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Tuesday, 01 December 2015 11:58

A Stern welcome to big clean energy cash announcement at climate talks

Influential climate change economist Lord Stern has welcomed the 'Mission Innovation' launch at the Paris hosted UN climate change talks, whereby 20 major economies last night pledged to double their investments in clean energy Research & Development, and he particularly sees great hope in solar allied to electrical storage.

nicholas stern web copyThe 20 countries in Mission Innovation are in alphabetical order: Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Denmark, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Norway, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Sweden, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and the United States.

Responding to the pledges, Nicholas Stern, Chair of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics and Political Science, said: “This announcement at the start of COP21 signals serious intent, by both the private and public sectors, to act on climate change. The pledge means that US$20 billion will be invested by 20 countries in clean energy research and development over five years, which represents a doubling in public spending.

“By comparison, the Global Apollo Programme, which was launched by Sir David King, myself and others earlier this year, made the case for global spending research, development and demonstration to be increased from US$6 billion to US$15 billion per year. So, whilst today’s announcement is clearly an important and significant move to help accelerate the transition to a low-carbon economy, more investment is still needed.

“The last decade has witnessed some clean energy technologies develop much more quickly than we could have predicted. As a result, the costs associated with clean energy have fallen rapidly. In particular, the cost of solar photovoltaic energy has been slashed by recent technological progress.

“With investment, the costs associated with clean energy can fall further still. This new wave of funding for research and development on clean technology could make unsubsidised solar energy, coupled with electricity storage, competitive with fossil fuels for power generation in much of the world within a decade. And that is even without taking account of the fact that the prices paid for fossil fuels do not reflect the costs of damage they create through climate change and local air pollution.

“Investment in solar energy is all the more important for developing countries. The vast majority of growth in energy demand will come from the developing world, where there is the greatest potential for solar energy. In Africa and South Asia, where most of the poorest people in the world live, low-cost clean energy can help bring electricity to those that need it most.”

The Joint Statement issued yesterday by the 20 Government's involved at the start of Mission Innovation includes: Accelerating widespread clean energy innovation is an indispensable part of an effective, long-term global response to our shared climate challenge; necessary to provide affordable and reliable energy for everyone and to promote economic growth; and critical for energy security. While important progress has been made in cost reduction and deployment of clean energy technologies, the pace of innovation and the scale of transformation and dissemination remains significantly short of what is needed.

mission innovation launch copyFor these reasons, participating countries have come together to launch Mission Innovation to reinvigorate and accelerate public and private global clean energy innovation with the objective to make clean energy widely affordable. Additional countries will be encouraged to join in the future.

Double Governmental Investment in Clean Energy Innovation. Each participating country will seek to double its governmental and/or state-directed clean energy research and development investment over five years. New investments would be focused on transformational clean energy technology innovations that can be scalable to varying economic and energy market conditions that exist in participating countries and in the broader world. Research and development projects would be designed and managed to attract private investors willing to advance commercialization. While each participating country's clean energy innovation portfolio is unique and reflects national priorities, all participating countries share the common goal to accelerate the pace of the clean energy revolution now underway in an appropriate way. This endeavor should help facilitate affordable access to critical technologies.

Private Sector and Business Leadership. Business needs to play a vital role in the commercialization and cost-effectiveness of clean energy breakthroughs, and participating countries commit to work closely with the private sector as it increases its investment in the earlier-stage clean energy companies that emerge from government research and development programs. Participating countries especially commend the contribution being made by a group of investors through the Breakthrough Energy Coalition. These investors from 10 countries and representing leadership from many key economic sectors are prepared to drive innovation from the laboratory to the market through the investment of patient capital at unprecedented levels into early-stage technology development into participating countries. This commitment, as stated in the Coalition's principles, will be focused on investment opportunities sourced from the countries participating in Mission Innovation. Participating countries also look forward to working with additional private sector partners who are willing to share our common goal of increasing investment for clean energy innovation.

Mission Innovation
Global Apollo Programme
United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP21, Paris 2015)
Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change