Obama joins 19 countries to double clean energy funding

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President Obama and 19 world leaders are committed to double the amount of money they put into clean energy research and development.

The formal announcement will come Monday at the United Nations’ climate change conference in Paris, where leaders plan to wrap up final negotiations for a worldwide pact to fight global warming.

The commitment would put the countries’ funding for low- or zero-carbon technologies like wind power and nuclear energy at about $20 billion in five years, with about half of that amount spent by the United States, Obama administration officials said Sunday. 

The White House said the effort, dubbed Mission Innovation, relies on research and development strategies that have proven successful in the United States.

“This is an effort designed to accelerate clean energy innovation and address global climate change, provide affordable clean energy to consumers with a special focus on the developing world in creating commercial opportunities for creating clean energy in developing countries,” top Obama adviser Brian Deese told reporters Sunday shortly before the president departed for Paris.

The countries involved, including India, Brazil, Denmark, Saudi Arabia and the United States, represent about 80 percent of the world’s clean energy funding by governments, and 75 percent of the carbon dioxide emissions from the power sector.

“One thing that we know clearly is that the investment in basic research in clean energy technologies needs to be connected to private capital that’s willing to deploy against the most promising of those technologies and help bring them to scale,” Deese said.

Energy Secretary Ernest MonizErnest MonizFederal task force recommends safety upgrades for gas storage Energy secretary: ‘We got it right’ on Iran deal Overnight Energy: Trump visits Flint | GOP chairman defends subpoenas in climate probe MORE said  individual countries will focus on clean energy efforts that suit their needs, like energy efficiency or reducing hydrofluorocarbons.

Moniz acknowledged that the increased funding, about 15 percent per year starting in 2017, would rely on Congress. Under Republican control, both chambers have been skeptical of funding green efforts.

But he was optimistic.

“The innovation agenda, in general, is one that actually does attract bipartisan support,” he said. “There’s a lot of support for innovation.”

Accompanying the announcement, a group of 28 investors, led by Microsoft Corp. founder Bill Gates, will unveil an effort to help companies widely deploy new clean energy technology, including to developing countries.

Gates’s parallel effort, dubbed the Breakthrough Energy Coalition, includes big names like Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg, climate activist Tom Steyer and Virgin Group founder Richard Branson.

“The renewable technologies we have today, like wind and solar, have made a lot of progress and could be one path to a zero-carbon energy future,” Gates said in a statement.

“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,” he said. “Private companies will ultimately develop these energy breakthroughs, but their work will rely on the kind of basic research that only governments can fund.”

The group did not commit to any particular funding levels, though someone familiar with the effort told ClimateWire that the program will spend billions of dollars and be “the single biggest cooperative research and development partnership in history.”

Obama is planning to meet with various heads of state and government on Monday in Paris to kick off the negotiations.