Apollo plan aims to save planet with ‘renewables space race’
A plan to halt climate change by making renewable energy cheaper than coal by 2025 has been launched by a group of UK scientists and economists.
The Global Apollo Programme, unveiled today (2 June), seeks to emulate the space race frenzy of the 1960’s to encourage more spending on clean energy.
Its founders – including UK climate change envoy Sir David King, Lord Nicholas Stern, Lord Adair Turner and ex-BP chief Lord John Browne – claim that global warming will blow past the 2˚C limit by 2035 and eventually reach 4˚C above pre-industrial levels.
The best way to tackle this, they argue, is to ramp up public spending on renewables R&D, from $6bn globally to $150bn in the next 10 years, to help make clean energy cheaper than coal.
The report announcing the Apollo plan said: “In the past, when our way of life has been threatened, governments have mounted major scientific programmes to overcome the challenges.
“In the Cold War the Apollo Programme placed a man on the moon… Today we need a global Apollo programme to tackle climate change; but this time the effort needs to be international.”
The group argues that research should focus on cutting the cost of renewables (solar in particular), and driving technology advances in energy storage and energy transmission.
“There are a number of reasons for this choice,” said the report. “First, most of the future growth in world energy demand will be in countries with high solar radiance.
“Second, the prices of renewable energies (especially solar power) have been falling extremely fast. This trend can be expected to continue, but not fast enough unless supported by basic RD&D.
“Third, renewable energy can never replace base-load fossil-fuel powered electricity unless it can be stored more cheaply. And, finally, its integration into the grid requires more sophisticated software management.”
The countries of the G7 will debate the merits of the new programme at the heads of state meeting in Germany on 7 June – during the same week that negotiators from nearly 200 countries continue the UN climate talks.
Nations that join the plan will be expected to spend 0.02% of GDP on the Programme from 2016 to 2025. They will also be granted a seat on global commissions that will co-ordinate the research to avoid overlap and encourage collaboration.
The programme aims to launch by the start of 2016, with a minimum of $15bn committed.
However, Friends of the Earth has warned that a focus on R&D spending is evidently not a priority in the UK, where subsidy cutbacks for the private sector are threatening renewable development.
Friends of the Earth campaigner Alasdair Cameron said: “An Apollo-style clean power programme is certainly exciting – but renewables are already a rocketing success and are rapidly becoming some of our cheapest sources of energy.
“The best way to boost the development of renewable energy is for the Government to make sure we keep installing it, while investing in more research – not by abandoning onshore wind, already one of the cheapest clean energy sources and getting cheaper.
“The UK led the way with the first industrial revolution, and with the right policies we could be at the forefront of the clean energy revolution too.”
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