The United Nations’ Climate Technology Centre – Is this just another UN Debating Club or is there something in it for South Africa?

By Veit Köllermann, ACDI Master’s Class of 2017

On 18 May 2017, I went to an open seminar on the United Nations’ Climate Technology Centre hosted by the Energy Research Centre of the University of Cape Town. I must admit that I was a bit surprised that only five people joined the seminar, but when I saw that they were all reputable climate scientists, amongst them Professor Harald Winkler, who was just recently selected as a member of the High-Level Commission on Carbon Prices led by Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz, this confirmed that my decision to go there was right one. 

Although I am an M.Sc. Student in Climate Change and Development, I was not quite sure what the Climate Technology Centre Network actually does. This may, however, also not be surprising as I have also learnt that the United Nations is unbeatable when it comes to the use of abbreviations and (partly) complicated names for working groups, committees, programmes, etc.!

So, if you want to talk to a climate scientist, the very minimum in terms of abbreviations you have to know is UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change), COP (Conference of the Parties), UNIDO (United Nations Industrial Development Organization), UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme), INDCs (Intended National Determined Contributions), CDM (Clean Development Mechanism), NDE (National Designated Entity), CSIR (Council for Scientific and Industrial Research), and oh, I forgot of course CTC (Climate Technology Centre) and ERC (Energy Research Centre).

But hey, back to the seminar. What is the CTC (you see I am adopting the abbreviations quite quickly) and what does it do?

The CTC is hosted by UNEP in collaboration with UNIDO and is supported by 11 partner institutions with expertise in climate technologies, one of which is the CSIR in South Africa.

 The CTC states that its mission is to (Roman, 2015:6):

  • Provide high-quality technical assistance quickly and at no cost (up to a value of USD 250 000) to academic, public, NGO or private entities of developing countries via NDEs when the NDEs request support with the transfer of climate technology.
  • Foster collaboration and access to information and knowledge to accelerate climate technology transfer.
  • Work with stakeholders engaged in a wide range of activities related to climate technologies to facilitate collaboration and cooperation.
  • Strengthen networks, partnerships and capacity building for climate technology transfer, work with national stakeholders to build or enhance endogenous capacities.

Every application for technical assistance first has to be approved by the NDE, which in the case of South Africa, is an employee from the South African Department of Science, before it is submitted to the CTC for final approval. According to their website, CTC have provided technical assistance in 108 projects globally since their foundation in 2013.

The service provided by CTC sounds indeed promising, in particular, the technical assistance of up to USD 250 000. But organisations sometimes oversell themselves and I was also wondering if it might take quite some time until an applicant receives the requested assistance. So, I asked one of the ERC scientists about their experience with CTC.

She told me that the ERC applied for a contract to provide technical assistance to developing countries at the South African Department of Science and Technology (DST) in January 2017. The DST screened ERC’s application together with several other applications within one month. She further told me that the 12 qualifying proposals were circulated within the CTC network for inputs and response within three weeks. The CTC, however, three months later has not yet come to a decision on who will be awarded the contract to provide technical assistance. I think that the one month it took the South African government to decide is not very long. In this regard, it seems to be a rather unbureaucratic process. Hopefully, the CTC will also decide pretty soon who will be awarded with the technical assistance contracts.

When I started writing this blog after the seminar, one final question came to my mind, which is: How many projects can the CTC finance at all? I did some research on the internet and found out that the CTC had the goal to raise USD 100 million by the end of 2018. However, according to their latest calculation (July 2016), CTC will only raise USD 44.9 million. Unsurprisingly, CTC stated that the remaining shortfall of USD 55.1 million would primarily affect technical assistance provided to developing countries in response to country requests (Advisory Board to the CTCN, 2016).

So, coming back to the question I asked in the title of my blog, I found that the CTC is not simply a debating club, as it has some really knowledgeable partners and has already provided technical assistance in 108 projects. However, the benefits to South Africa will be limited due to CTC’s shortfall in funding, which can also be seen in Green Climate Fund and other United Nations funds.


Henry Roman. 2015. National Designated Entity – Climate Technology Centre & Network. Proceedings of the DST Information Session. Verde Hotel, Cape Town, 18 August 2015.

Advisory Board to the CTCN, CTCN Financials in a Snapshot, Eighth meeting, AB/2016/8/7.8, 23-25 August 2016. Available: _snapshot_v3.pdf. Accessed (15.05.2017). In just 1 day, 200 million work hours are consumed by #WomenCollectingWater for their families. Available: Accessed (07.06.2017).