Accelerating the development of less GHG intensive technologies and promoting their global diffusion—in particular in fast-growing emerging economies—is imperative in achieving the transition to a low-carbon economy. Consequently, technology is at the core of current discussions about the post-Kyoto regime.

The purpose of this study is to fuel this discussion by providing an in-depth analysis of the geographic distribution of climate mitigation inventions since 1978 and their international diffusion on a global scale. We use the EPO/OECD World Patent Statistical Database (PATSTAT) which includes patents from 81 national and international patent offices.

We consider 13 different classes of technologies with significant global GHG emission abatement potentials, and analyse inventive activities and international technology transfer between 1978 and 2003. The technologies considered are seven renewable energy technologies (wind, solar, geothermal, ocean energy, biomass, waste-to-energy, and hydropower), methane destruction, climate-friendly cement, energy conservation in buildings, motor vehicle fuel injection, energy-efficient lighting and Carbon Capture & Storage (CCS).

This study finds that the Kyoto Protocol has caused innovation in climate change technologies to increase since 1998 and that this innovation is highly concentrated in three countries—Japan, Germany and the USA—which account for two thirds of total innovations in the thirteen technologies. The export rate of inventions—measured by the share of inventions that are patented in at least two countries—is around 25%. This sounds small, but it is only a few percent below the rate for all technologies. International transfers mostly occur between developed countries (75% of exported inventions). Exports from developed countries to emerging economies are still limited (18%) but are growing rapidly.


Dechezleprêtre, A., Glachant, M., Hascic, I., Johnstone, N., and Ménière, Y. 2009. Invention and transfer of climate change mitigation technologies on a global scale: A study drawing on patent data. Report for AFD (French Development Agency).

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