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Remarks Announcing the Mission Innovation Initiative in Le Bourget, France

November 30, 2015

Good afternoon. Prime Minister Modi and I apologize for being late, but I can assure you we were working—[laughter]—and, hopefully, helping to advance President Hollande's agenda in a successful Paris summit. I want to thank François, my fellow leaders, Prime Minister Modi and Bill Gates—two of the driving forces behind today's announcement.

We're here because we recognize the urgency of climate change and we believe that there's something that we can all do about it as long as we work together. And while the agreement that we seek in Paris will be forged by governments, the ambitious targets that we set for ourselves are going to be reached in large part by the efforts of our scientists, our businesses, our workers, our investors. And that's why the private sector, from inventors to investors, will have a seat at the table throughout this process.

Helping developing nations skip the dirty phase of development is vital to meeting this challenge. One of the things that Prime Minister Modi and I discussed is, you've got 300 million people in India who still don't have electricity. We cannot forge a climate agreement that says they are permanently resigned to not having electricity. That's not an option. So we have to make sure that the same process of development is taking place, but using a whole new set of technologies and arrangements so that we don't have a conflict between development and solving this climate crisis.

But the leap forward is going to take much more than pledges for development assistance from governments. It's going to take private sector efforts and a commitment to innovation and the capital to keep driving down the cost of clean energy all around the world.

And that's why today we're announcing Mission Innovation. And I believe this is going to be one of the most significant public-private partnerships ever forged to accelerate energy innovation on a global scale. First of all, the 20 participating nations, representing more than 80 percent of global clean energy innovation dollars, we're going to seek to double our R&D budget over the next 5 years. Second, a coalition of 28 leading private investors from all over the world, including both Democrats and Republicans from the United States—some folks who have supported me and some folks who haven't always in the past on politics, but do support the climate change agenda—are committing to invest unprecedented resources to bring those technologies to the market.

And we know that this kind of partnership works. I'll give you an example. Shortly after I took office, the United States made the single biggest Federal investment in clean energy in our history. And those investments helped drive down the cost of clean energy faster than anyone thought possible, including me at the time. There are now thousands of private sector renewable energy projects nationwide, projects that employ tens of thousands of Americans and help drive down our carbon emissions.

Thanks in part to these investments, America now generates 20 times as much solar power as we did in 2008. Last year was solar's biggest year ever. Prices fell by 10 percent, installations climbed by 30 percent, and the solar industry added jobs more than 10 times faster than the rest of the economy. Now, Bill has pointed out—and he's absolutely right—that we're also going to have to just invent some entirely new technologies. I mean, the truth is, if we adapt existing technologies and make them cheaper and faster and more readily available, if we improve energy efficiency, we're still only going to get part of the way there, and there's still going to be a big gap to fill. And that's where these research dollars become so important. Because we don't yet know exactly what's going to work best. But we know that if we put our best minds behind it and we have the dollars behind it, we'll discover what works. We always have in the past, and we will this time as well.

And there's not a direct correlation between how much money and how quickly we invest—we invent something, but I guarantee you, if we've got more minds working on it with more resources, the likelihood that we come up with an answer faster is going to be much higher.

So between Federal investments in these technologies and the private capital that helped scale up and deploy them, we already have places in America where the power from sun and wind is cheaper than dirtier, conventional power from utilities. Now, there are issues in terms of distribution and storage and batteries, but the point is, is that we've seen more progress than we would have even imagined 7, 8 years ago. And we're already seeing America's biggest companies—like Apple, Google, Microsoft, Walmart—who have become some of the world's largest purchasers of clean energy. And they're also, in some cases, becoming some of the largest clean energy producers in the world. And they're doing this not just because it's the right thing to do, but because it makes good business sense.

And by taking this approach on a global scale—with unprecedented investment in public research, an unprecedented pool of private capital—Mission Innovation will help deliver affordable clean energy and new jobs and opportunities to people around the world for decades to come. This is how we're going to solve this challenge: together. And that's at the heart of what we're trying to accomplish here in Paris.

So I want to thank everybody for joining us. I especially want to thank Prime Minister Modi, who has been at the forefront in pursuing innovation that can help his country develop, but every country develop. And I want to thank Bill Gates, who has been visionary in this entire process and helped to gather the investors that are already stepping up. My expectation, knowing Bill, is, is that we'll see a lot more than 28 pretty soon.

So thank you very much, everybody.

NOTE: The President spoke at 5:12 p.m. in the Nelson Mandela Auditorium at the Parc des Expositions. In his remarks, he referred to Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India; President François Hollande of France; and William H. Gates III, founder, technology adviser, and board member, Microsoft Corp.

Barack Obama, Remarks Announcing the Mission Innovation Initiative in Le Bourget, France Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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