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Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg launch international fund for clean energy tech

Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and a slate of A-list entrepreneurs have launched a new fund called “Breakthrough Energy Coalition” to research and develop clean energy technologies.

News of the effort, formed by a group of 28 investors from 10 countries, was leaked last week by ClimateWire and confirmed late Sunday in a Facebook post by Zuckerberg, co=-founder and chief executive of the social media giant. The Breakthrough Energy Coalition will focus on providing incentives to the private sector to produce zero-emission technologies for developed nations, but also for broad distribution of these innovations among poor nations, which are poised to suffer more from climate change ramifications such as sea-level rise and crop loss. The international aid agency Oxfam estimated last week that developing countries will have to pay $270 billion extra per year as a result of climate change if greenhouse gas emissions don’t decline.

So far, Gates and Zuckerberg have been joined by Jeff Bezos (CEO of Amazon), Meg Whitman (CEO of Hewlett Packard), Jack Ma (Executive Chairman of Alibaba), the University of California via its chief investment officer and other executives from the around the globe.

The Breakthrough Energy Coalition, according to its statement of principles, will invest in innovations for “electricity generation and storage, transportation, industrial use, agriculture and energy system efficiency” to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. However, this statement doesn’t list a monetary goal for the fund.

In a press release on Sunday, President Barack Obama said the U.S., France and 18 other countries would launch a sister multi-national fund called Mission Innovation in conjunction with the Breakthrough Energy Coalition. This program will focus on similar zero-emissions innovations created by the public sector rather the private sector.

Countries joining the fund will double their own research and development budgets for clean energy over five years and be used for “early stage research and development.” This commitment will “increase their annual spending on basic research and development to $20 billion, up from current levels of about $10 billion,” according to the Washington Post.

The White House statement reads:

Today in Paris, President Obama and French President Hollande, along with a wide range of other top global leaders, will announce “Mission Innovation,” an initiative to dramatically accelerate public and private global clean energy innovation to address global climate change, provide affordable clean energy to consumers, including in the developing world, and create additional commercial opportunities in clean energy.

Through the initiative, 20 countries are committing to double their respective clean energy research and development (R&D) investment over five years. These countries include the top five most populous nations – China, India, the United States, Indonesia, and Brazil. They stretch across five continents. And when you add all partner countries together, they represent 75 percent of the world’s CO2 emissions from electricity, and more than 80 percent of the world’s clean energy R&D investment.

They also represent the myriad ways we create and use energy. The Mission Innovation members include some of the largest oil and gas producers – the United States, Canada, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Mexico, Norway and Indonesia – as well as many with high penetration of renewables in their power sectors, such as Canada, Norway, Denmark, Brazil and Chile.

The announcement coincides with the start of the COP21 Climate Change Conference in Paris, where world leaders hope to reach an agreement on policies aimed at reducing fossil fuel emissions.

The Paris summit will start on Monday and continue through Dec. 11.

Gates made headlines earlier this year when he announced plans to donate $2 billion over the next five years for renewable energy projects.

Forbes estimates Gates’ net worth at $79 billion.

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