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Policies for the Development and Transfer of Eco-Innovations: Lessons from the Literature


  • David Popp

    (University of Syracuse)


Along with the recent success of economic growth in the developing world comes more pollution. Reducing these emissions while still enabling these countries to grow requires the use of new technologies in these countries. In most cases, these technologies are first created in high-income countries. Thus, the challenge for environmental policy is to encourage the transfer of these environmentally-friendly technologies to the developing world. This paper reviews the economic literature on both the creation and transfer of environmental technologies, with an emphasis on how the development of new technologies in leading economies can lead to environmental improvements in developing countries. I begin by discussing the incentives for environmentally-friendly innovation, which occurs primarily in developed countries. I then review the literature on the transfer of these technologies to the developing world. A key point is that technology diffusion is gradual. Early adoption of policy by developed countries leads to the development of new technologies that make it easier for developing countries to reduce pollution as well. Globalization also plays an important role in moving clean technologies to developing countries. Since clean technologies are first developed in the world’s leading economies, international trade and foreign investments provide access to these technologies. Finally, the absorptive capacity of nations is important. The technological skills of the local workforce enable a country to learn from, and build upon, technologies brought in from abroad. I conclude by discussing the implication of these lessons for policy, focusing on three examples pertaining to climate change: the Clean Development Mechanism, the role of intellectual property, and government-sponsored R&D. La croissance économique récente dans les pays en développement s’accompagne d’un accroissement de la pollution. Pour réduire ces émissions tout en se développant, ces pays devront utiliser de nouvelles technologies. Le plus souvent, ces technologies émaneront de pays développés. Ainsi, un défi des politiques environnementales est d’encourager le transfert de technologies propres vers les pays en développement. Cet article passe en revue la littérature économique sur la création et le transfert des technologies environnementales. Il met l’accent sur les liens entre le développement de ces technologies dans les pays développés et l’amélioration de la performance environnementale des pays en développement. Je commence par discuter les incitations à l’innovation favorable à l’environnement, qui se situe essentiellement dans les pays développés. Ensuite, j’analyse la littérature qui traite du transfert de ces technologies vers les pays en développement. Un résultat majeur est que la diffusion de ces technologies est graduelle. Lorsque les pays développés adoptent une politique environnementale, cela peut induire le développement de nouvelles technologies qui vont rendre plus facile la réduction des pollutions dans les pays en développement. La mondialisation joue un rôle important dans le transfert de technologies vers les pays en développement. Dans la mesure où les technologies propres émanent d’abord des pays développés, le commerce international et les investissements internationaux donnent accès à ces technologies. Enfin, la capacité d’une économie à absorber le progrès technique est un facteur important. Les compétences technologiques de la main-d’œuvre locale permettent à un pays d’apprendre et d’exploiter des technologies importées de l’étranger. En guise de conclusion, je discute les conséquences de ces résultats pour les politiques publiques, en me focalisant sur trois exemples dans le domaine de la lutte contre le changement climatique : le mécanisme de développement propre, le rôle de la propriété intellectuelle et l’aide publique à la R&D.

Suggested Citation

  • David Popp, 2009. "Policies for the Development and Transfer of Eco-Innovations: Lessons from the Literature," OECD Environment Working Papers 10, OECD Publishing.
  • Handle: RePEc:oec:envaaa:10-en
    DOI: 10.1787/218676702383

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    Cited by:

    1. Ramona Miron & Simona Gabor, 2012. "Intellectual Property Within The Emerging Renewable Energy Market: A Case Study Of The Eu," CES Working Papers, Centre for European Studies, Alexandru Ioan Cuza University, vol. 4(3), pages 364-384, September.


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