The Paris conference won’t be a success unless it establishes ambitious policies to address climate change, and puts serious money behind them. To do something about the latter, Bill Gates will announce on Monday the creation of the Breakthrough Energy Coalition—an initiative to accelerate private investment in clean energy research and development that includes some other boldface names, including Mark Zuckerberg and Jeff Bezos.
But while Gates thinks private investment in technological innovation has the potential to change the energy system faster than we can even imagine, he also admits this is not something the private sector can do alone. “Since World War II, U.S.-government R&D has defined the state of the art in almost every area,” he said in a recent interview with The Atlantic, disputing the prevailing wisdom within the Republican Party that the government should get out of the business of picking “winners and losers” entirely.
Gates’s wish for more R&D may be answered: 20 countries are launching Mission Innovation on the first day of the climate negotiations in Paris and pledging to double their state R&D budgets for clean energy over the next five years. This is good news indeed, and could help ease concerns among developing nations about climate finance, if—and it’s a big if—countries can actually get the funding. The U.S. is part of this initiative, though it’s unclear whether this is something a GOP-controlled Congress could actually get behind.