A fund of solutions
describes how the Multilateral Fund has helped transfer technology
Conceived in the womb of science, born in a divided world, reared in the cradle of a North-South compact and matured with the coming of age of the emerging technologies that ensured its implementation, the Montreal Protocol at its tenth anniversary is a leitmotif of environmental success.
One hundred and eighteen of the Protocol's 162 Parties are developing countries. The Multilateral Fund was established in June 1990 - in an amendment to the Protocol - to provide financial and technical cooperation, including transfer of technologies, to enable them to comply. The Fund became operational on an interim basis on 1 January 1991, and permanently three years later, under the authority of the Parties. It is managed by a 14-member Executive Committee with equal representation from developed and developing countries.
The transfer of technologies to developing countries constitutes an important means of phasing out their use of ozone-depleting substances (ODS), even though it is not an end in itself. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), UNEP, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the World Bank have been contracted by the Executive Committee to implement investment and technical assistance projects which involve substantial technology transfer and associated training and information dissemination.
The transition from ODS to ozone-friendly substances is basically a technological change. The transfer of technologies involves, among other things: identifying needs; acquiring patents and designs; adapting technology for local assimilation; identifying and procuring appropriate equipment and materials; training personnel; and technical assistance.
The Protocol enjoins each Party to ensure that the best available, environmentally safe substitutes and related technologies are expeditiously transferred to developing countries under fair and most favourable conditions.
The Executive Committee of the Multilateral Fund has provided 106 developing countries with the technical know-how to assess suitable substitute technologies, identify their sources, and find the most appropriate way of transferring them. It has done this by funding such activities as workshops, information dissemination, the preparation of Country Programmes and project proposals, and the organization of Networks.
Demonstration projects have enabled plant managers and experts from developing countries to cooperate in successfully transferring technology through designing and implementing pilot or full-scale projects.
The process of preparing projects enables developing country enterprises to select technologies appropriate to their needs. Constant interaction between consultants from the agencies and the enterprises' technical representatives, as well as visits to plants in developed countries, serve to upgrade local knowledge and expertise. Peer review of project documents ensures that the enterprise receives suitable technology under fair and favourable conditions. Government clearance of project proposals further ensures that the technology transfer meets local conditions and standards.
Projects to transfer technology to developing countries are evaluated against criteria adopted by the Committee - within the framework of the provisions of the Protocol and decisions of the Parties - to ensure technological soundness, safety, fairness and cost-effectiveness. Implementing approved projects which involve installing or modifying equipment, trying out substitute technology and testing new products is also beneficial. It promotes collaboration with local experts and provides training by suppliers of the technology and external consultants to ensure a smooth and safe transition. This is further guaranteed by supervision by consultants from the implementing agencies, including periodic visits to ascertain progress and/or reinforce earlier training.
Most of the technologies already transferred - except those concerning aerosols - were new, and their transfer to developing countries was effected instantly. To take one example, refrigeration technology based on using hydrocarbons as substitutes for CFCs, developed in Europe in 1992-1993, was rapidly transferred to developing countries. Similarly, technology using liquid carbon dioxide for foam blowing was implemented in several developing countries before many industrialized ones.
The Executive Committee is finalizing its guidelines for dealing with projects to convert ODS production facilities in developing countries.
So far, the Multilateral Fund has financed 1,800 projects in 106 developing countries over the past six years for a total of $565 million. These covered a wide range of technology transfer through investment projects in aerosols, foams, fire extinguishing, refrigeration (more than 26 million CFC-free fridges will be produced with the Fund's assistance), metal cleaning and other sectors. This will eliminate more than 80,000 tonnes of the current 200,000-tonne consumption of ODS in developing countries.
Dr. Omar El-Arini is Chief Officer of the Multilateral Fund for the Implementation of the Montreal Protocol.