The Key Technological Challenges of Deep Decarbonization VI

The Role of Technology Roadmaps and Roundtables

To conclude this lecture, I want us to spend a bit of time discussing the mechanisms that could ensure the timely deployment at scale of some of the technologies we reviewed, but also the many others we did not have time to talk about, but which are also critical to the success of deep decarbonization strategies in our economies.

661Some skeptics try to discredit climate change mitigation efforts by saying that this is against progress, that this is an anti-technological innovation agenda that we’re trying to impose limits to growth, that we’re trying to limit the right to development.

The truth is I’m not even sure if they’re convinced by their own arguments. What is sure is that they’re often made by the incumbents of the fossil fuel economy and it’s probably not randomly, because they have a biased interest in more of the same technological innovation. I hope I’ve managed to convince you that climate change mitigation is certainly not an anti-technological innovation agenda. In fact, achieving deep decarbonization is a formidable technological challenge and one that will require years of sustained efforts to develop and demonstrate these breakthrough new low carbon technologies.

But what is very true is that we don’t need just any kind of technological innovation. We don’t need new sophisticated technologies to explore always deeper fossil fuel resources and new technologies to drill under the Artic. What we need is directed and accelerated technological change. Directed first because we need technological innovation and human creativity to confront to the challenge of human induced climate change and find solution, not further add to the problem.

And accelerated technological change because we have a very tight timeline to avoid the dangerous effects from human induced climate change whose effects are irreversible. So we need these critical low carbon technologies to become available quickly and to be rapidly deployed at scale.

There are pretty good reasons to believe that the necessary technologies for deep decarbonization are within reach, from an engineering and a cost standpoint. But their commercial readiness needs to be accelerated by providing the adequate policy support and also by building the necessary public and private partners. Effective global strategies for a deep decarbonization must include strategies for promoting actively the development and the diffusion of these low carbon technology.

What is interesting is that there is a great deal we can learn from the previous successful attempts to drive technological innovation in a particular direction. All these previous successful attempts share a number of important characteristics.

  • First, clear goals and timelines for technology performance were set.
  • Second, public and private actors were organized around the development of long-term technology road maps.
  • Third, the industry both competed but also cooperated to identify the promising lines of inquiry and demonstration of these technologies.
  • Four, grants were sometimes issued on a always highly competitive basis.
  • And five, and quite importantly the intellectual property of these new technology was frequently shared or at least open-source in between the different participants to the research and development efforts.

There is one element in particular I want to stress because I think it is of high relevance when we’re talking about low carbon energy innovation. It is that technology road maps and technology round tables can play a key role in driving oriented technological innovation.

They could play a key role because they could complement the more market based instruments for the transition to a low carbon economy such as putting a price on carbon through a carbon tax, or an emission permit system, or implementing all different types of regulations.

It, it’s very important that you don’t confuse these technology road maps with rigid, central planning, because this is really not what this is about. It’s very important that a technological innovation process be adaptive. It’s very important that it does not preclude any promising technology from playing an active role in future mitigation efforts.

We need to leave room for new discoveries. And therefore the goals that are set in these technology road maps should be frequently revised. They need to take into account the new developments from science, the lessons learned from the previous faces of discussions in these technology round tables.

So it’s really not an exercise to pick the winning technologies for a deep decarbonization, because eventually the market will have to reveal which are the lowest cost option. But you should look at this process of technology road maps and round tables as an essential process to make sure the market has enough winners to pick from eventually.

These technology road maps have been used successfully in, in many technology eras, including a very successful one, the semiconductor industry, but also in genetics. And they were used to identify the priorities for research and, and development. It’s really true that these road maps help mobilize and organize the public and private stakeholders and expert communities around the definition of shared priorities and, and really help insuring the effective use of, of scarce unfortunately, resources for research. So they will also really be a key tool in driving directed technological innovation for the low carbon technologies.

Pedro Pereira Leite

Researcher and professor. He had his PhD. on museology in 2011, with the title “Muss-amb-ike Homeland: The commitment on musicological process”, that was published in 2011. In 2012 he finishes a Post-PhD Research on "Biographical Glances: The intersubjectivity poetry on museology, at Lusófona University (Lisbon). Presently he is working in his Post PhD. Research about: “Global Heritages" with the aims to build a network on local cognizance and memory manager has a tool to build the will of action in 3 different communities, linked by past communed heritages.” He works at CES. He participates on different Research network, presented papers in national and international conferences, and had published books on research subjects.

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