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Tens of billions pledged to boost clean energy tech

Sylvie Corbet,
Associated Press

Paris — Government and business leaders are banking on clean energy technology to fight global warming, kicking off this week’s high-stakes climate change negotiations by pledging billions of dollars to research and develop a technical fix to the planet’s climate woes.

Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates, President Barack Obama and French President Francois Hollande will launch a joint initiative on Monday after a diplomatic push in recent weeks ahead of the Paris climate conference.

A key goal is to bring down the cost of cleaner energy. At least 28 leading world investors, including Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, billionaires George Soros and Saudi Prince Alaweed bin Talal, and Jack Ma of China’s Alibaba, have signed on so far.

The new initiative is twofold: a public-private project called Mission Innovation, led by governments, and the Gates-led investor group called the Breakthrough Energy Initiative.

The governments pledge to double their spending on low or no-carbon energy over the next five years, according to Brian Deese, senior adviser to Obama on climate and energy issues. They include the U.S. China, India, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Australia, Canada, France and Norway.

Gates committed $1 billion of his money and was the “intellectual architect” behind the effort to get investors involved, U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said.

The money would focus on research and development of technologies such as energy storage, which could make better use of clean power from wind and solar regardless of the vagaries of weather.

Storing electricity is especially crucial for wind and solar power, which can be intermittent because of the weather. Improving batteries is key, and there have been breakthroughs both in technology and production announced this year.

Armed security was noticeable nearly everywhere at the Le Bourget center, and 200 to 300 people violated a national ban on protests under the state of emergency France declared when extremists killed 130 people in Paris.

About 100 protesters found to have projectiles or other suspicious objects were detained after some demonstrations turned violent, said the Paris police chief, Michel Cadot. Thousands of other people joined peaceful demonstrations in other European capitals on Sunday.