Jukka Uosukainen is Director of the UN´s Climate Technology Centre and Network (CTCN).
The interview was conducted by Gustavo Faleiros, InfoAmazonia and Earth Journalism Network.
Gustavo Faleiros: First, could you describe what your job entails and the type of decision you take where climate relevant information is important?
Jukka Uosukainen: CTCN is the operational arm of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Technology Mechanism. It’s hosted and managed by UNEP in collaboration with UNIDO and with the support of 11 Centres of Excellence. I worked for five years for the Finnish Development Agency in Africa and Latin America, and with environmental projects in Zambia, Mozambique and Nicaragua. After that I spent 15 years as climate negotiator at the government of Finland, focusing on the discussions about technology transfer. I was actively involved with the process that ended up with the creation of the CTCN.
GF: Are you the direct user of the information, or do you primarily inform someone else who has a decision to take?
JU: One of CTCN’s core activities is sharing information. I take this very seriously because the parties who established our organization recognize, in this modern world, the importance of information services. We have a dedicated staff for engaging with corporations to guarantee that there is a flow of climate information. The intention is to create a knowledge management system for technologies. It’s the result of years of struggle within the UNFCCC to convince the developed countries to commit to unveiling and implementing their technologies in the developing countries. CTCN is in the right position to facilitate this commitment.
There is a lot of demand for information on climate technologies, such as the advantages, limits and costs of them. It would not be possible for CTCN to respond to these demands by looking into specific country sectors. The best way of analysing the best options is using databases which allows comparisons between technologies. Our main target audience is developing countries´officials who are trying to find the best way of including technology in their climate strategy.
GF: What is the timeframe for those decisions? How much notice do you normally have to prepare your advice?
JU: One of the main challenges is to speed the pace of analysing and providing information. Everything that has to happen quickly within the UN system is a challenge. We have to work with a lot of transparency, we never allow any kind of personal bias.
The length of CTCN Technical Assistance Projects is usually 6 months. A lighter touch system also needs to be in place – shorter than a traditional development cooperation project. I envision a technology library that will allow a lighter response, in a couple of days. This does not mean, though, that the key element of CTCN´s work will be changing: the interaction between the experts and the national focal points is the most important part of our service.
GF: Where do you get your knowledge and information on climate issues from? Who are your trusted knowledge providers? Which one do you trust for which parts of your knowledge?
JU: Our staff is very small, just 8 people. That is why the reputation of the Centre is being built through partnership. We look for the best experts in the fields related to each demand. How can we bring the best of the best to work in developing countries?
But we don’t just rely on getting in contact with experts. We make an effort to open up the information of companies and possible suppliers. This is done with extreme care to avoid any kind of commercial damage. There are a great number of associations and country institutes that would like to display these technologies with the support of CTCN. But it is important to not just focus on sources of technologies from the developed world. We have to have this balance about cooperation North to South, South to North and South to South. On the adaptation agenda good practices are coming from developing countries, whereas mitigation is much more ‘technology side’ and therefore developed country.
When searching for expertise, we maintain a balance in terms of the origin of the institutes – CTCN has created a consortium of 11 research centres and most of them are from the South. These institutions have become part of a “linked database”. CTCN should not maintain large repositories of data itself, but rather refer to the best sources.
The CTCN Consortium Partners are:
- Asian Institute of Technology (AIT) – Thailand
- Bariloche Foundation (BF) – Argentina
- Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) – South Africa
- The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) – India
- Environment and Development Action in the Third World (ENDA-TM) – Senegal
- Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center (CATIE) – Costa Rica
- World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) – Kenya
- Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) – Germany
- Energy Research Centre of the Netherlands (ECN) – The Netherlands
- National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) – United States of America
- UNEP-DTU, including expertise from UNEP-DHI Centre (URC) – Denmark
GF: What do you understand by the term ‘climate knowledge broker’? Would you describe any of the providers mentioned earlier a climate knowledge broker?
JU: We wouldn´t like to be described as those who have chosen the winner technology for developing countries. There’s a danger that the term climate knowledge broker is misinterpreted as something that relates more with the private sector. In our world it is the responsibility to obtain and distribute information. My vision is that people in developing countries working with technology and climate do not have to Google about technologies; that they see us as the primary place to come and seek information. And they know that we will guide then to the right places, that they can trust us.
One surprise to us has been the necessity to incubate some of the developing countries’ questions – sometimes we have to help them define what their most important technology requests are.
GF: What is, or would be, the best format for knowledge to be presented to make it easy for you to take on board?
JU: We are working on a Climate Technology Information Portal that will operate as part of a knowledge management system, we which expect to present in Paris this year [at COP]. One of the reports and reviews I would like to do is a summary of what is working and what is not, based on our experience up to now.
GF: What is your biggest concern when it comes to finding climate relevant information? Are there any gaps in the available information or knowledge which you would like to see filled? Are there limitations to the way knowledge is currently provided or problems in the way that providers work?
JU: There are various levels of information services that can be imagined and are still not available. The one we are working on now is a “library”, a database, a kind of list of technologies that can consulted. The first baseline for this database indicates the existence of 300 technology sectors or fields that relate to climate mitigation and adaptation. The other level is more direct interaction with our clients. We respond to specific technical and policy questions through a network of qualified experts.
GF: How do you weigh up knowledge from more than one source to create actionable knowledge on your side?
JU: One of my great concerns is not to point parties in developing countries in one specific direction. We are not saying this one instead of that other. We do not want to patronize them. Our work is to create “information services” that enables the local authorities to make informed decisions. The questions vary between policy level and technical needs, which guides us to search for the appropriate expert who will be able to help.
GF: Can you give any specific examples where a climate knowledge broker has influenced decisions?
JU: CTCN’s technical assistance service has now been available for a year and we have served over 35 developing countries so far that are implementing projects following guidance from CTCN.
GF: Do you have any other comments on issues relevant to our discussion?
JU: Some of the political barriers put forward to the international negotiations for technology transfer are not justifiable. So far from among 35 requests we have never faced any intellectual property issues. I am waiting to see how an issue like this would affect our work, and I think that within the negotiations it would be better to work in concrete terms instead of hypothetical cases.