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Thursday, June 21, 2018

By Michael A. Memoli, Tribune Washington Bureau (TNS)

PARIS — The United States and 18 other nations will pledge Monday to double their investment in renewable energy technology by 2020, joining a separate private sector effort led by Bill Gates that aims to help catalyze a major international climate agreement at a United Nations climate summit here.

President Barack Obama will join French President Francois Hollande to announce the so-called Mission Innovation initiative, which the White House says will be a critical step toward limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius.

According to the White House, the participating nations — which will include major carbon emitters such as the United States as well as China and India — currently invest $10 billion in research and development for new technologies. The U.S. accounts for half of that sum through various programs across the government, many centered at the Department of Energy.

The new financial commitment will be supplemented by an initiative led by Gates called the Breakthrough Energy Coalition that aims to commit the private sector to help spread clean-energy technologies, particularly through the developing world.

The private sector coalition includes major tech industry figures such as Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Amazon’s Jeffrey Bezos, as well as former California gubernatorial hopeful Meg Whitman, now chair of Hewlett Packard, and Democratic donor and environmental activist Tom Steyer.

“I think there is a universal recognition that we need to do more to ensure that we are investing in clean energy technology so that we can continue to drive the type of innovation that is really going to drive down costs to make these technologies deployable across the developing world,” White House senior adviser Brian Deese told reporters Sunday in previewing the proposal.

University of California President Janet Napolitano said the involvement of the university system, which includes three national energy labs, would include working with partner countries to share approaches to developing research for private sector investment.

“As a public research institution we take the imperative to solve global climate change very seriously,” Napolitano said in a statement.

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Photo: US President Barack Obama delivers a speech on the opening day of the World Climate Change Conference 2015 in Le Bourget