Before moving to Cambridge to attend MIT I worked at the Climate Technology Initiative. CTI is a multilateral organization comprised of 23 wealthy nations. It was founded at the first conference of the parties of the UN climate change program in 1995. CTI is housed at the International Energy Agency in Paris, France... a very nice place to be sure.
CTI's mission is to help developing countries adopt clean, low-CO2 energy technology.. They hold workshops to bring experts and policy makers together, conduct studies, contribute to the climate change negotiations, and disseminate information.
One of my major accomplishments there was pulling together a joint book with the UN Environment Program, the International Energy Agency, and CTI. Technology Without Borders, Case Studies of Successful Technology Transfer (full text PDF) The book reviews climate change, the technology transfer process, and then dives into a bunch of case studies to look at what all this means on the ground. We attempted to draw lessons learned.
What I learned from this experience...
-Substantial writing takes a mind bogglingly long time. Budget your time, then triple it.
-Outlines are the key to success. A good outline is about half the work, and keeps you from silly tangents that your editor will chop anyways.
-Write a chunk, then ask yourself - how can I say that simpler? Did I need all those fancy words? Am I telling a story, or inadvertently boring my reader?
-Knowing your audience is important. But if your writing on the behalf of an organization larger then the Royal ME, then knowing where they're at is just as key. Writing is a really personal exercise, getting the thoughts and knowledge from your head into your readers is inherently intimate. So you really need to focus that what you can and can't say is determined by the larger structure. In this case, I had to keep all my contributing authors, boss, editor, boss's boss, and the UN environment program liaison all reasonably happy.
Trying to encourage technology transfer of environmentally superior energy technology is really tricky. But there are opportunities. Market-, information-, political-, and institutional-failures are a dime a dozen in most developing countries. The book can be seen as a collection of efforts to remedy these failures.
I found that in some cases, a clean energy option actually makes the most sense for a developing country. There are any number of issues that can hold back its deployment. There can be a high tariff on the imported equipment, regulations may prohibit the technology, a company may not be able to borrow money, no one may know about the clean technology choices. A multilateral organizations that attacks these problems can add real value.
Despite all the opportunities for correcting market failure, if the wealthy countries are serious about having poorer countries "leap-frog" technologically (ugh, I know, an ugly phrase) they will have to foot a big part of the bill. At the end of the day, renewable-energy systems typically have a large incremental cost vs. their dirtier cousins and energy efficiency programs are hard to run and take substantial upfront costs.
The essential role of "capacity building" is a theme of the book. To be honest, I still have trouble wrapping my head around this bureaucratic buzz-word. In essence, its training people, creating appropriate institutions, and designing smart regulations.
The capacity-building story that sticks out most in my mind is when this colorful Kiwi contractor came up to my office for a Friday beer. (My office was highly sought after for Friday beers, because I was on the top floor of the Australian Embassy, but my cube in E40 ain't so bad... arghhh. I digress). This guy had gone around installing solar energy systems on islands in the South Pacific for twenty years. (Wee, poor islands tend to get lots of solar energy - I assume because donor countries feel badly that their GHG emissions will submerge them this century.) According to him, most of these "green" projects are now broken, rusting, and looted. Some silly donor paid him, or someone like him to install this equipment, without any follow on training, operation, maintenance. Proper regulations and pricing were never worked out so things were bound to fail.