Major names in world science and other fields have signed up to endorse the Global Apollo Programme (GAP), which aims to make clean energy competitive with fossil fuels within 10 years.

Conservationist and broadcaster Sir David Attenborough and physicist and broadcaster Professor Brian Cox are perhaps the most high profile new advocates of the programme proposed earlier this year by scientists, economists and energy experts including Sir David King, former chief scientific advisor to the government, and currently its climate change envoy. Attenborough recorded a special message to commemorate and promote the new sign-ups. The popular nature filmmaker famously discussed climate change with US president Barack Obama in the Whitehouse at a televised visit in June.

Attenborough, Cox and 26 others from politics, business, science and academia published a letter this morning calling on nations to adopt GAP. Other signees include Unilever CEO Paul Polman, former UK energy secretary Ed Davey, Nilesh Y. Jadhav, programme director at the energy research institute of Nanyang Technology University in Singapore, Peter Bakker, president of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development and Dr Fatima Denton, African Climate Policy Centre.

“A sensible approach to tackling climate change will not only pay for itself but provide economic benefits to the nations of the world,” according to the letter.

GAP calls for global spending on clean energy research of around US$15 billion (£9.72 billion) a year for the next 10 years, a contribution of 0.02% of the GDP of each country involved between 2016 and 2025.

The programme has not been without its doubters. Jeremy Leggett, chairman and founder of solar developer Solarcentury told Solar Power Portal's sister sites PV Tech and PV Tech Storage in June that he believed costs are falling for renewables quickly enough that competitiveness with fossil fuels within 10 years will “happen anyway”.

However, Leggett did say he supported the overall aims of the programme.

“It’s important not to make this black and white. There is no doubt that additional research by bright people, well funded, is going to accelerate what’s already happening,” Leggett said.

“I’m not saying that additional research is a bad idea. What I’m objecting to is the casting of it as an effort to save the world when actually, we have a market process in train that we just have to accelerate, it’s already happening.”

Letter in full, published this morning:

We the undersigned believe that global warming can be addressed without adding significant economic costs or burdening taxpayers with more debt.

A sensible approach to tackling climate change will not only pay for itself but provide economic benefits to the nations of the world.

The aspiration of the Global Apollo Program is to make renewable energy cheaper than coal within 10 years. We urge the leading nations of the world to commit to this positive, practical initiative by the Paris climate conference in December.

The plan requires leading governments to invest a total of at least $15 billion a year in research, development and demonstration of clean energy.

That compares to the $100 billion currently invested in defence R&D globally each year.

Public investment now will save governments huge sums in the future.

What is more, a coordinated R&D plan can help bring energy bills down for billions of consumers.

Renewable energy gets less than 2% of publicly funded R&D. The private sector spends relatively small sums on clean energy research and development.

Just as with the Apollo space missions of the 1960s, great scientific minds must now be assembled to find a solution to one of the biggest challenges we face.

Please support the Global Apollo Program – the world’s 10 year plan for cheaper, cleaner energy.

Signed by:

  •     Sir David Attenborough
  •     Professor Brian Cox
  •     Paul Polman, CEO, Unilever
  •     Professor Jeffery Sachs, Director, Earth Institute, Columbia University
  •     Arunabha Ghosh, CEO, Council on Energy Environment and Water
  •     Ed Davey, Former UK Energy Secretary 
  •     Bill Hare, Founder and CEO, Climate Analytics
  •     Nilesh Y. Jadhav, Program Director, Energy Research Institute @NTU, Singapore
  •     Niall Dunne, Chief Sustainability Officer, BT
  •     Carlo Carraro, Director, International Centre for Climate Governance
  •     Professor Sir Brian Hoskins, Chair, Grantham Institute
  •     Mark Kenber, CEO, The Climate Group
  •     Ben Goldsmith, Founder, Menhaden Capital
  •     Sabina Ratti, Executive Director, FEEM – Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei
  •     Lord Browne, Chairman L1 Energy
  •     Zac Goldsmith MP
  •     Professor Martin Siegert, Co-Director Grantham Institute
  •     Professor Joanna Haigh CBE, Co-Director, Grantham Institute and Vice President of Royal Meteorological Society
  •     Peter Bakker, President, World Business Council for Sustainable Development
  •     Dr Fatima Denton, African Climate Policy Centre
  •     Denys Shortt, CEO, DCS Group
  •     Lord Turner, Former Chairman, Financial Services Authority
  •     Lord O’Donnell, Former Cabinet Secretary 
  •     Lord Layard, London School of Economics
  •     Lord Nicholas Stern, Author, Stern Review on Climate Change
  •     Professor John Shepherd CBE FRS
  •     Lord Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal

The Global Apollo Programme explained: