTs); Mission innovation, supported by a group of 20 countries, will look to double investment in clean energy research while the World Bank and some European countries are pushing a $500m fund to pay for emissions cuts in renewable energy and transport. Others are pinning their hopes on the greater availability of solar technology.

Whatever the goals or targets that are agreed upon and whatever the exact means of reaching them, it is expected that emissions reductions will be achieved by a heavy reliance on the availability of viable low carbon technologies. It is a field in which the European Patent Office, and the legally-robust patents we offer, play a central role.

This week, the EPO is in Paris to present a new report that sheds new light on the situation of CCMTs in Europe. In partnership with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), we have assimilated and analysed a wealth of economic and patent data to provide an accurate picture of the technological innovation in this field. The findings are encouraging.

Our report, ‘Climate Change Mitigation Technologies in Europe,’ provides extensive evidence that Europe is among the world leaders in technical advances that increase our chances of achieving a lower carbon economy. One fifth of the world’s low carbon inventions are found to originate from Europe, indicating that our inventors, our scientists, and our industries are focusing more on a new generation of cleaner, greener technologies. The report also finds that since the Kyoto protocol in 1997, the share of low carbon technologies being invented in Europe has increased four-fold, while Europe’s emissions per GDP have fallen by 30%.

These findings are based on the extensive research by the EPO and UNEP and largely upon the patent information we hold. It is therefore fitting that this week, we are also announcing the final part of a scheme that opens up information on a world of low carbon inventions. Under our ‘Y02’ initiative, climate change related technologies have been identified and tagged to make them more easily accessible while searching our extensive databases. The EPO now has some 2.8 million patent documents relating to low carbon inventions, accessible to everybody, free-of-charge, and from anywhere in the world. It is by far the biggest single inventory of low carbon technologies in the world.

Statistics on patent filings are a powerful indication of Research and Development and innovation and this information can be used to undertake accurate analyses, such as our latest report, CCMTs in Europe. With so much resting upon these talks, the data we offer and the report itself are significant contributions from the EPO. It is our hope that they enable policy makers to take informed decisions based upon a wealth of evidence.

Benoît Battistelli



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