A new paper co-authored by Prof. Luc Soete brings business and science perspectives to the most pressing global issues of our time. Set against the macro backdrops of climate change and the coronavirus pandemic, the authors investigate ‘technological sovereignty’ and ‘knowledge safety’ in Africa and Europe — particularly vis-à-vis China, the USA and the World Health Organization. They also analyse the sanctity of intellectual property rights, amid the ongoing tensions between ‘open science’ supporters on the one hand and devotees of technological competitiveness on the other.
Last year’s COP26 conference drew global attention to the science and technology that humanity will need in order to mitigate the climate crisis. New investment funds, scientific collaborations and technology policies are in train – for carbon removal, energy efficiency, renewable energy sources and more. But how quickly can these innovations be adopted and diffused throughout the world? Will they stay in the hands of the richer nations and companies that devise them, or spread globally? Will governments encourage the sharing of knowledge openly, or will climate technology become a new flash point in the global competition for jobs, income, health and safety?
This paper argues that we already have a test-bed for answering such questions: the global pandemic, and the ground-breaking science and technology it has stimulated. The lessons so far aren’t encouraging: while the global scientific community strove to share data, it was at times constrained by government. And those governments reverted to a depressing old form: focus on the national problems first and worry about the rest of the world later. That approach will not work in a global climate crisis.
Here, the authors argue that there is, in fact, a wide range of options governments could consider when tackling this next global science and technology challenge, of climate. The key objectives: keep science open, keep innovation and technology trade flowing as freely as possible, learn from each others’ implementation successes, and find a way to get the developed world cooperating better in technology while assisting the developing world in building its own talent and production capacity. As others have pointed out, there is no vaccine possible against climate change. But there are thousands of lessons, big and small, to apply from our messy pandemic experience.
Download the full paper here.
The opinions expressed here are the author’s own; they do not necessarily reflect the views of UNU.