Technology has profoundly shaped society, the economy and the environment. Technology has caused many environmental and social problems, but it is also  key to addressing environmental degradation, climate change, food scarcity, waste management, and other pressing global challenges.

For example, technologies used for treating waste help solve environmental problems whereas refrigeration and air-conditioning systems that use ozone-depleting refrigerants have huge environmental impacts associated with their use. How fast human society meets these and other challenges depends in large part on the pace and scale at which good technology displaces inferior technology in different global contexts.

Technology development, deployment, transfer and diffusion is a complex process. However, environmentally sound technologies need to be compatible with development goals and any national environmental, socio-economic, and cultural priorities. Several multilateral environmental agreements, intergovernmental decisions and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development stress the importance of mechanisms to support the transfer of technology transfer.

Key terms*

  • Technology includes the equipment, knowledge and skills needed to perform a particular activity.  It includes both ‘soft technologies’ such as information, research, training, and capacity-building, and ‘hard’ technologies such as equipment.
  • Environmentally Sound Technologies are those technologies that from a life cycle perspective protect the environment, are less polluting, use resources in a sustainable manner, recycle more of their wastes and products, and handle all residual wastes in a more environmentally acceptable way than the technologies for which they are substitutes understand, utilize and replicate the technology, including the capacity to choose it and adapt it to local conditions and to integrate it with indigenous technologies.

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