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04 October 2010

Kyoto inspires massive upsurge in clean energy patents

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UN report links global yearly increase of 20 per cent with 1997 treaty adoption, although 80 per cent of applications are from six developed countries
The signing of the Kyoto Treaty has inspired a 20 per cent annual increase in clean energy patents worldwide and the UK is one of six nations accounting for 80 per cent of innovations in the sector, a report has found.

The study on the emergence, distribution and effect of patents on the worldwide transfer of technologies such as solar PV, geothermal, wind and carbon capture, was jointly conducted by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD) and the European Patent Office (EPO).

The analysis shows that since the adoption of the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, patenting rates in selected clean energy technologies shot up 20 per cent per year, outpacing the traditional energy sources of fossil fuels and nuclear energy.

This could provide a shot in the arm for negotiators ahead of the Cancun summit, as it demonstrates the influence political decision-making can have on technological direction and innovation.

"Far from being a drag on economies and innovation, international efforts to combat climate change have sparked technological creativity on low-carbon, resource-efficient green economy solutions," said Achim Steiner, UN under-secretary general and executive director of UNEP.

But the findings suggest that rather than this surge of clean energy technologies being a worldwide phenomenon, a group of six countries, lead by Japan, the US and Germany dominate the field. Close behind is Korea, which has stepped up considerably in solar PV patent applications. France and the UK complete the cluster, which together account for almost 80 per cent of all clean energy patents.

Any change in the status quo is most likely to come from China, the study said, which is following Korea's footsteps into the solar PV market and expanding its renewable energy market rapidly.


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