From Kyoto to Paris: Inventions in climate change mitigation technologies growing strongly
A new study conducted by the European Patent Office (EPO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) shows that inventions in climate change mitigation technologies have seen a fivefold increase worldwide between 1995 and 2011. It also finds that Europe is a leading region for low-carbon inventions.
“New technologies are urgently needed to tackle the global challenge of climate change,” said EPO President Benoît Battistelli. “The report shows that in combination with clear legislation and policies to promote climate-change mitigation technologies, the patent system can support research, development and innovation in this field, as well as boosting trade and investment flows, and the transfer of these new technologies to other regions.”
Green technologies on the rise
Presented at the Sustainable Innovation Forum 2015 organised alongside the UNFCC COP 21 in Paris, the report finds that the number of inventions in climate change mitigation technologies (CCMTs) worldwide has risen steadily since the signing of the Kyoto Protocol in 1997 (see Graph 1: A boom in green tech inventions, below). This suggests that the implementation of climate change policies has helped stimulate innovation in CCMTs.
Low-carbon inventions today represent 6% of the world’s inventions
The growth in low-carbon inventions has been much faster than in other technologies; today they represent nearly 6% of all of the world’s inventions, up from 2% in 1995. Public policies put in place after the Kyoto Protocol signing appear to have been particularly successful in encouraging the development of CCMTs in Europe. As a result, the carbon intensity of Europe’s GDP has fallen by 30% in the last decades, meaning the CO2 (in kg) per Euro of European GDP is down by one third since 1995, (Graph 2: CCMT inventions and CO2 intensity in Europe 1995-2010, below), and has been the lowest in the developed world since 2000.
Europe is a global leader in climate change mitigation inventions
The study shows that Europe is among the leaders in technical advances towards a lower carbon economy. The region produces nearly one fifth of all low-carbon inventions in the world. Looking at “high-value” inventions (those with higher economic potential, for which patent protection is sought in more than one country), Europeans account for nearly two fifths.
Europe’s contribution to global inventive efforts is very significant across all CCMT areas. Most CCMT inventions in Europe (and also worldwide) are made in the clean energy and transport sectors, followed by buildings. When comparing CCMT inventions with inventions in all areas of technology, Europe has become increasingly specialised since 1995, and now counts among the most advanced regions in the world in low-carbon technologies.
UK ranks third in green tech inventions in Europe
Six countries account for more 80% of all European inventions in sustainable technologies; Germany leads, with almost half of Europe’s CCMT inventions, followed by France, the UK, Italy, Sweden and Spain.
Europe is also strong in trade of low-carbon goods; it is the biggest importer and second-largest exporter of CCMT products. At the same time, the region acts as a major source of Foreign Direct Investment in CCMTs, with investment spanning all continents. The study shows that cross-border patent filings go hand in hand with trade and foreign investment in CCMTs, which encourages international technology transfer of CCMTs through these channels.
EPO-UNEP: shedding light on the debate
In order to facilitate an informed debate about the role of patents in the development and deployment of sustainable technologies, the EPO and UNEP have worked together closely since 2009 on a series of joint studies looking at patent filing trends in CCMTs. The latest report “Climate change mitigation technologies in Europe – evidence from patent and economic data” follows three previous reports: “Patents and climate change mitigation technologies in Latin America and the Caribbean” (2014), “Patents and clean energy technologies in Africa” (2013) and “Patents and clean energy technologies” (2010).