Poor nations seek climate technology from solar power to manure

Solar panels at a solar carport outside Garden City Mall in Africa.
Solar panels at a solar carport outside Garden City Mall in Africa. PHOTO: AFP

OSLO (Reuters) - With projects including solar power in Mali or energy from cow manure in Ecuador, developing nations are starting to seek green technologies through a UN system meant as a building block for a global deal on climate change next month.

Many developing nations want guarantees that rich countries will provide more technology, along with far more finance, to help unlock a UN deal to slow global warming at a Nov 30-Dec 11 summit in Paris.

Technology will "play a key role in the implementation of the 2015 agreement" due in Paris, Kunihiko Shimada, chair of the UN Technology Executive Committee which guides policy, said.

A UN Climate Technology Centre and Network (CTCN), giving free advice and assistance, started in 2014 and now has 57 requests for help, up from 22 a year ago.

Among those requests, Ecuador asked in September for an anaerobic digester which can turn cow manure into biogas to reduce greenhouse gases in the western Santo Domingo region. Cows are a big sources of methane, a greenhouse gas.

Last month, Mali asked for help to build a 3 megawatt solar power plant using mirrors that concentrate the sun's rays.

"This technology is mature," it said, noting similar plants were in the Mojave desert in the United States and in southern Spain.

Other requests include an Iranian plan to build a desalination plant for sea water, partly to help offset reduced rainfall, and an early warning system in the Dominican Republic to give alerts about storms and other disasters.

"It's an important signal before Paris that countries are applying for support: it's both symbolic and builds trust," said Shane Tomlinson, a senior research fellow at the Chatham House think-tank.

Countries submit requests to the CTCN that are examined by experts who help contacts with funding agencies and companies. Most requests are at preliminary stages. None have yet been completed.

Shimada said the UN technology mechanism was seeking tighter links with banks and other sources of finance, such as the UN's Green Climate Fund. Investment needs were likely to be hundreds of billions of dollars a year.

Jennifer Morgan, of the World Resources Institute think-tank, said guarantees of new technology were vital to convince developing nations that they would benefit from a Paris accord.

"It will build developing nations' confidence to do more" to combat climate change at home, she said.