We have lift-off: Experts call for green growth boost at Paris

Apollo project will clamour at UN summit for US$15 billion in renewable investment a year this decade to halt climate change

The Apollo 16 Saturn V space vehicle carrying astronauts John W. Young, Thomas K. Mattingly II, and Charles M. Duke, Jr., lifted off to the Moon at 12:54 p.m. EST April 16, 1972, from the Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39A. (Flickr/ Stuart rankin)

Apollo 16, the fifth space vehicle to make a lunar landing, takes off in 1972 from Kennedy Space Center (Flickr/ Stuart Rankin)

By Alex Pashley

Prominent scientists, business leaders and economists have urged countries to back a clean energy project that emulates the race to put a man on the moon at a crunch climate summit later this year.

27 leading figures signed a letter on Wednesday supporting the Global Apollo Program, which intends to make renewable electricity cheaper than its coal-fired generation over the next decade.

“We urge the leading nations of the world to commit to this positive, practical initiative by the Paris climate conference in December,” it said, carrying the signatures of naturalist David Attenborough, economist Jeffrey Sachs and Unilever CEO Paul Polman.


The plan is the product of a group of UK figures including Sir David King, the country’s climate change envoy, and economist Lord Nicholas Stern.

Just 2% of public funded research and development is invested in clean energy and the private sector too spends little, they say.

Almost 200 nations are crafting an agreement to cap warming by 2C, expected to be signed at the summit in December.

But national carbon-cutting pledges are so far insufficient to avoid dangerous climate change, as countries chafe at shifting their economies off abundant fossil fuels.

Ramping up R&D on technology like smart grids and energy storage are key to making an economic transition to clean energy, the programme’s leaders argue.

Global Apollo Program letter

We the undersigned believe that global warming can be addressed without adding significant economic costs or burdening taxpayers with more debt.

A sensible approach to tackling climate change will not only pay for itself but provide economic benefits to the nations of the world.

The aspiration of the Global Apollo Program is to make renewable energy cheaper than coal within 10 years. We urge the leading nations of the world to commit to this positive, practical initiative by the Paris climate conference in December.

The plan requires leading governments to invest a total of $15 billion a year in research, development and demonstration of clean energy.

That compares to the $100 billion currently invested in defence R&D globally each year.

Public investment now will save governments huge sums in the future.

What is more, a coordinated R&D plan can help bring energy bills down for billions of consumers.

Renewable energy gets less than 2% of publicly funded R&D. The private sector spends relatively small sums on clean energy research and development.

Just as with the Apollo space missions of the 1960s, great scientific minds must now be assembled to find a solution to one of the biggest challenges we face.

Please support the Global Apollo Program – the world’s 10 year plan for cheaper, cleaner energy.

– Sir David Attenborough
– Professor Brian Cox
– Paul Polman, CEO, Unilever
– Arunabha Ghosh, CEO, Council on Energy Environment and Water
– Ed Davey, Former UK Energy Secretary
– Bill Hare, Founder and CEO, Climate Analytics
– Nilesh Y. Jadhav, Program Director, Energy Research Institute @NTU, Singapore
– Niall Dunne, Chief Sustainability Officer, BT
– Carlo Carraro, Director, International Centre for Climate Governance
– Professor Sir Brian Hoskins, Chair, Grantham Institute
– Mark Kenber, CEO, The Climate Group
– Ben Goldsmith, Founder, Menhaden Capital
– Sabina Ratti, Executive Director, FEEM – Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei
– Lord Browne, Chairman L1 Energy
– Zac Goldsmith MP
– Professor Martin Siegert, Co-Director Grantham Institute
– Professor Joanna Haigh CBE, Co-Director, Grantham Institute and Vice President of Royal Meteorological Society
– Peter Bakker, President, World Business Council for Sustainable Development
– Dr Fatima Denton, African Climate Policy Centre
– Denys Shortt, CEO, DCS Group
– Lord Turner, Former Chairman, Financial Services Authority
– Lord O’Donnell, Former Cabinet Secretary
– Lord Layard, London School of Economics
– Professor John Shepherd CBE FRS
– Lord Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal

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