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Global Apollo programme to make renewables less costly than coal within ten years

LSE’s Lord Richard Layard and Lord Nicholas Stern are part of a group of leading thinkers proposing an internationally coordinated research programme to make clean electricity less costly than electricity from coal within 10 years.

In their report, A Global Apollo Programme to Tackle Climate Change, the contributors, who bring together experience from business, academia and government, argue that anything less would make it impossible to contain the world’s temperature rise within the crucial 2˚C limit that has been internationally agreed.

The report says: “In the Cold War the Apollo Programme placed a man on the moon. This programme engaged many of the best minds in America. Today we need a global Apollo programme to tackle climate change; but this time the effort needs to be international. We need a major international scientific and technological effort, funded by both public and private money.”

“The greatest scientific challenge facing the world is the need for clean energy that costs less than that from fossil fuel,” says the report. “Yet only two per cent of world R&D now goes on that problem. In the past, when our way of life has been threatened, governments have mounted major scientific programmes.”

global_apollo_programmeCurrent public investment in renewable energy RD&D is not commensurate with the gravity of the threat, and is not co-ordinated. “It has been starved”, says the report. Only $6 billion a year is currently spent on renewable energy RD&D.  By comparison, annual subsidies to fossil fuel industries total some $550 billion.  This must change, the authors say.

Countries joining the programme will commit to spending in their own countries at least 0.02 per cent of GDP on this internationally coordinated programme of research each year over a 10-year period. Key problems to be addressed will include electricity storage, smarts grids and renewables (wind and solar electricity).

The effort will be coordinated by a Roadmap Committee, similar to that which has lowered the price of semiconductors year upon year for decades. It is hoped that the Committee would be co-located with the International Energy Agency in Paris.

The May 12th Communiqué from the G7 Energy Ministers Meeting gave a commitment ‘to work with each other and with other like-minded countries to raise the overall co-ordination and transparency of global spending on clean energy research, development and demonstration.’

The Global Apollo Programme (GAP) is the model for such an initiative. It has been privately discussed with governments worldwide - especially with those of the G7 countries, China, Korea and India.  It has already received strong expressions of support and the authors hope that the key countries will join the consortium by the end of this year.

The authors of the Global Apollo Programme are Sir David King (former UK Government Chief Scientist), Lord John Browne (former Chief Executive of BP), Lord Gus O’Donnell (former UK Cabinet Secretary), Lord Nicholas Stern (author of the Stern Report), Lord Adair Turner (former Chairman of the UK Committee on Climate Change), Lord Martin Rees (Astronomer Royal) and Lord Richard Layard (LSE economist).

Supporters say:

At last – an authorative, practical and comprehensible plan that could avert the catastrophe that is threatening our planet.” Sir David Attenborough

Reducing the cost of solar electricity generation and storage technologies would be a game-changer in transforming the world’s energy systems…The Global Apollo Programme is an important proposal, and I hope countries will contribute both financial and technological resources to this public good.” Dr Kandeh K. Yumkella

Posted: Tuesday 2 June 2015

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