Public Reason: Vol. 4, No. 1-2, June-December 2012
Climate Change, Intellectual Property, and Global Justice
Monica Ștefănescu & Constantin Vică

The current situation of climate change at a global level clearly requires policy changes at local levels. Global efforts to reach a consensus regarding the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions have so far been focused on developing Climate-Friendly Technologies (CFTs). The problem is that in order for these efforts to have an actual impact at a global level we need to be concerned with more than just promotion and info-dissemination on the already existing CFTs, but also with costs, implementation and the international intellectual property and trade system necessary for this strategy to work. Currently, almost 80% of all patent applications belong to OECD countries like Japan, US, Germany, South Korea, Great Britain and France. The obligations climate change imposes on developing countries represent a technological shift that depends on Technology Transfer (TT) and implementation of IP laws. The current IP framework, especially patent law, copyright and trade secrets produces another kind of obligations. The main question is if the conjunction of these two sets of obligations (rules) is fair from a global justice point of view. Also, it is questionable whether this conjunction helps developing countries to produce their own CFTs. When discussing the demands of global justice one cannot skip the very important distinction Pogge makes between negative and positive obligations. In the context of global warming and the measures that the world’s states ought to take to prevent it, there seems to lie another conjunction between the positive obligation of preserving the natural environment that we all share and a negative obligation of allowing the less developed countries to help us all do so. Because one cannot impose regulations that cannot be put into practice, it is more and more obvious that a new framework of action and development needs to be drawn in the field of TT of CFTs. 

Key words: global justice, climate change, Climate-Friendly Technologies, intellectual property, patents, institutions, public good.


Monica Ștefănescu & Constantin Vică