PARIS — Bill Gates and a powerful coalition of top Silicon Valley thinkers, leaders and philanthropists will announce on Monday two initiatives created to spend tens of billions of dollars in the next five years to develop clean energy technology in efforts to fight global warming.
Along with the 10-campus University of California system — with its three national energy labs — the team of stellar names includes Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan, Meg Whitman, John Doerr, Tom Steyer, Marc Benioff and Vinod Khosla. This group, Gates said, will support companies that are taking innovative clean-energy ideas out of the lab and into the marketplace.
“I’m in Paris today with several world leaders for a big announcement on energy and climate change,” he wrote Sunday evening on his blog, Gatesnotes.com. “It is deeply moving to be in this city just two weeks after the horrific attacks here, and I am inspired by the way the French people have persevered in such a difficult time.”
The UC system has pledged $1 billion over the next five years toward the research and development effort led by Gates, the Microsoft founder and philanthropist.
“Home to some of the best climate scientists in the world and as a public research institution,” said UC President Janet Napolitano, “we take the imperative to solve global climate change very seriously.”
Gates commented, “We can’t ask for a better partner than the University of California Office of the President and the Office of the Chief Investment Officer to help accomplish the Breakthrough Energy Coalition’s ambitious goal. The UC system … produces the kinds of groundbreaking technologies that will help define a global energy future that is cheaper, more reliable, and does not contribute to climate change.”
In writing about the two initiatives — called “parallel” by the White House — Gates said they will be formally announced at the opening of the United Nations climate summit. They are:
* Mission Innovation — a commitment by more than 10 countries, including the United States and France, to invest more in research on clean energy.
* Breakthrough Energy Coalition — a global group of the some of the world’s most powerful, private investors.
“I think it absolutely has to be clean energy or else we will all be living in a terrible situation,” said Steyer, president of San Francisco-based NextGen Climate. “This can be a statement to all businesses that we all should pitch in.”
In 2010, Steyer and his wife, along with Gates, signed the Giving Pledge to donate half their fortune to charity.
“With access to the private capital represented by investors in the Breakthrough Energy Coalition,” said Napolitano, “we can more effectively integrate our public research pipeline to deliver new technology and insights that will revolutionize the way the world thinks about and uses energy.”
The 10 countries, which also include India, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Australia, Canada and Norway have already decided to participate in the “ambitious” project that will aim at developing clean energies, according to one French official.
The amount of money involved, from countries, companies and individuals is projected to be in the tens of billions of dollars, according to a former U.S. government official who is familiar with the initiative and a document obtained by The Associated Press. The money would be geared toward research and development of technologies, such as energy storage, that could make clean power from wind and solar more usable regardless of weather vagaries.
Gates emphasized the importance of alleviating energy poverty, a condition suffered by millions of people who can’t get any energy, by delivering nonpolluting energy to them.
“Low- and middle-income countries need energy to develop their economies and help more people escape poverty,” Gates wrote on his blog. “But the world’s growing demand for energy is also a big problem, because most of that energy comes from hydrocarbons, which emit greenhouse gases and drive climate change. So we need to move to sources of energy that are affordable and reliable and don’t produce any carbon.”
According to the AP, the billionaire investors will make their pledges good only on the condition that the governments deliver on their end. According to an early draft of Mission Innovation, governments participating were pledging to double their clean energy research and development spending in the next five years.
A major complication for the United States is securing such funds and participation approved by a U.S. Congress controlled by a Republican Party that officially rejects climate change science.
“The Obama administration recognizes that this is a fundamental competitive advantage for the United States. It’s time to double down on that competitive advantage” and invest far more in clean energy research and development, the former U.S. official said.
Steyer believes the political winds have shifted against those who deny that climate change is even happening. “The overwhelming number of Americans want this transition to happen as soon as possible.”
The official highlighted storing electricity, which is especially crucial for wind and solar power that can be intermittent because of the weather. One key step there is to improve batteries, which has experienced breakthroughs in technology and production announced this year. Space and electric car tycoon Elon Musk’s Gigafactory began producing large batteries for home power storage to make solar and wind power more viable.
The conference center will host the climate summit that starts officially Monday with more than 140 world leaders. It continues for two weeks, with lower-level negotiators who started quietly on Sunday, after which activity increased throughout the day. U.N. climate chief Christiana Figueres said Sunday that she remained optimistic about the outcome.
Formal negotiations between lower-level officials were scheduled to begin late Sunday. On Monday, more than 140 leaders are expected to arrive, including leaders of the United States, China and Russia, to talk about their commitment to fight climate change and reduce ever-rising carbon dioxide emissions.
Armed security was noticeable nearly everywhere at the Le Bourget center where the summit will take place. The Le Bourget center formally became a temporary U.N. site in a ceremony Saturday in which French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who is president of the summit, handed over the keys to the site to Figueres.
Meanwhile, empty shoes were lined up in downtown Paris ahead of the start of international climate negotiations Sunday, filling in for global warming protesters who were not permitted to march because of security after this month’s attacks. Instead environmental advocacy groups held marches outside of Paris and around the world.
Sylvie Corbet, Karl Ritter and Seth Borenstein of The Associated Press contributed to this report.
This article was written by JOE RODRIGUEZ from Mercury News and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.