Much environmentally sound technology, particularly in agriculture, lies in the public domain, so that the problem of technology transfer is more one of assimilation than of access. However, there is also need for an information network that provides an efficient mechanism for exchange of information about environmentally sound technologies, assessments of them, and of the practical experience with their use.
Even in agriculture, however, there is an increasing trend to wards privatization of agricultural technology, which in a few cases has had a significant inhibitory impact on the availability of technology in developing countries. This is an area that requires monitoring and possible future action. Proprietary technology is mostly in the hands of the private entities that have created the technology. There the challenge of technology transfer in the area of environmentally sound technology is to devise mechanisms that permit publicly funded intermediary institutions to purchase licences from private owners on a selective basis and make them available (with relevant support services) to institutions, private and public, in the developing countries. The criterion for free licensing should be the level of environmental benefit provided compared with alternatives. Funding for such intermediary institutions should come from governments of developed countries.
There exists much proprietary technology which is no longer of value in the developed world but could provide substantial environmental benefits in developing countries. An example is residential coal heating, which has been banned in most developed countries, but which will inevitably be used for a certain period of time in countries with abundant coal supplies like China. There is a need to identify such technologies and to provide incentives for their further development and marketing through partnerships between the owner of the technology in developed countries and an entity, public or private, in the developing countries.
The [UN Workshop for Creative Financing for Environmentally Sound Technologies] (Belem, 1990) proposed a selection of mechanisms for financing development and diffusion of such technologies. UN Environment Programme's (UNEP) [Environmental Technology Assessment Programme] (EnTA) encourages the use of environmental technology assessment to support the development and transfer of environmentally sound technologies.
The [International Environmental Technology Centre] (IETC) was created to facilitate the transfer of environmentally-sound technologies (ESTs) to developing countries and to countries with economies in transition. The Centre is supported by two Japanese foundations: the Global Environment Centre Foundation (GEC) handles urban environmental problems while the International lake Environment Committee Foundation (ILEC) contributes accumulated knowledge on sustainable management of freshwater resources. ITEC pays specific attention to urban problems such as sewage, air pollution, solid waste, noise and to the management of freshwater lakes and reservoir basins. It bases its strategy on Agenda 21 and pursues three issues: the improvement of access to information on ESTs; the fostering of technology cooperation, partnerships and transfer; and the building of endogenous capacity.