The UK government has announced plans to launch a GBP400m package of investment alongside the US billionaire Bill Gates to boost the development of new green technologies.
Boris Johnson said the deal would help power a “green industrial revolution” and develop emerging technologies that were currently too expensive to be commercially successful but were essential to hitting the government’s climate goals.
Speaking at a Global Investment Summit at the Science Museum in London on Tuesday, the prime minister said the partnership would help develop UK technology related to carbon capture and storage, long-term battery life, jet zero (zero-carbon aviation) and green hydrogen technology.
“I think these are all technologies that have massive potential but are currently underinvested in, by comparison with some others,” Johnson said.
“We will only achieve our ambitious climate goals if we rapidly scale up new technologies in areas like green hydrogen and sustainable aviation fuels – technologies that seemed impossible just a few years ago.”
The UK has already pledged at least GBP200m to the development of new British green technologies. Gates announced on Tuesday that he would match the commitment via Breakthrough Energy Catalyst, a coalition of private investors he leads in funding innovative approaches to tackling the climate crisis.
“Ahead of Cop26, this new partnership with Catalyst is a boost to the UK’s vision for a green industrial revolution,” the prime minister said. “It will help to bring innovative technologies to market globally, while building new skills and creating high-quality jobs across the UK.”
Gates said he would work with the UK government to select projects that would be backed by the new fund. “We will scale those up and bring down that cost, so we’ll
get these to the same place we are today with solar and onshore wind, and so they can be scaled up to reduce emissions,” he said.
“Our partnership with the UK will accelerate the deployment of these critical climate solutions, helping to make them more affordable and accessible,” Gates added. “In order to achieve net zero emissions, we need to reduce the costs of clean technologies so they can compete with and replace the high-emitting products we use today – I call this difference in price the green premium.”
The Microsoft co-founder praised the UK for making “immense progress” in reducing carbon emissions and for introducing policies that helped support science.
Speaking before Cop26, which begins in Glasgow on 31 October, Johnson told the gathering of the international business elite that the time was ripe for government to join hands with the private sector to commercialise green technology.
“We should be using this moment, collectively as governments, to leverage in the trillions of the market, creating the country platforms that will not only tackle climate change but deliver green jobs and green growth around the world,” he said.
“I can deploy billions – with the approval of the chancellor, obviously – but you in this room, you can deploy trillions.”
Johnson said the more than 200 business leaders and investors invited to the conference collectively had $24tn (GBP17.4tn) of assets under management. “I want to say to each and every one of those dollars, you are very welcome to the UK and you have come to the right place at the right time.”