A major announcement has already come out of the Paris Climate Summit – governments and billionnaires will cooperate to infuse many billions of dollars into clean energy research that can help solve climate change.
20 governments – including the US, China and India – will double federal investments in basic research over the next five years as part of the "Mission Innovation" initiative.
And 28 of the world’s wealthiest individuals – spearheaded by Bill Gates – will invest in the early-stage companies that emerge from those government research programs to get promising technologies into the marketplace.
Under the Breathrough Energy Coalition, they will pool their money in an investment fund to spark a "new economic revolution" based on clean energy.
It is the biggest public-private R&D partnership ever.
20 countries will each double their spending on basic research over the next five years, to reach about $20 billion.
The countries are: US, Canada, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, France, Germany, UK, China, India, Australia, Brazil, Chile, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirates.
"While significant progress has been made in cost reduction and deployment of clean energy technologies, the pace of innovation and the scale of transformation is falling far short of what is required," says the White House.
The initiative will close the gap. In the US, that means doubling the $5 billion budget for basic energy research, which has been languishing under cuts demanded by the Republican majority.
This "should send a strong signal to the markets . . . that these countries are committing to going all-in on clean energy," says Brian Deese, Obama’s advisor on climate and energy issues.
Breakthrough Energy Coalition
Billionnaire investors will provide patient, early stage capital to companies that can take technologies from the world’s finest labs and get them to scale in the marketplace.
They will invest in everything from electricity generation and storage to transportation and agriculture.
Microsoft founder Bill Gates has long called for more emphasis and vastly more dollars for clean energy research, saying we need "miracle" technologies – on the order of the automobile – to prevent climate catastrophe.
He’s already spent about $1 billion to help 30 start-ups get off the ground, and plans to spend a billion more.
Other billionnaire investors in the group include Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Reid Hoffman of LinkedIn, Richard Branson of Virgin Group, Jack Ma of Alibaba Group, and Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote. The University of California is also participating.
"But given the scale of the challenge, we need to be exploring many different paths – and that means we also need to invent new approaches. Private companies will ultimately develop these energy breakthroughs, but their work will rely on the kind of basic research that only governments can fund. Both have a role to play," says Gates.
Learn more about Mission Innovation and Breakthrough Energy Coalition: